Open Source Automated Irrigation System for Small Farms, Urban Farms or Specialty Crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $7,442.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Renegade Acres
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: fertigation, irrigation, water management
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
  • Sustainable Communities: urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:


    This project aims to solve multiple issues facing small and urban farmers with regards to crop irrigation. Small and urban farms often employ polyculture cropping systems. Rather than a single, large crop covering multiple acres, small and urban farms will grow several different crops in small areas. Each crop may have its own irrigation requirements – some requiring more frequent irrigation and some requiring less frequent irrigation – which presents a unique challenge that this project aims to solve.

    Water conservation is an important part of any farm, big or small. Conserving water is good for the environment, your crops, and your bottom line. When sourcing water from a small body of water – a creek, river, pond or lake – there is a limited amount that can be used. When sourcing water from a municipal supply, there is a significant cost. Excessive irrigation can cause erosion, runoff, high weed pressure, and crop damage. This project aims to provide an easy method for conserving water within the proposed irrigation system.

    Southeast Michigan is currently experiencing an Urban Agriculture boom. Abandoned lots in city centers are becoming small farms, families in residential areas are raising chickens and growing their own food, and small farms are popping up in rural, suburban and urban areas. Irrigation is the key to a successful crop, and getting water from its source to the plants is difficult and costly even for a small farm. This project aims to provide an economically viable and ecologically sound solution for small and urban farmers.


    To solve the unique irrigation challenges of small and urban farms, and to conserve water regardless of the source, I have come up with a solution that utilizes open source hardware and software. This, combined with a mix of consumer and professional irrigation components creates an economical, efficient automated irrigation system.

    The core component of the system is the OpenSprinkler irrigation controller. Unlike other commercial irrigation controllers, this one is Open Source, meaning the hardware and software are both able to be modified by the user. This allows the system to be customized in any way imaginable. Another key benefit of the OpenSprinkler system is the price. The controller itself retails for $139, which is much more affordable than the commercial systems which can cost thousands.

    The second component of the system is consumer-grade solenoid irrigation valves. These valves are typically used for lawn sprinkler systems, however, they can also be utilized for any irrigation method. The OpenSprinkler controller sends signals to the irrigation valve to open or close at specific time intervals. The valves can be located up to 1,500 feet away from the controller, making this an ideal solution for small farms.

    The third component of the system is professional-grade drip tape. Drip tape is a plastic hose with small slits or emitters every 8” to 12”. Drip tape is extremely efficient at delivering water directly to the root system of a crop, without wasting water due to overspray, evaporation or runoff.

    The combination of the Open Source OpenSprinkler irrigation controller with the consumer and professional grade components will allow small and urban farmers to customize their irrigation based on their needs. The system is affordable and efficient. It will deliver water to a diverse set of crops and can be automated.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Develop and test a low cost, automated irrigation system that can be shared with other small and urban farmers.
    2. Conserve water with the design of the irrigation system to positively impact the environment and save farmers money.
    3. Improve farmers' quality of life by saving them time with an automated irrigation system.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.