Energy Efficient Drip Irrigation

Background
Our group is developing low-cost and low-power drip irrigation systems to impact the lives of smallholder and marginal farmers worldwide and to help protect the global supply of freshwater.

Drip irrigation delivers water through a piping network to drip emitters that release the water directly at the base of the crops, avoiding water losses due to evaporation, runoff, and infiltration. Drip can reduce water consumption by 20-60% compared to conventional flood irrigation, and has been shown to increase yields by 20-50% for certain crops. Because irrigation accounts for over 70% of freshwater use in most regions of the world, large-scale adoption of drip irrigation would reduce the consumption of freshwater and be an asset for locations around the world experiencing water shortages and groundwater depletion. Two key barriers to the adoption of drip irrigation are the high initial cost and lack of electrical grid power to pump water. Our goal is to create off-grid, solar-powered drip irrigation systems that would be economically viable for the 500+ million subsistence farmers worldwide.

Our group is addressing this problem from multiple angles: (1) We are reducing the required system pressure by redesigning pressure-compensating drip emitters; this pressure reduction enables the use of lower-cost pumps and power systems. (2) We are considering the interconnected modules within a solar-powered irrigation system, and optimizing the overall configuration of the system at a given site for lowest lifetime cost. (3) We are exploring how pump design, pump controls, and irrigation scheduling can be used to minimize system costs, energy, and water use even further. (4) We are conducting stakeholder interviews in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East, to better understand the needs and constraints of small farmers with regard to irrigation.

With these efforts, we aim to reduce pumping power and capital costs to the point where solar-powered, off-grid drip systems become an affordable option for small and marginal farmers.


Low-Pressure Drip Emitter Development
Uniform water distribution across a field can be maintained by using pressure-compensating emitters, which maintain a constant flow rate at any pressure above a minimum threshold called the 'activation pressure’. Reducing this activation pressure can drastically reduce the required pumping pressure, thereby reducing the initial capital and operational cost of the systems. By creating an analytical model of the internal geometry of these emitters, our group has successfully developed on-line style emitters that have an activation pressure of ~7 times lower than conventional emitters without requiring major modifications to the manufacturing process. We have also designed, and are now manufacturing and testing, low-pressure versions of in-line style emitters. These improvements are predicted to lower the capital cost of a solar-powered drip irrigation system with a surface water source by approximately 40%.

On-line pressure-compensating emitter developed by MIT GEAR Lab that has an activation pressure ~7 times lower than conventional emitters

In order to evaluate the performance and benefits of this technology, we conducted field trials with our low-pressure emitters in the Middle East and North Africa — regions where the consumption of freshwater exceeds the natural replenishment rate and which would benefit from irrigation technologies that conserve water use and improve farmer productivity. In these field trials, our low-pressure emitters were shown to reduce energy consumption by 43% compared to conventional emitters, while providing comparable uniformity. This energy reduction could lead to savings of 22–31% in the capital cost of a pump and emitters and the energy cost for a typical drip irrigation system.

Systems-Level Optimization Our group has developed a systems-level optimization model for a drip-irrigated farm, incorporating information about the local climate and crops to analyze tradeoffs between the solar panels, battery and/or water tank storage, pump, and field layout in order to minimize the overall system cost. This model will act as a decision-making tool for irrigation companies and farmers to help them design the most cost-optimal irrigation system. This system-level viewpoint will also provide insights into how to reduce power and costs even further from a technological breakthrough perspective. Additional field trials are planned in order to evaluate and validate this system model.

High-Performance Irrigation Pumping Solutions Our group is working with Xylem Inc., a world leader in pumping technology, in order to develop an adaptively controlled, low-cost pumping solution designed for the application of drip irrigation on smallholder farms in Sub-Saharan Africa. The goal of this project is to create a cost-effective, water-conserving irrigation solution for farmers in these regions by rethinking the submersible pump’s mechanical design and the controller operation. This solution has the potential to mitigate poverty by increasing crop yields; address water scarcity by increasing access to marginal water resources and conserve these resources through highly efficient use; facilitate renewable-powered irrigation; and create a technology portfolio that could impact smallholder farmers worldwide.

