Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Modern Electronics for Agriculture

Interpretive Summary: The manual collection of field and laboratory data can be time- and labor-intensive. These constraints result in data often being collected at irregular or infrequent intervals. Automating the data-collection process can provide more information at regular and frequent intervals, and reduce labor requirements and costs. Advances in electronics and the availability and ease of use of electronic devices and components has made it easier and more affordable to automate many control and data-collection processes. The features and capabilities of modern microcontrollers, semiconductor sensors, and auxiliary components are presented and discussed. These components are used to construct circuit boards which automatically and continuously collect agricultural field data which had previously been collected manually. Several examples of custom-designed electronic control and data-collection devices are presented and discussed. Automating control and data-collection processes can result in time, labor, and cost savings, while providing increases in the frequency and quality of information. Awareness and understanding of the capabilities of modern electronic components and devices will allow researchers, equipment companies, and entrepreneurs to more easily automate processes, reduce labor requirements, and provide higher-quality information.

Technical Abstract: The field of electronics continues to change and evolve rapidly. Electronics are increasingly being used to collect and process all types of data, transfer information, make decisions, and provide automation and control functions. Modern microcontrollers and semiconductor components offer many advantages and ease of use in designing custom measurement and control systems. An array of microcontrollers, sensors, and accessory components are presented and their features, capabilities, and costs are discussed. Several measurement and datalogging circuits were designed for use in irrigation-related research activities. The design, implementation, and performance of these systems are described.

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