ICT International

Advancing soil, plant and environmental decision making

IoT System for Real Time Nitrate Runoff Monitoring


The reduction of nutrient leaching and sediment run-off is of high importance to achieving term environmental and production sustainability. The use of IoT based sensor systems provide a better understanding of nitrogen loss pathways from banana production systems in the wet tropics region of North Queensland.


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Great Barrier Reef Catchment, QLD Australia


In cropping and horticultural sectors, real time monitoring of nutrients offers to potentially identify inefficiency in any given system and subsequently gives useful information for optimising inputs and resources to maximise productions and protect the environment from pollutants. In sensitive catchments, such as the Great Barrier Reef, reducing nutrient leaching and sediment run-off will be of high importance to achieving term environmental and production sustainability.  The “Digital remote monitoring to improve horticulture’s environmental performance” project established four demonstration ‘smart farms’ in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area, covering banana, vegetable, macadamia and nursery sectors.

Measuring Nitrate Runoff

To provide the data for decision making, a range of sensors were installed. With the ability to monitor the weather (through the use of a SNiP-AWS5+), the soil moisture content, and surface water runoff, the sensor and infrastructure provide detailed data on the conditions.

Surface water runoff sensors used include:

  • TriOS NICO for real time Nitrate (NO3, mg/litre of Nitrate) measurement. The four detection channels enable a precise optical determination of nitrate by absorption, considering turbidity and organic substances. It also has an internal temperature correction to increase the stability of measured values.
  • Keller Acculevel for depth monitoring (within a 200mm RBC flume) and calculation of surface water run-off discharge.

The soil moisture sensors provide real time information on deep-drainage and potential nitrate leeching to groundwater.

Infrastructure installed in support of the sensing system included:

  • ICT Remote Monitoring Power System (RMS140) with modifications to support the TriOS NICO, TriBox mini controller and Wiper W55 (total average power requirement of approximately 8W). The TriBox mini controller reads and logs data from the TriOS NICO, provides a dual 4 – 20mA outputs to the MFR-NODE-C, and controls the Wiper W55 for automated sensor maintenance.
  • 200mm RBC Flume (RBC-200), with a stilling well for the Keller Acculevel and custom modifications to house the Trios Nico. The RBC flume is designed for the measurement of the flow rate in small, usually earthen, irrigation canals or furrows, and are ideal for use in Watershed and Edge-of-Field Runoff monitoring projects, covering a flow range of 1-49 L/sec.

Communications and dashboard to monitor nitrate runoff

To bring the data to the decision makers, CATM1 connected IoT nodes were used to transmit the data to the Hitachi Vantara dashboard.

The ICT International MFR-NODE is connected to the nitrate and flume sensors, reading the sensors at 10 minute intervals. Using the local cellular network, this data is transmitted to Microsoft Azure, for subsequent display in the Hitachi Vantara dashboard. This dashboard provides a remote monitoring console to integrate the farm data and produce information useful to growers and the broader horticulture industry.