Empowering a California Asparagus Farmer to Conserve Water Through IoT Connectivity
By Swathy Ramaswamy, Lead Product Marketing Manager, IoT for Good, AT&T
Being an organic farmer can be challenging. Farmers are faced with constant pricing pressures from conventional competitors and, in places like California, water limitations and labor shortages also can be an obstacle. That’s why many organic farmers are looking for solutions to help them be more innovative and efficient in growing their crops.WaterBit and AT&T are helping Devine Organics in their efforts to both conserve water and grow more asparagus in California’s Central Valley. As a family- , woman- and minority-owned business, Devine Organics founder Elvia Devine is driven to grow the finest fruits and vegetables with an eye toward conservation and environmental stewardship. Elvia is one farmer who realizes that efficiency and sustainability must go hand-in-hand.
That’s why Devine Organics teamed up with WaterBit and AT&T. WaterBit installed small, solar-powered sensors across the asparagus fields. These sensors collect information on soil moisture and other field conditions. They require no maintenance and are placed under the foliage, so they don’t interfere with field work and harvests. Data from the sensors is sent to a communications hub that can be thousands of feet away. The hub then uses AT&T Internet of Things (IoT) technology to send highly secure data over the AT&T LTE network to the WaterBit app. There, the information is analyzed to determine if a section of the field needs more or less water, and the farmer can remotely control irrigation from their smartphone, turning valves on and off.Thanks to this technology, Devine Organics can now irrigate its field with incredible precision — releasing water exactly where, when and for how long it’s needed. The WaterBit dashboard provides a comprehensive overview of the field’s moisture and irrigation status, and because it’s connected via the AT&T network, the Devine Organics team can access the data 24/7 via computer or smartphone. Since installing WaterBit sensors on a 40-acre field in December 2017, Devine Organics has the potential to reduce its water usage by more than 750,000 gallons — the equivalent of more than 43,000 Americans skipping a shower for a day. There has also been a 5% drop in greenhouse gas emissions from fuel used for pumping water and truck trips to manually check the fields. Most importantly, due to better irrigation processes, Devine Organics has harvested nearly twice as much asparagus from the field since the WaterBit technology was put into place.
The Devine Organics team is now looking to expand the use of WaterBit to other crops, such as pistachio and melons, and into Mexico, where they operate other large organic farms. And beyond their own crops, they are hoping to share the lessons they’ve learned with other farmers trying to reduce their environmental footprint and increase their harvests.