Platypus LLC specializes in rapid, low-cost water data collection, using autonomous, cooperative robotic vessels to collect spatially dense bathymetric, vegetation and water quality data.www.senseplatypus.com
The Aqua TROLL 600 simplifies the process by letting us quickly collect up to 1,200 data points per kilometer of nitrate data. We [also] use the logger to ‘sanity check’ the data from other sensors when we put the boat in the water every day.
By Helen Taylor
Platypus Collects Water Quality Data in Record Time with Robotic Boats and In-Situ Equipment
Hired to monitor runoff from intensive greenhouse agriculture in the Netherlands, Platypus uses robotic boats and Aqua TROLL 600s to gather in a matter of days water quality data that otherwise would have taken weeks or months to collect.
As population density increases, many countries wrestle with water quality management. The problem is particularly acute in the Netherlands, where 26 percent of land sits below sea level and intensive agriculture in both fields and greenhouses is essential to the small, densely populated country.
The water authority responsible for managing an area with concentrated greenhouse agriculture throughout Delft, Midden-Delfland and The Hague is particularly focused on identifying greenhouses with high fertilizer and pesticide runoff and correcting the problem through constructive discussions with growers.
Working with limited resources, the water authority partnered with Platypus to monitor water quality in local water ways—a network of irrigation canals too dense to make manual sampling feasible. Platypus deployed robotic Lutra boats equipped with In-Situ’s Aqua TROLL 600 water quality sensors to collect high-resolution data to pinpoint pollution sources.
The first round of data collection took roughly two and a half days; a second round two months later took just two days. Without the robotic boats and the Aqua TROLL 600, nitrate monitoring over the same period would have taken weeks or months to complete manually.
“We chose the Aqua TROLL 600 because we knew it would provide high-quality nitrate data,” Scerri says. “It also provides continuous data, requires just a short settling time and is fully submersible, all three of which are critical requirements for our robots.”
The team used the collected data to identify high-nitrate and low-oxygen hot spots where two greenhouses were leaking disproportionate levels of nutrients into nearby canals. The local water authority was then able to address the problem with low-cost solutions that would improve efficiency for growers while protecting water quality.
“The Aqua TROLL 600 simplifies the process by letting us quickly collect up to 1,200 data points per kilometer of nitrate data,” says Scerri, adding that they also use the Aqua TROLL to verify data generated by hard-wired instrumentation. “We use the logger to ‘sanity check’ the data from other sensors when we put the boat in the water every day.”
Based on this clear return on investment, Dutch water management authorities plan to use this method to collect data across most of the agricultural canals in the Netherlands. And Platypus plans to integrate Aqua TROLL 600 data into its Aquatical Analytics™ platform to help predict changes in water quality over time.