Start-up aims to make a splash with water sensor for developing nations

Lake Victoria

A NEW, low-cost Internet of Things (IoT) sensor system being developed with Scottish expertise could support communities in developing countries in the fight against the effects of climate change by enabling them to detect, monitor, and manage water quality in real time.

Aqsen Innovations has partnered with CENSIS – Scotland’s innovation centre for sensing, imaging, and IoT technologies – to advance the development of its sensor system, Aquasense, which can be adapted to test for a range of variables in water, such as temperature, oxygenation, salinity, and the presence of chemicals such as chlorine.

Sensor systems with these features are often highly expensive, making them too costly to use in many developing nations. However, Aqsen Innovations is aiming for the technology to be priced at just 25% to 30% of equivalent products. Working with CENSIS will help the company achieve this price point by using a unique combination of components that will work with Aqsen’s software tools.

By monitoring water quality in real-time, the IoT sensors generate data that can be monitored remotely via a mobile device and inform decision-making. It is particularly aimed at areas which are prone to flooding or rely on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and aquaculture.

Farmers, for example, could use the technology to monitor the soil moisture for crops, which influences plant health and yields. Fish farmers could also benefit by tracking the temperature, dissolved oxygen concentration, and the pH level of water, allowing them to identify the optimal time for feeding and monitoring health. 

Later this year, the team will work with Makerere University College of Natural Sciences in Uganda to begin advanced trials of the technology in Lake Victoria. Initial trials have also successfully been undertaken at fish farms in Uganda, as well as in India monitoring the quality of water in floodplains and on farmland. 

Rinku Dasbiswas, co-founder of Aqsen Innovations, said: “Aquasense provides real-time, dynamic insights on water quality that can support communities and help to improve productivity across a variety of sectors grappling with environmental challenges. It is about making technology that can make a real difference more affordable and accessible to those who need it most. The impact this could have in developing nations is huge, and it was brilliant to hear the initial feedback from farmers on the difference this could make to their livelihoods. 

“Once we reach commercialisation, we hope to develop the product further and begin incorporating satellite imaging. CENSIS is playing a key role in integrating the IoT technologies into our sensor systems. The team also introduced us to other UK-based companies operating in the field, and we hope to foster these connections by working together to adapt the product and help mitigate against the impacts of climate change in this part of the world as well.”

The sensors are also going to be trialled on several projects in Scotland which involve CENSIS, exploring how to best monitor water quality in different contexts, including flooding and tree planting. Potential applications are also being explored in South Africa and Malaysia.

Rachael Wakefield, business development manager at CENSIS, added: “Aqsen Innovations’ mission is closely aligned with our own, and we have experience of creating bespoke IoT-enabled sensors for use in environmental sensing applications at scale. Accessible, affordable environmental sensing is not just a challenge for developing nations, it is useful here in the UK too – especially for small farms and not-for-profit organisations that have a need for data-evidenced land management change. The potential impact of Aquasense is huge and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Aqsen Innovations, supporting the team to address global climate challenges.”

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