Oakland, CA (December 10, 2021) - One of the biggest trends in agriculture in the coming year is the continued push to precision irrigation. Many in the specialty crops industry consider this the only option short of ripping out trees or not planting acreage.
“While the last decade saw the growth of the use of soil moisture probes and aerial imagery, the biggest trend we predict is building on these platforms to drive results,” said John Bourne, VP at Ceres Imaging. “We need to ramp up things like experimentation and consolidation, while improving on water optimization and utilizing combinations of sources with in-field and remote-sensed data to calculate applied water needs."
2022 Predictions for Irrigation in Agriculture
The 11 major reservoirs in CA are averaging at 38% capacity. With the meteorologists predicting a continuation of the La Nina effect, resulting in below average rainfall in California, water scarcity is going to get only worse for growers. The old way will not be tenable, and growers looking to survive and thrive despite this ongoing reality are going to continue to be investing in technology to solve this problem. In 2022, I predict that there will be greater need for water optimization as a result of continued water demand.
We’ve seen a huge shift in 20201 on how growers calculate the amount of water to apply in their fields, and we expect this to go mainstream in 2022. In the past growers have calculated water needs from third party reference data that is representative to a region, not to their unique farm. They have combined this data with visual observation of the tree and some point samples to optimize water needs. A new approach has begun to emerge that we think will go mainstream in 2022: using in field and remote sensed data to calculate applied water needs.
There are two convergent trends that have changed this. First is the growth in remote sensed data that shows the variability of crop water needs across an operation. Groups like Ceres Imaging and OpenET have rolled out successful new products to calculate crop water needs at a level of precision that often helps save 20% or more on water use. The second is the integration of this technology with soil moisture sensors. Growers have begun using soil moisture sensors in the past, but the major limitation is that they are point samples and it’s hard for a grower to always trust if they are accurate and representative of the full picture of variability across their operation. By combining detailed point data sources with a full picture provided by remote sensing, we will see a majority of growers completely change how they calculate crop water needs.
Growers, researchers and technology companies feel the pressure of increased regulation, and dry conditions will offer no relief. As continued shortages will increase drumbeat for legislation around water efficiency and groundwater management, the entire industry will need to focus more than ever on irrigation efficiency.
Those who diversified were better equipped to respond to volatility in 2020. More large and small operations will incorporate deliberate experimentation into their long-term management strategy, with potential to move from ad hoc trial and error to more systematic approaches toward incorporating new technology and different varieties.
“Turmoil of the past year claimed a spate of small outfits. As the industry continues to mature, we'll see an ever-increasing concentration of market share by the remaining players—and that the accelerating product capabilities of the more established players will make market entry by brand new players that much harder.”
“Many agriculture technology companies will shift their focus from technical innovation to improving the user experience. A move away from "data overload" to friendlier interfaces could help push some of the newer tools beyond tech-savvy early adopters and into the mainstream.”
At Ceres Imaging, we believe the future of agriculture depends on providing farmers with the right tools—to cover more ground, make the most of their resources, and apply their skill and experience where it's needed most. That's why we're building precision irrigation solutions that help farmers build more profitable and more sustainable operations. By combining in field sensors with advanced analytics and high-resolution aerial imagery, we provide the full picture of crop health. For more information, visit CeresImaging.net.