05 Май Automatic Fertigation Equipment (AFE)
AUTOMATIC FERTIGATION EQUIPMENT
At present the Automatic Fertigation Equipment is used in almost all crops, these being essential in hydroponic crops.
The AFE in addition to allowing the scheduling of irrigation, allow the injection and metering of fertilizers proportionally and evenly. In hydroponic crops the activation of irrigation is usually carried out on demand, so that the regulation of frequency and dose of irrigation depends on external factors such as solar radiation, evaporation and / or ambient temperature.
There is a wide range of AFE on the market, although they all have something in common and it is the use of EC and pH probes to measure and regulate the dosage of fertilizers in irrigation water. There are equipments that besides these sensors can realize the dosage according to the flow of the installation or even by time.
Within the wide range of AFE some are different from others:
- By the injection system used: Venturi or metering pump.
- Injection form: Direct injection in bypass, direct injection online or with mixing tank.
- For the way to control the dosage: System A + B (from 2 tanks of fertilizers) or multi-tank (from 3 to 8 tanks fertilizers).
This last aspect, is an important differentiating element between the AFE used in the north of Europe and the employees in Spain.
In the system A + B two tanks are used in which different compatible fertilizers have previously been diluted. In this system the balance between fertilizers is made in the tank itself and the equipment is limited to inject both tanks in the same proportion. Therefore, it requires qualified personnel to refill the tanks. The system is ideal to work with monoculture and always guarantees a balanced injection, since the level of both tanks is always the same.
In the multi-tank system, 4-5 tanks are generally used, in which each tank only contains one type of fertilizer, or sometimes 2 fertilizers, but always in the same water / fertilizer ratio, AFE being in charge of making the balance between fertilizers. This system requires an operator to keep the tanks filled and a technician to design the «recipe» for the nutrient solution. This system requires greater control in the dosage of each injector because the tanks are not emptied equally. The system is ideal to work with different crops or different phenological phases of the same crop. It also allows quick performances, since you can change the recipe from one irrigation to another.
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