California Water: New Technology Helps Save Water and the Environment; could make a difference in operational profitability

SANTA PAULA (KABC) — The amount of water you can save at home is a drop in the ocean by and large, but agricultural users are responsible for an estimated 50% of all water use in California.

So if they can reduce consumption, it would make itself felt.

“Water is our most expensive input, it’s our most valuable input, and we’re just trying to do whatever it takes to be as sustainable and successful as possible,” said Jason Cole, ranch manager at Cole Limited in Santa Paula.

Cole’s family has been growing avocados and lemons on 4,000 acres in Santa Paula for three generations, but in the last decade he’s turned his attention to it sharpness agriculture and Benchmark Labs to obtain farm-specific climate data that can save up to 10% of its water consumption.

“You’re reducing some water, but you’re also only providing the water that’s meant to be used,” he said.

ABC7 Chief Meteorologist Dallas Raines would tell you that Southern California is made up of a series of microclimate zones. So farm-specific forecasts are a microclimate within a microclimate, and that requires sensors in the field that focus on environmental variables beyond rain, such as wind or evaporation.

“We use the sensors to improve forecasting and provide the most actionable data for their locations,” said Carlos Felipe Gaitan Ospina, co-founder and CEO of Benchmark Labs. “We’re trying to give them insights so they can better manage their operations.”

Conserving water may have been the original reason for going high-tech in farming, but what farmers like Cole are finding is that their crops’ yields have increased tremendously through more efficient water use.

“We’ve seen massive yield increases, I’m talking 50%, almost 100% in some areas,” said Cole.

Acuity Agriculture’s Megan Dilley said that 10% could be huge across the industry.

“Saving water and increasing crop yields? They’re doing a great job,” she said. “If each farm saves 10% and we get 10% back in our groundwater resource, that’s huge.”

Cole uses one sensor station for every 20 acres and said its cost is less than a cell phone bill.

It is a technology that is becoming more common in the industry and reducing water could save more than the environment.

“That 10% could be saved to your profit margin, and that could be the difference between being a profitable farmer or not…so that adds up,” Ospina said.

Many agree.

“It’s a win-win-win, I think, across the board,” said Cole. “We grow more food, we maximize a resource, we have to eat everyone… that takes water. It’s just how we can do it as efficiently as possible.”

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved. California Water: New Technology Helps Save Water and the Environment; could make a difference in operational profitability

Laura Coffey

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