Bacci L., Battista P., Rapi B., Sabatini F.

2009 - 2013

In the managing of a protected productive environment, such as a greenhouse, the only introduction of automatic controls, even if electronic, does not able to ensure the observance of all required conditions for a profitable production and at the same time ecologically sustainable and safe from errors or malfunctioning.
The project SWIFF intended to develop an innovative system for the control of the irrigation and other typical important functions of the productive activities of the nursery gardening sector.The mean aim of the research was to identify the modeling et electronic solutions (HW/SW) able to increase the systems representativeness and the reliability, assuring the maximum operative security and a gradual optimization in the use of the resources (water, fertilizer solution, thermoregulation, phytosanitary treatments, etc.) within the productive structure.



Wireless System for the control of the irrigation and other functions in the field of nursery gardening. Results of the MIPAF project “SWIFF “.

In the last ten years the activity of our research group has been focused on the optimization of the water resources by means of the development of models and expert systems for the management of the irrigation and fertigation both for open field crops and in nursery and greenhouse on horticultural and ornamental crops.

Nowadays there is a greater need to save water, for many reasons among which we can underline:

  • The lesser water availability for the increasing competition with other sector of utilization (e.g. civil use, tourism, etc.)
  • The progressive salinization of the aquifers
  • The legislation that forces the nurserymen the use of technologies with a greater water efficiency.

An efficient irrigation management means to limit the drainage losses,  that turns into a reduction of dispersion in the environment of fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides.

An integrated management of the controlled environment ensures a progressive optimization of the resources use (water, nutritive solution, thermoregulation, etc.) within the productive structure

Project aims

Development of an automatic system by the use of new technologies and solutions wireless, for the:

  • Optimal control of the potted ornamental plants and cut flowers species irrigation, cultivated in greenhouse on the bases of soil moisture measures and the mean meteorological parameters
  • Control of the greenhouse microclimate by the management of the existing environment conditioning systems: opening/closing doors, fan heaters, ventilation system, nebulization system, shadowing sheets, illumination, etc.

The system, with the irrigation and microclimate control, intends:

  • To respect the plant water needs
  • To reduce the use of water and nutrients
  • To reduce the energy consumption
  • To limit the environmental impact

The use of the wireless technology allows to improve the monitoring and the management of the means environmental parameters within the greenhouse, reducing, at the same time, the problems due to the presence of connection cables and solving the problems of the measure points representativeness.

 SWIFF Hardware

Base Configuratio: 8 analogic input, 4 digital output (relay), 5 digital input (counter)
Expansibility: RS-485, wireless modules (64), S-BUS modules (128)
Connection systems: RS-232, RJ-45, GSM/GPRS modem
Flexibility: System alimentation (input voltage= 24 V DC 18 VA), sensors input range 0-5 V 0-20 mA), Available alimentation (sensors): 5 V DC, 12 V DC
Modularity: wireless modules, S-BUS modules

Display and Keyboard for editing and view the configuration on board. Storage of the last n days of data (e.g. 58 parameters = 12 days stored)

On the motherboard there is an interface S-BUS allowing the connection of S-BUS modules to manage sensors and actuators by only one bus of four wires carrying both the alimentation (12 V DC) and the data.

Modules S-BUS

The S-BUS module “analogic channels” can be used with different types of sensors, because takes input signals in the range 0 ÷ 5 V, 0 ÷ 20 mA, supplying, at same time, an alimentation of 12 V DC or 5 V DC for possible transductors.

  • S-BUS module - Tensiometer: it measures the soil water potential.
  • S-BUS module - EC5: it measures the soil moisture

The S-BUS module “digital output” allows the remote management of actuators for the control, for example, of electromagnetic valves of the irrigation system


The modules operating on S-BUS are, then, slave units answering to the master requests, communicating the state of the inputs or updating the digital outputs with the value received from the master

Measure of soil water potential
(shows the quantity of energy that must
be applied to extract the water from the soil)
Measure of volumetric water content (soil moisture)
(shows the actual water quantity present
in the soil and available for the plants)
tensiometric soil moisture sensors water-soil relation volumetric soil moisture sensors
    Peat, perlite, pumice, mineral wool    


Radio modules

On the motherboard there is an interface RS-485 that allows the connection of radio concentrators to manage wireless modules


The system firmware allows:

  • The sensors data acquisition management
  • The irrigation management by means of the “soil-method”
  • The irrigation control by means the integrated system using the soil-method together with the climate-method
  • The microclimate control
  • The data management: local and remote storage (GPRS/GSM)
  • The alarms management by modem GPRS/GSM (alimentation faults, battery state, sensors faults, etc.)

Soil-method Climate-method
Measurement of the soil water potential or of the volumetric water content
Problem: risk of a low representativeness of the measure
(identification of the correct sensor position in the pot, selection of sample pot,
need of more sensors)
Main problem: Kc values unknown for the ornamental species


The integrated system, based on the use at the same time of the “soil-method” and of the “climate-method”, allows to have positive effects on the water management, as:

  • A better reliability of the automatic system
  • A use of a lower number of sensors
  • A better measurement representativeness

Schema Firmware

L. Bacci, P. Battista, B. Rapi (2008). An integrated method for irrigation scheduling of potted plants. Scientia Horticulturae, 116: 89-97.
L. Bacci, P. Battista, F. Sabatini, B. Rapi, F. Saccardo, E. Luccioli, A. Marcucci (2010). Applicazione e validazione del sistema integrato HYDRO per la gestione dell’irrigazione su piante ornamentali coltivate in serra. IX Giornate Scientifiche SOI, Firenze, 10-12 marzo 2010

The graphic user interface (GUI)

The graphic user interface (GUI) of the software STR3000, allows the system remote control. The connection GPRS M2M enables to change the values of the setup variables in real time so to adapt the system running to different environmental and productive situations. By the GUI it is possible, furthermore, the graphical control of the micrometeorological parameters trend, allowing the direct monitoring of the operative environment.


(download http://www.cespevi.it/pdf/-Sistema_SWIFF_Battista-Serni.pdf) [italian]




Battista Piero (piero.battista at cnr.it)

Rapi Bernardo (bernardo.rapi at cnr.it)

Romani Maurizio (maurizio.romani at cnr.it)


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