Sustainable Irrigation through Embedded in India

By Ken Briodagh

Senior Technology Editor

Embedded Computing Design

April 19, 2024


Sustainable Irrigation through Embedded in India

The power, form factor, and especially efficiency of embedded systems is encouraging more sustainable and eco-friendly solutions all over the world. In particular, materials like GaN are making the compromises much easier to adopt, even at the edge.

In a recent announcement, Navitas Semiconductor, a provider of GaN power ICs and SiC technology, made public a new deal with Indian company Virtual Forest, an electronics design company specializing in motor control and human interface technologies. According to the release, Virtual Forest has adopted the Navitas GaNFast power integrated circuit (IC) technology for a new zero-emission, 3 hp (2,250W) solar-powered irrigation pump for use in farming and other agricultural applications.

Irrigation is always a challenge, especially on remote farms covering huge acreages. It requires high-power pumping to bring water from running waterways, up to the field levels. At the same time, it’s imperative to minimize or reduce pollution or contamination from gas or diesel powered generators and pumps. Of course, long cabling bringing power to these pumps invites inefficiencies and transmission losses, or even interruption if the cables are disturbed or damaged.

To address all this, the Virtual Forest solar pump is designed to operate maximum power point tracking (MPPT) and use a combination of solar panels and energy storage to provide constant and clean power and performance. The pump reportedly can be remotely accessed via quad-band wireless, and the company says, even with the low power consumption, each can raise more 50 gallons-per-minute of water to a height of over 90 feet. That should be enough to water 3 acres of farmland and help to produce 10 tons of wheat. Further, the IoT-enabled solar pump enables farmers to manage water usage through monitoring and intelligent analytics, leading to more optimal and sustainable consumption.

"The $450 million solar-pump market in India is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2026, calling for a solar revolution on Indian fields,” said Omer Basith, CEO, Virtual Forest. “Reliable, off-grid systems are critical to overcome food insecurity and achieve energy efficiency. We are nurturing our dream to drive gigatons of reduction in carbon emissions, thereby making the world a greener place to live in.”

In order to make all this possible, Virtual Forest is working with Navitas to integrate the GaNSense half-bridge power ICs, using two GaN power FETs with GaN drivers, level-shifters, protection features and high-efficiency loss-less current sensing. High-efficiency NV6269 half-bridge ICs, in 8x10 mm QFN packages, used in a 3-phase motor inverter, with 3x-5x energy savings vs legacy silicon IGBTs.

“The design team at Virtual Forest adopted the GaNSense half-bridges very quickly, for a fast time-to-market,” said Alessandro Squeri, Navitas’ Senior Sales Director. “With GaNSense, ‘easy-to-use feature, Virtual Forest comes into the partnership with high efficiency, low component count and a robust design for tough environments.”

Ken Briodagh is a writer and editor with two decades of experience under his belt. He is in love with technology and if he had his druthers, he would beta test everything from shoe phones to flying cars. In previous lives, he’s been a short order cook, telemarketer, medical supply technician, mover of the bodies at a funeral home, pirate, poet, partial alliterist, parent, partner and pretender to various thrones. Most of his exploits are either exaggerated or blatantly false.

More from Ken