This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
When we talk about population growth, often the first question that comes to mind is, “How are we going to feed everyone?” While an important question that needs to be addressed, rising populations also put increasing and competing demands on our natural resources. And these demands are putting local and state economies at risk. Within the next decade, solutions will be necessary to optimize water use while preserving rivers and streams.
Using funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an interdisciplinary team of scientists led by Gene Eidson, director of Clemson University’s Institute of Applied Ecology, is developing new technologies to mitigate this risk.
The Intelligent River™ Research Enterprise includes experts in natural resources, biosystems engineering, computer science, and electrical and computer engineering. They have developed software and hardware that collects and transmits real-time data on water quality from remote sensors, even in densely wooded areas.
At the center of the Intelligent River technology is a novel networking platform called a “MoteStack” that collects, stores and transmits data in real time. Information is displayed on the Intelligent River website, along with tools for natural resource management.
One major project is a partnership with Aiken, S.C., city leaders on a $3.3 million project to improve stormwater infiltration and treatment and mitigate severe stream erosion.
The research team is exploring the potential to transfer this technology as a suite of “intelligent solutions” including the Intelligent Farm to optimize water, fertilizer, and pesticides use; Intelligent Infrastructure to monitor buildings, roads, and bridges; and Intelligent Forest to optimize forestry management and evaluate climate change impact.
These solutions can enable a more sustainable future for South Carolina, safeguarding the environment and creating green economy jobs.