MEMS and Sensors

CEA-Leti coordinating EC project to lower greenhouse gas emissions, boost farming efficiency

11 June 2019

Leti, a research institute of CEA Tech, announced a new European Commission smart-farming project that will deliver real-time data on soil conditions.

Deployed via small, private internet of things (IoT) networks, the Sarmenti sensor node will provide farmers with the next generation of a reagent-free sensor platform to monitor in real-time soil nutrient concentration and measure local environmental conditions, especially ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions.

Paris Agreement emission targets

Agriculture globally is a major source of greenhouse gases. As EU member states seek to hit emissions targets set in the Paris Agreement, projects like Sarmenti will provide continuous data for their farmers to track the emissions of hazardous gases and monitor the proper decomposition of manure.

EU nitrates directive

Current soil analyses are neither real-time nor in-situ, which limits the value of the results for farmers. Sarmenti-developed sensors will measure in-situ, high temporal-resolution soil nutrient concentrations that farmers can use to improve fertilizer management practices. This will help reduce nitrogen losses to the environment due to inappropriate fertilizer application and to meet the goals of the EU’s nitrates directive, which aims to protect water quality by preventing nitrates from agricultural sources from polluting ground and surface water.

Sarmenti soil and air probes

In addition, low-cost monitoring of ammonia, methane and nitrous oxide emissions will help producers track the nitrogen cycle and reduce losses due to denitrification, as well as promote the proper decomposition of manure.

The architecture for the Sarmenti IoT node is made of three devices:

  • A soil probe that mainly contains electrochemical sensors in a hygroscopic membrane to monitor soil nutrient concentration.
  • An air probe located just above the ground that monitors gases and conditions in the environment surrounding the soil probe.
  • A smart data logger that collects data from both probes and transmits them directly to the cloud. From this data, cloud advanced analytics will provide farmers with advice about optimal fertilization.

CEA-Leti is coordinating the three-year project and will provide expertise in electrochemical sensors. It will also provide the soil probe and cyber-security technology for the IoT. Other Sarmenti project participants include:

  • Tyndall-UCC (Ireland) will provide expertise in electrochemical sensors. UCC’s Office of Corporate & Legal Affairs will provide legal counsel for the project.
  • ST Microelectronics (Italy) is in charge of the air probe that measures NH3, N2O and CH4 concentrations, and of communication sub-modules and edge computing.
  • CSEM (Switzerland) is in charge of the smart data logger.
  • Atos (Romania) will implement the back-end servers and develop data analytics and decision-support tools.

Three consortium members will represent farmers and other end users of the system:

  • Terrasolis (France), a farmers' association, will assess end-users’ needs and test the Sarmenti node in its fields.
  • Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, will provide laboratory growth chambers and field sites for calibration and characterization of the node.
  • Spiro, a farm in Romania, will also validate the node’s operation.
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