Integrated Renewable-Powered Desalination and Drip Irrigation Our desalination and drip irrigation groups are collaborating with universities in Egypt, with the goal of optimizing the energy utilization of renewable power resources for water desalination and irrigation in Egypt to improve crop productivity while judiciously using water resources. Egypt is facing severe water scarcity and reduced crop productivity due to increased salinity in the overcrowded Nile valley and Delta. Integrated renewable-powered desalination and drip irrigation systems will help farmers utilize brackish water resources to conserve fresh water, irrigate sustainably and mitigate the effects of climate change, and open new farming land in desert areas. The integration, optimization, and control of the technologies behind the integrated system presents a novel research challenge that will create real-world and academic impact.


Energy Reduction and Uniformity of Low-Pressure Online Drip Irrigation Emitters in Field Tests, Sokol, J., Amrose, S., Nangia, V., Talozi, S., Brownell, E., Montanaro, G., Abu Naser, K., Bany Mustafa, K., Bouazzama, B., Bahri, A., Bouizgaren, A., Mazahrih, N., Moussadek, R., Sikaoui, L., Winter, A., Water (2019)




Energy Reduction and Uniformity of Low-Pressure Online Drip Irrigation Emitters in Field Tests, Sokol, J., Amrose, S., Nangia, V., Talozi, S., Brownell, E., Montanaro, G., Abu Naser, K., Bany Mustafa, K., Bouazzama, B., Bahri, A., Bouizgaren, A., Mazahrih, N., Moussadek, R., Sikaoui, L., Winter, A., Water (2019)

Sponsors

Jain Irrigation
Tata Center for Technology and Design
National Science Foundation
USAID

Xylem

Publications

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Energy Reduction and Uniformity of Low-Pressure Online Drip Irrigation Emitters in Field Tests [⇩] [🔗]
Sokol, J., Amrose, S., Nangia, V., Talozi, S., Brownell, E., Montanaro, G., Abu Naser, K., Bany Mustafa, K., Bouazzama, B., Bahri, A., Bouizgaren, A., Mazahrih, N., Moussadek, R., Sikaoui, L., Winter, A., Water (2019)

A Hybrid Computational and Analytical Model of Inline Drip Emitters [⇩] [🔗]
Narain, J., & Winter, A., ASME Journal of Mechanical Design (2019)

Shape and Form Optimization of Online Pressure Compensating Drip Emitters to Achieve Lower Activation Pressure [⇩] [🔗]
Shamshery, P., Wang, R., Tran, D., & Winter, A., PLOS ONE (2017)

Modeling the Future of Irrigation: A Parametric Description of Pressure Compensating Drip Irrigation Emitter Performance [⇩] [🔗]
Shamshery, P., Wang, R., Tran, D., & Winter, A., PLOS ONE (2017)

Control of Flow Limitation in Flexible Tubes [🔗 ]
Wang, R., Lin, T., Shamshery, P. & Winter, A., ASME Journal of Mechanical Design (2016)

Peer Reviewed Conference Articles

Feasibility of Pairing a Low-Cost Positive Displacement Pump with Low-Energy Pressure Compensating Drip Irrigation Emitters for Smallholder Farms in Africa.[⇩]
Engelkemier, S., Grant, F., Landis, J., Sheline, C., Varner, H., Zubajlo, R., Sokol, J., Winter, A., ASME. IDETC/CIE, 2019, Engineering for Global Development. Paper #IDETC2019-98128

DEM Study of Clogging in Millimeter Scale Channels in Drip Irrigation Emitters. [🔗]
Narain, J., Winter V, A.G., 71st Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics, Atlanta, GA.

