There are over 500 million smallholder farms in the world. They make up a significant portion of the world’s poorest people, living on less than $2 a day, and they produce about a third of the world’s food. Our goal with SolarSENSE is to make some of the technology that is typically only available to large industrial farms more accessible to these small family farms and help them adapt their farming practices to climate change impacts. SolarSENSE is a project by the ASU SolarSPELL Initiative to expand on the mission of designing solutions that deal with remote off-grid infrastructure issues globally.
Design Concept 
The cultivation of crops worldwide is being impacted by climate change, resulting in the need for changes in traditional agricultural practices. The small-scale farmers who produce the majority of fresh food in emerging regions are experiencing the most significant impacts. To strike a balance between high yields and low environmental impact, supporting these farmers in adapting to these changes is crucial. One way to achieve this is by providing them with valuable data from soil sensors that can accurately identify the levels of fertilizers, soils temperatures, and moisturize levels and aid in corrections in traditional agricultural practices.  However, current commercial soil sensors are designed for big agriculture and require an internet connection and large cloud-based solutions, making them unaffordable and inaccessible for small-scale farmers in rural areas with limited power and network access.​​​​​​​
To address these challenges, the ASU SolarSPELL platform offers an off-grid and off-network data collection and computing solution that runs on solar power and built-in Raspberry Pi 3 computing and networking. This platform, combined with solar-powered low-cost soil sensors, presents a powerful yet affordable approach to help small-scale farmers adapt to changing agricultural practices. We refer to this concept as SolarSENSE.
For this project, I worked with the ASU SolarSPELL Initiative under the guidance of ASU's School for the Future of Innovation in Society’s Bruce Baikie. This project was developed with collaboration from four interdisciplinary student led teams at ASU. I made up the Hardware/Industrial Design team. The other three teams are as follows: Electrical & PCB Design, Embedded Software Design, Linux software stack Design. Shown here today are two functional prototypes and a sensor/electronics pack. This project is still in progress and one of these prototypes just came back from testing in Rwanda and Zimbabwe; as seen, it features a previous version of our hardware. 
SolarSENSE measures soil health in the field using a number of key metrics. Currently, when these small family farms need to test their soil, they have to send it off to a testing facility in the city. It costs roughly $30 and can take weeks for results to come back. So, the specific goal for this project is to develop a device which costs <$30 and can provide farmers with the same information instantly, as many times as they need it. SolarSENSE’s sensors have six key readings: soil moisture, soil PH, soil temperature, sunlight level on the soil, humidity above the soil, and temperature above the soil. Farmers can access this data wirelessly from any device with internet capabilities and a browser (i.e. smartphone, tablet, laptop). Setting a farm up with WiFi and commercial smart sensing systems can cost tens of thousands of dollars, an expense that’s completely out of reach for smallholder farms. That’s why SolarSENSE’s ability to utilize the SolarSPELL platform to connect wirelessly via a local network is crucial.
SolarSENSE tackles two of the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals: 1) No Poverty, 2) Zero Hunger. As mentioned earlier, small-scale/family farmers are vital to their communities and the global food supply as a whole. They’re also some of the most at risk due to the effects of climate change and leaving them behind will have catastrophic results on the future of the world. Focusing on improving the lives of these farmers facing the effects of climate change is essential in the fight to end global poverty and hunger.​​​​​​​
For more Information -
Bruce Baikie, Co-founder|Adjunct faculty of Arizona State University.
Brandon Le,
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