Spain: New web platform for growers to optimise irrigation

IES (Irrigation Expert Simulator) is a project funded by the European Commission (EC) within the framework of the LIFE+2011 program, formed with the partnership of three entities: the Department of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Food and Environment (DAAM), the Institute for Agricultural Research and Technology (IRTA) and the Barcelona Digital technological centre. 

IES will be a collection of decision and integrated simulation tools in a web platform, which will act as an expert to offer personalised and optimised irrigation programs used by growers. The project will consist in a virtual irrigation platform, where growers, irrigation technicians and experts will be able to enter the data of their plantations (land, crop, etc.). The platform will simulate a virtual crop for each case, which users will be able to use to analyse the effects of their management decisions and receive advice for each specific case.

The main goal of this project is to optimise water use. Additionally, the project will test, with real data from various plantations, the defined models and the proximity between the most efficient agronomic use and the real use. There will be three validation environments: an IRTA experimental plantation where models will be validated globally, a group of plantations where real water consumption will be measured 'in situ', and the water consumption and production data provided by a great number of users of the RuralCat portal.

The IES project will be accessible through the RuralCat portal (www.ruralcat.net), which has DAAM's support. It will last for three years and has a budget of 1 million Euro.


An ICT solution to irrigation problems

Irrigation is the activity using the largest percentage of fresh water in the world, with 69% of the extraction and 93% of the total consumption and the Mediterranean coast is expected to suffer shortages. In this context, an efficient irrigation management is the key towards rational and optimised water consumption.

For efficient irrigation it is necessary to use the right amount of water according to the specific needs of the crop. One of the problems nowadays is that, while there is a great agronomic knowledge to optimise irrigation, this knowledge is not always applied due to the lack of adherence to this scientific basis, or to the lack of availability of the necessary equipment and facilities for a more efficient management. IES will act as both a training tool and as a way to confirm the benefits of an investment in irrigation. It aims to improve competitiveness in the agricultural sector.

This is why the IES project will develop a series of ICT tools that will help optimise irrigation. The system will consist of three modules:


• The Virtual Crop: will implement the various agronomic models available, taking every possible variable into consideration;

• The Irrigation Scheduler: will generate advice (irrigation programs) using the model defined in the virtual crop; and

• The Expert System: will be in charge of improving specific models. 





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