Measuring and correctly using water is essential for farmers

Measuring and correctly using water is essential for farmers

Precisely measuring water consumption and knowing how and when to irrigate are essential to developing efficient, sustainable, and highly productive farming operations, according to Chile-based LemSystem.

Speaking ahead of the Agricultural Water Summit, in which LemSystem will be participating, the company's Commercial Manager David Berrios explained that not measuring water use is one of the most serious problems in Chile, much of which is being heavily affected by a protracted drought and water crisis.

In addition, he said that it's crucial to understand that 70 percent of agricultural production depends on how the crops are irrigated, which makes it crucial to know how to monitor and control the use of water through sensors and software.

By doing this, growers can not only reduce costs and make their operations more efficient and sustainable, but they can also improve yields and therefore increase their income.

"We all agree that water is important, but almost no one measures it, and if they do, they measure badly," Berrios said. "We think that it's a serious problem."

"It can make a huge difference in terms of the yields. And it's important to note we're not talking about irrigating more, but irrigating well. Apply exactly how much water the plant or tree needs, when it needs it," he said.

"Plants are very sensitive to excess, and normally when people don't have the right information, they just water in excess, which can negatively impact the plant and result in lower yields and quality."

There are therefore important concepts to be understood for growers to make the necessary changes to make their farms more efficient, he added.

In order to know how and when to irrigate, it is of course important to be able to measure water consumption across all the farm through a network of sensors that can provide key information to the grower in real-time.

Modern-day technology, such as that offered by LemSystems, allows for a sophisticated and integrated telemetric system to be installed on the farm. This system can measure water levels and usage from the wells through all the irrigation canals and all other processes.

LemSystems has been operating in Chile for around a decade and counts many of the biggest fruit production companies among its customers. Berrios said there tends to be a stronger demand for its solution for high-value crops, such as avocados, blueberries, citrus, cherries, and walnuts.

"We have different lines of business to address the whole cycle of water on farms: monitoring the source of water in the deep wells; monitoring the plants, its soils and water needs; wireless valves across the whole farm to measure the water pressure, and centralized remote control of the whole system," he said.

"All this allows us to accurately monitor and control the consumption and application of water across a whole farm, according to what is needed and when."

Berrios explained that LemSystem's solutions are based on two concepts - the Internet of Things (IoT), which allows all the various systems to communicate with each other and inform the grower in real-time of what's happening, and artificial intelligence, which allows the system to make decisions independently based on the data it collects.

He said that crop productivity can be significantly improved just by irrigating correctly, with growers seeing on average a 10 percent increase in yields. In addition, growers can save up to around 30 percent on water consumption, lowering their costs, making them more sustainable, and allowing them to plant more.

Speaking about the water crisis that is severely impacting the Chilean agricultural industry, Berrios emphasized that what is lacking in the country is good water management.

"In Chile, there's not really a shortage of water except for in some areas. Today, 84 percent of water is lost into the sea, and I think that a big part of the problem is that the water is badly managed," he said.

"The country must invest more in the canals, and I'd say we're 20 years being in off-farm irrigation - the water infrastructure."

He said that in the northern region of Copiapo, which doesn't have rivers, growers are well prepared for drought and are very good at managing water. But in the central region, where there has always been water, there is much less advanced management and poor coordination.

For more information on the Agricultural Water Summit, click here.