For our guild it is opportune and necessary to participate in this great initiative of the digitalization of the field through agrotronics.
by Eng. Camilo Botero*
In the search for topics that are of interest to the guild of C & R (Air Conditioning and Refrigeration) I found that of agrotronics, in which we can participate in a very important way, for its good performance, and in some cases as the conservation of long-term seeds, it is absolutely indispensable.
Agrotronics could be defined as the application of electronics and robotics for agricultural work in the case of this article. ACIEM (Colombian Association of Electrical, Mechanical and Related Branches) has made a proposal for the digital transformation of the agricultural sector in Colombia, which can be applied throughout Latin America and surely other countries in the region are also implementing it.
Regarding this proposal, ACIEM held a forum on agrotronics, which I attended and I was able to learn the fundamentals about these new technologies of drones, sensors, software, hardware, projects and government and private programs, which will undoubtedly produce a modernization of agricultural production in our country and hopefully also in Latin America.
The forum focused on how it was intended in the topics mentioned, but at the end I asked for the floor and commented that a fundamental issue had not been discussed to achieve fruits, vegetables, grasses etc., healthy and fresh without the contribution of air conditioning, refrigeration and of course the cold chain. The organizer of the forum was of the opinion that it was a matter of short time, but that he would take careful note to include these aspects in future forums on agrotronics.
It was very interesting and motivating to appreciate in that forum on agrotronics, that the department of Valle del Cauca in Colombia, whose capital is Cali, city in which I live; It is a leader in this area. For 54 years there has been in the region the CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) dedicated to the production and conservation of bean seeds (37,938 accessions (1)), cassava (6,155) and tropical forages (22,694), from all over the world, in order to guarantee the food security of the planet, where research is done on these topics of the highest level with scientists from all over the world, the vast majority with academic level in their respective doctoral fields (Ph D). It is an institution worth knowing, which I recommend if you have the opportunity.
Recently at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Cali a laboratory was installed with the same mission, called OMICAS, whose motto is "for a world without hunger", which is dedicated to "Discover and promote the transfer of knowledge, technologies and products related to the improvement of the health of living plant and human organisms, with the aim of contributing to the sustainable development of the country and the world (taken from its website)".
I was struck by the precision required by the positioning system for work in agrotronics. When we use Google's GPS, the location accuracy can be in the 10 m, but when it comes to planting seeds or fertilizing plants with drones, the required accuracy is centimeters, which requires sensors and software to allow it.
Since the 80s, I have participated in several air conditioning and refrigeration projects for CIAT, which is now called Alianza Bioversity – CIAT; Initially as a contractor where I redesigned and installed the refrigeration system for the conservation of bean seeds. It was a very demanding and complex project, for my expertise in the subject at that time, since it was necessary to achieve less than 25 ° C in one of its cold rooms, with the minimum transfer of moisture through its walls, that is, almost zero and most importantly guarantee the operation of the refrigeration system uninterruptedly, to preserve bean seeds for 30 years; and I made designs and consultancies in the span of more than 40 years.
CIAT made an update of its Germplasm laboratory or seed bank, which are places destined to the conservation of the genetic diversity of several crops, in this case as said, of beans, cassava and tropical fodder; This conservation requires very low temperatures and minimum transport of moisture from the environment, which implies an isolation and vapor barriers very high to keep these seeds well preserved up to 50 years, in this case.
The seeds have duplicates in conservation banks in Greenland. I had the opportunity to be an auditor for the design and terms of reference of the air conditioning together with other colleagues who did it for the design of refrigeration and cold rooms.
The project is of great complexity due to the reliability and redundancy of 100% of the service in a very long period of time, it was necessary to redesign several times for different reasons. The project of the laboratory with its air conditioning and refrigeration had a value of 17 million dollars when it was finished, until when I participated, I understand that they made some adjustments during construction. The control system is sophisticated and highly precise. A 1000 kW photovoltaic generation plant was also set up. In the building, bioclimatic considerations were taken into account to reduce the thermal load, recommendations of the Passive House standard and LEED Platinum certification.
The other major topic with reference to food security in the world is the cold chain, which consists of having controlled temperatures and relative humidity from the harvest, to the consumer in an uninterrupted manner in the production, storage and distribution of perishable agricultural products in the case of this article; to preserve, extend and ensure its life and storage until final consumption, which began in the mid-nineteenth century and is now absolutely indispensable.
Although much progress has been made in this regard, approximately a third of what is produced in the field is still lost, due to non-existent or deficient cold chains.
To finish I tell you that I recently made a road trip of 2,550 kilometers from Cali to Santa Marta and back. As always I arrived amazed by the beauty and fertility of this beautiful country. The valleys of Cauca and Magdalena, the three mountain ranges of the Andes, the savannas of the north of the country and the Atlantic coast, are regions that have a potential to become the pantry of the world, I am aware of all the problems we have, but more of the great opportunity that is there for everyone and specifically for our guild is timely and necessary to participate in this great initiative of the digitalization of the field to through agrotronics.
Note: 1. Accession: A distinct, uniquely identifiable sample of seeds representing a cultivar, breeding line or population and held in storage for conservation and use.
* Camilo Botero was Secretary of the Federation of Ibero-American Associations of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration - FAIAR; He was president of ACAIRE and is president of Camilo Botero Ingenieros Consultores Ltda. He is currently a professor at its CBG Academy. He has also worked as a teacher in several Colombian universities, unions and currently in ACAIRE in diploma courses of air conditioning projects, energy efficiency in air conditioning and refrigeration, cogeneration and trigeneration, applied psychometrics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer and turbomachinery.