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Remote Control Programs Applied in the Seedling Industry

Author:Huang Yu-Yu, Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan

Founded in 2004, Xizhou Farm of Fu-Tien Vegetable Seedling Nursery at Changhua County mainly produces seedlings of cabbage and Chinese cabbage. Fu-Tien cultivates seedlings through many automated facilities, making it an ideal environment for the introduction of remote control systems. It also has long-term cooperation with administrative and academic institutes and is listed among the exemplary smart agricultural plants in the seedling category in the year 2017.

Facility cultivation is the major mode of seedling nursery. As seedling products are highly heterogeneous, their cultivation is labor intensive. Automated control equipment does reduce the demand for manpower, but the initial hardware installation involves high cost so that most private nursery farms still use simple greenhouses. In addition, considering the high technical threshold of facility cultivation and the sophisticated relationship between seedlings and the environment, it takes rich experience and on-the-spot decision making to maintain a suitable climatic environment while considering both the efficiency of production and the quality of the seedlings.  This project builds a smart remote-control system at the Xizhou Farm of Fu-Tien Vegetable Seedling Nursery to upgrade the intelligence level of its control system, to use information technologies to increase management flexibility, and to record the parameters in the environment and the history of operation. The data accumulated are analyzed for reference in future decision making, thereby reducing manpower cost, and promoting the intelligentization of seedling production.

Introduction of the remote control systemIntroduction of the remote control system
Sensors often found in the facilitySensors often found in the facility
 class='img_caption'Custom-designed human-machine interface

The remote-control system is a virtual network control system that uses sensors and programs to build connections between physical objects. This project installs a variety of sensors of environmental elements, such as temperature and humidity, light quantum, wind velocity, wind direction and rainfall, etc. which transmit the data to the cloud server. In addition, the embedded system having the network control technology is used to connect to and remotely control the equipment in the farm, such as skylights, shading nets, side winding machine, circulation fans, etc., and to record the operation process for further statistical analysis.

With the human-machine interface web application and the integrated environmental control equipment, users can collect data of the facility and environment and perform operations through smart phones, tablets, or computers. More flexible management is realized to replace the traditional mode of management. Scientific collection and management of data have improved the production efficiency of the greenhouse and reduced labor input.

With the system introduced, operation of Fu-Tien Vegetable Seedling Nursery can be done online anytime and anywhere through terminal devices, such as smartphones, tablets or computers. The system will close the skylight when the sensor detects the rain so as to prevent the seedlings from being eroded. The circulation fan is started when the temperature is found too high to avoid harm on the growth and quality of the seedlings. The shading nets are pulled up when the sunlight intensity is above the setting of the light quantum so the seedlings stay in a suitable environment for growth. The off-site management mode means higher flexibility and lower reliance on labor input. In addition, the reduced amount of work to be done in the hot and humid site also means a friendly working environment.

The remote-control system can collect data of environmental parameters and the operation history of the facility, which are accumulated and saved for big data analysis. This is expected to develop the best management strategy for seedling production to improve production efficiency and reduce energy input. Consumers can enjoy vegetables of better quality and stable supply.