A Hybrid Computational and Analytical Model of Inline Drip Emitters. [🔗]
Narain, J., Winter V, A.G., Proceedings of the 44th Design Automation Conference (DAC), ASME IDETC/CIE 2018, August 26-29, 2018, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Development of a system model for low-cost, solar-powered drip irrigation systems in the MENA region [🔗]
Sokol, J., Grant, F., Sheline, C., Winter, A., Proceedings of the 44th Design Automation Conference (DAC), ASME IDETC/CIE 2018, August 26-29, 2018, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Determination of Resistance Factor for Tortuos Paths in Drip Emitters [🔗]
Narain, J., & Winter, A., 43rd Design Automation Conference ASME IDETC/CIE (2017)

Designing a low activation pressure drip irrigation emitter with constraints for mass manufacturing [🔗]
Shamshery, P., & Winter, A., 21st Design for Manufacturing and the Life Cycle Conference ASME IDETC/CIE (2016)

A Mathematical Model for Pressure Compensating Emitters [🔗 ]
Taylor, K., Shamshery, P., & Winter, A., ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (2015)

A Novel Pressure Compensating Valve for Low-Cost Drip Irrigation [🔗 ]
Wiens, J., & Winter, A., 38th Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conference (2014)

Bio-Inspired, Low-Cost, Self-Regulating Valves for Drip Irrigation in Developing Countries [🔗 ]
Zimoch, P., Tixier, E., Joshi, A., Hosoi, A.E., & Winter, A., 25th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology, ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (2013)

Conference Presentations

Cost-Optimized Solar-Powered Drip Irrigation Systems [🔗 ]
Grant, F., Sokol, J., Sheline, C., Winter, A., AEAB2019 - Applied Energy Symposium: MIT A+B. May 22-24, Cambridge, MA (2019)

Design of low-energy, low-cost drip irrigation systems through pressure reduction and system optimization [🔗 ]
Sheline, C., Grant, F., Sokol, J., Winter, A. 1st WASAG International Forum on Water Scarcity in Agriculture. March 19-22, Praia, Capo Verde (2019)

Experimental apparatus for rapid prototyping of pressure-compensating inline drip irrigation emitters [🔗 ]
Sokol, J., Narain, J., Winter, A., 71st Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics, November, Atlanta, GA (2018)

DEM Study of Clogging in Millimeter Scale Channels in Drip Irrigation Emitters [🔗 ]
Narain, J., Winter, A., 71st Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics, November, Atlanta, GA (2018)

A Novel Bio-Inspired Pressure Compensating Emitter for Low-Cost Drip Irrigation Systems [🔗 ]
Wang, R.Q., Shamshery, P., & Winter, A., World Environmental and Water Resources Congress (2016)

A Respiratory Airway-Inspired Low-Pressure, Self-Regulating Valve for Drip Irrigation. [🔗 ]
Wang, R.Q., & Winter, A., APS Meeting (2015)

Validated Analytical Model of a Pressure Compensation Drip Irrigation Emitter [🔗 ]
Shamshery, P., Wang, R. Q., Taylor, K., Tran, D., & Winter, A., APS Meeting (2015)

A Missing Puzzle Piece in Murray's Law: the Optimal Angle of Junctions. [🔗 ]
Wang, R. Q., Taylor, K., Tran, D., & Winter, A.,APS Division of Fluid Dynamics Meeting (2014)

Theses

Lowering the Cost of Solar-Powered Drip Irrigation Systems for Smallholder Farmers Through Systems-Level Modeling, Optimization, and Field Testing [🔗 ]
Sheline, C., Master's Thesis (MIT, June 2019)

Development and Validation of a Systems-Level Cost Optimization Tool for Solar-Powered Drip Irrigation Systems for Smallholder Farms [🔗 ]
Grant, F., Master's Thesis (MIT, June 2019)

A hybrid computational and analytical model of irrigation drip emitters [🔗 ]
Narain, J., Master's Thesis (MIT, 2017)

Modeling and Designing the Future of Drip Irrigation: A Validated Parametric Analysis Used to Design Low Power, Pressure Compensating Drip Emitters [🔗 ]
Shamshery, P., Master's Thesis (MIT, 2016)

Reducing the Power Required for Irrigation: Designing Low-Pressure, Pressure-Compensating Drip Irrigation Emitters and High Efficiency Solar-Powered Pumps for Emerging Markets [🔗 ]
Taylor, K., Master's Thesis (MIT, 2015)

Press Articles

Drip irrigation Project under the Spotlight - Watering the world, on MIT News (2017) [🔗 ]

Tata Center News (2015) [🔗 ]