Honors College Thesis

Hacking RFID Tags to Produce Economical Soil Moisture Sensors

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  • Currently available soil moisture sensors have intrinsic limitations that limit their adoption by industry. Depending on the technology, these limitations may include high costs, battery requirements, precice manual installation, high cost, and/or constrictive legislation that regulates their use. A passive soil moisture sensing system based around RFID technology would allay many of these issues. Moisture sensing RFID tags are already being used in other industries and they present a unique opportunity within the agricultural space, such as Smartrac’s Dogbone RFID Tag. Today, Dogbone tags inexpensive, don’t require batteries, charging, recalibration or maintenance. In this thesis, those tags were adapted and calibrated to sense the moisture content of soil. The result was an affordable, scalable, and highly granular system for sensing volumetric water content (VWC) in-situ. Calibration was executed using an industry-standard probe in reference soil at a range of moisture values soil ranging from 9-31% VWC. This validated a definite relationship between tag sensor values and the VWC However, some concerning outliers were recorded. Further testing examined the potential of using these tags with drones, on a center pivot, and integrated with an app.
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