The smart WFI technology is an improved data-driven dripping irrigation technology. It optimizes the use of water and fertilization by integrating the plant characteristics, weather conditions as well as land parcels’ soil moisture and soil nutrient information. The technology integrates devices for the remote control of water flow and a smart irrigation application (smartphone APP) with an operating system and various data into a conventional dripping system. The use of smart WFI technology can be categorized into three levels:
Level 1: An agricultue APP
The agriculture APP is an integrated platform that provides geographical-based climatic-weather predictions, soil and local main grain planting information for farmers. Famers can install the application on their smartphone, and through the application, farmers will receive all relevant local farming information timely.
Level 2: APP + remote control devices
The smart irrigation APP also has the function of operating devices for controlling field irrigation automatically and remotely. The devices mainly include electromagnetic valves and a wireless gateway. They enable switching on/off the irrigation as well as fertilizer addition through the operation on the APP.
Level 3: APP + remote control devices + smart farming decision-making
Level 3 of the smart WFI technology is further developed from Level 2. It integrates the function of smart decision-making on top of the remote control system. It adds farmer and farmland specific data (which often requires the installation of corresponding sensors) and data-driven algorithms for providing smart decision-making on farming planning.
Three types of treatments are designed and are expected to be carried out to promote the adoption of smart WFI technologies.
Treatment 1: Field Demonstration
The field demonstration shows farmers the installation and operations of the smart WFI technology. Specifically, it includes the installation of both the APP and relevant devices (electromagnetic valve and wireless gateway, etc.) and the field operation of the full set of the smart WFI technology.
Treatment 2: Presentation-based training
Treatment 2 is conventional presentation-based training, which we plan to organize jointly with local agricultural extension agents. The training aims to provide the following information and knowledge regarding smart WFI technology: (a) general knowledge of the technology and the basic rationale of how it is designed and implemented in the field, (b) evidence showing the effect of the technology on yield and resources saving (particularly water and fertilizer saving); (c) a menu indicating the different levels of the technology and their associated costs.
Treatment 3: Video-based training
As an alternative to presentation-based training, we design video-based training. It uses a series of short videos, instead of PowerPoint presentations, presenting information and knowledge equivalent to that provided in presentation-based training. All videos will be presented to the participants once by enumerators. Afterward, they can watch through the APP on their own.
Based on the above three types of treatments, we develop the following three interventions. They will be implemented in two counties, Urad Front Banner and Otog Front Banner, in Inner Mongolia.
Intervention 1: Field demonstration + Presentation-based training
Intervention 1 consists of a field demonstration and a conventional presentation-based training session. Farmers assigned to this intervention group will be invited to visit a field demonstration site in the county. A training session with a PowerPoint presentation follows the field demonstration. The training is provided by researchers and the local agricultural extension agents jointly.
Intervention 2: Field demonstration + Video-based training
Intervention 2 consists of a field demonstration and a video-based training session. Specifically, farmers assigned to this intervention group will receive the same field demonstration as in Intervention 1. However, instead of receiving a presentation-based training program, farmers be invited to a video-based training session. A series of short videos, as training materials, will be provided to farmers through the APP. Farmers can watch the videos repeatedly on their own.
Intervention 3: Field demonstration + Presentation-based training + Video-based training
Intervention 3 consists of a field demonstration, a presentation-based training session and a video-based training session. That is, in addition to presentation-based training following a field demonstration, farmers assigned to this intervention group can also watch short videos through the APP.