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Opinion: Environment

More for Less: Preserving Water in Agriculture

Matija Zulj Matija Zulj

Water is essential to life on Earth, covering about 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface and is the driving force for people, economies, nature, and the foundation of our food. Agriculture began when people discovered a technique to irrigate their crops, a defining invention for the sector, particularly in locations where the climate was severe, and rainfall was scarce.  

Today, irrigation plays a key role in food production, however, agriculture is responsible for 70 per cent of all freshwater withdrawals in the world. With a growing population, the need for food production will be higher, as well as the need for a lot more water, with the global water demand for agriculture is expected to increase by 35 per cent by 2050.

Producing more food while using less water

To address this challenge, the key is to make agriculture irrigation systems more productive and less damaging for the planet, which means producing more food while using less water. It also means building the resilience of farming communities to cope with floods and droughts and using clean water technologies that protect the environment. 

Improving water productivity in agriculture is essential and includes a thorough monitoring of water usage efficiency. Technology helps farmers to ensure sustainable and efficient water management. Different data-driven solutions, such as farm management software, help farmers run, monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their irrigation system. This ensures optimal water utilisation and informed decisions that have a positive impact on both their crops and the environment. 

Efficient water management through farm management software

With a comprehensive farm management system (FMS), growers can meticulously record, track and analyse every irrigation activity. For instance, a farmer can document the exact amount of water used, the timing of irrigation, the water source and associated labour costs. 

Moreover, when FMS is combined with Internet of Things (IoT) hardware in fields or with fertigation management systems, for example, farmers can manage and automate water distribution across their fields. By ensuring that water is delivered precisely where and when it is needed, farmers can optimise resource allocation, conserve water and save valuable time and labour. 

Innovative fertigation management system

AGRIVI’s newly released innovative fertigation management module is a holistic approach to tracking and managing fertigation and irrigation practices. It is intended primarily for substrate-grown berries and vegetables in greenhouses and represents an excellent example of the full range of benefits that technology has in making agriculture practices more efficient, productive, and sustainable. 

This fertigation management feature includes integrated alarms that ensure that any deviations from optimal conditions trigger immediate alerts, allowing farmers to take swift corrective actions. It also mitigates the chances of crop damage and optimises resource utilisation, safeguarding both yield and profitability. The system has also automated analytics which provide meaningful insights that empower farmers to make informed decisions that directly impact crop health and yield. Another great benefit is the possibility of a system to monitor supply water parameters and fertigation water parameters as separate data streams. This dual-monitoring approach ensures that the precise composition of the nutrient solution aligns with crop requirements, which is not possible in traditional fertigation management and presents additional value to the farmers. 

Inexpensive and accessible, AGRIVI’s fertigation management module is a great add-on for smallholder farmers as well. It is a versatile tool that can serve both simple and sophisticated hardware solutions in the field for collecting and analysing the fertigation water in crop productions.

Smallholder farmers can easily use equipment from local markets or hardware stores to collect the water they use to water their plants  and measure its parameters. The AGRIVI system can then help them to record, store, and analyse the information they collect from the water, and it can be connected with other electronic or hardware devices. 

This way, farmers can have a a centralised platform to store their data to make informed decisions on crop irrigation and fertigation. 

Reducing the environmental impact of agriculture 

As the world struggles with issues related to food security and environmental concerns, sustainable agriculture is not a choice but a necessity. Implementing technology like farm management software empowers farmers to make data-driven decisions that benefit both their bottom line and the planet. Farms that have adopted these tools report significant reductions in resource consumption and environmental impact.

Farms using AGRIVI’s platform have seen water use optimised by 15 per cent, reduced fertiliser use by 13 per cent, reduced fuel consumption in the fields by 8 per cent, and reduced pesticide consumption by as much as 21 per cent. At the same time, farmers who implemented a farm management software experience saw  yields improve by 11 per cent and 13 per cent higher profitability. 

However, digital transformation is not just bringing a simple farming app to growers. Rather, it is about supporting them in adopting new concepts around crop management systems by encouraging best practices that focus on sustainability, food safety and nutrition, timely protecting their crops to mitigate the risk of yield loss and ensuring efficiency of the field operations to secure profitability. 

The change is in adopting a new way in which they work to secure sustainable and efficient food production – and agtech plays a pivotal role in facilitating this transition.

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