Technological advancement in the recent years has been able to connect billions of devices and people throughout the world but its potential for the rural economy which comprises of more than 3 billion people is yet to be realized. As the global population rises, food will be in much greater demands along with energy. This paper will consider the possibility of a self-sustainable energy ecosystem integrated into smart grid with capabilities of producing its own food. The majority of a rural economy comprises of the population dependent on traditional farming and agriculture infrastructure which will be insufficient in the coming days. A proposed facility will be built with the help of industry experts to harness renewable energy to power up automated food production environment which regulates physical phenomena such as light, heat, moisture and conductivity. The system will realize its potential by the usage of network embedded devices and wireless sensor network to monitor energy throughput of a sustainable ecosystem comprised of aquaponics farm and irrigation facility. Data for optimum growth condition and energy requirement will be made available on a cloud platform which help researchers contribute and collaborate for higher crop yield and self-sustainable economy.
The majority of advancement in the technological industry is being developed and consumed in a world which is out of reach for majority of the population living in rural economy such as Nepal. People still depends on primitive technologies and traditional farming. Mainstay activities like farming needs to be modernized so as to make them more efficient whereas traditional rural industries are shrinking, or are moving abroad. It accounts for a significant share of employment and output in many developing countries but is widely characterized by severe decent work deficits and poverty, hosting nearly 80 per cent of the world’s poor. Whereas, rapid and unplanned urbanization is causing environmental hazard and destruction of natural resources, the proposed ecosystem will make use of local resources in order to achieve self-sustainability and helps to promote healthy lifestyle based on energy demands.
In Nepal, the recent earthquake and economic crisis has taken considerable amount of lives and have left countless debris for clean-up. The unemployment rate hovers above 40%, the reconstruction programme is slower than anticipated and the economy is largely dependent on agriculture which is insufficient to feed it’s own population. The earthquake and unofficial economic blockade by India caused fuel crisis, halted the country and caused major hindrance in economic activities including healthcare and education. The hardship sustained by the citizen of Nepal is unfathomable but the lessons to be learned are also immense.
• Build a self-sustainable house with recycled materials taken from the remnants of the earthquake.
• Collaborate with researchers and students to build and enhance sustainability model and provide trainings and seminars.
• Help in technology-assisted sustainable development in the rural economy.
• Develop automated irrigation facility and aquaponics greenhouse to harvest rain water and to maximize crop yield.
• Integrate smart grid facility with context aware energy ecosystem using wireless sensor network.
• Increase organic food production with minimum human intervention.
• Educate the community and provide technical expertise and assistance in building such systems.
• Help ease reconstruction and recovery efforts in the disaster-affected area by means of voluntourism.
Criteria for context-aware energy eco-system:
– Observe and monitor the aquaponics system every day to ensure adequate aeration and water circulation with water pumps and air pumps.
– Maintain good water quality: pH, TAN, NO2 and automatically regulate irrigation channel based on crop conditions.
– Monitor physical conditions and energy level to run the ecosystem and make recommendations and adjustment according to energy demands.
– The goal of this research is to integrate sustainable technology with energy internet, it relies on energy requirements of the connected device and will focus on environment-friendly principles.
The primary research method for this study is literature review and conceptual modeling. In the first phase of this research, the physical infrastructure will be constructed i.e. a house built from the recycled materials taken from the remnants of the earthquake, an aquaponics system and a bio-digester. The second phase of the project will be dedicated to building build energy infrastructure and management system. The whole ecosystem will be based on ZigBee PRO networks which are composed of several device types: ZigBee coordinator, routers and end devices with “Green Power” which connects energy harvesting or self-powered devices into the network. The energy management system receives real-time data from the appliances through the connected devices and will monitor the generation and consumption of energy. The whole energy system will be controlled via raspberry pi web server installed at home and can be accessed on via any device with internet access.
Significance of the study:
Due to high unemployment rates and lack of industries, most of the man power are left with no choice but to go overseas in exchange of their skill and labor to sustain livelihood for their family. The proposed facility will be built with the help of volunteers and will mobilize members of the local community to help reduce waste, promote sustainability and introduce context aware energy eco system to maximize crop yield. The facility will run on photovoltaic cell and other alternative energy sources which can be connected to the national grid lines. The proposed system will be suitable for remote places which does not have access to electric power and broadband internet facility. Since it can autonomously regulate growth conditions, it would be used to germinate seeds, conduct studies on plant pathology and provide incubation facilities.
The whole system will be open source and modular which means anyone can customize and enhance the system according to their needs and will be largely dependent on commitment of “voluntourists”. It would benefit students who wants to undertake research projects, a place for local community to learn about technology and would serve as a shelter for volunteers around the world who wants to contribute towards the scientific and technological development of Nepal. The proposed facility can also be used to conduct seminars and training on skill development, disaster preparedness, and basic life support.
Timeline/Plan of Work
April – July: construction of physical infrastructure: house, aquaponics farm, and biodigester.
August 2017 – August 2019: Energy management system and context-aware computing infrastructure to regulate and control conditions of the ecosystem.
2020 onwards: The house will be used as a learning center and will be used to train skill manpower for technological development. Similar model will be proposed in every community school for students to engage in learning and building their own locality.
Rural economy: http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/economic-and-social-development/rural-development/lang–en/index.htm
Bamboo drip irrigation: http://permaculturenews.org/2014/02/28/bamboo-drip-irrigation/
Nepal blockade: Six ways it affects the country: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35041366
Design catalogue for reconstruction of earthquake resistant houses: http://hrrpnepal.org/media/8969/design_catalogue_for_reconstruction_of_earthquake_resistant_houses.pdf
Small scale aquaponics food production: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4021e.pdf
Biodigester Global Case Studies: https://colab.mit.edu/sites/default/files/D_Lab_Waste_Biodigester_Case_Studies_Report.pdf
Open source automation software for home: www.openhab.org/, www.raspberrypi.org/
Zigbee network: http://www.zigbee.org/zigbee-for-developers/network-specifications/zigbeepro/
Small-scale aquaponic food production Integrated fish and plant farming: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4021e.pdf
Construction of the sustainability lab from recycled materials [May, 2017 – November, 2017]