Purdue University researchers developed and fabricated field deployable smart sensors which measure nitrates for agricultural crop development. The initiative was funded by Wabash Heartland Innovation Network, a participant in NIST’s Global Community Technology Challenge (GCTC), which is a collaboration platform that brings together cities, communities, industry, academic, and government stakeholders, seeking emerging technologies for smart cities and communities.
Using 3D printing, Purdue University researchers fabricated 13,000 of these electromechanical sensors and characterized 1,200 of them in a laboratory environment over several weeks. Typically, such sensors cost about $800 each. This initiative resulted in each sensor costing about $0.07, including materials, processing time, machine depreciation, and energy input.
More than 20 fully packaged devices were deployed in commercial farms with the wireless LoRa network. The sensors provide farmers, via the network, with nitrate measurements every 30 minutes. Based on the measurements, farmers can adjust fertilizer settings and take other actions.