This article is part of a series by Aric Olson, President of Jain Irrigation, Inc., on how Jain Irrigation built its global AgTech platform in a short period of 5 years. Read Part I: Acquisitions are Integral to Strategy and Part II: Challenges and Strategies for Implementation.
During the last few years, there were noticeable challenges in the Western United States getting and keeping farm labourers. There were even stories of crops that were left in the field un-harvested due to the lack of available labor. Growers had to plan around not only availability of water and land, but also farm labor.
Due to the increased labor costs and availability issues, growers have been more rapidly pursuing automation. They are trying to automate as many tasks as possible on the farm, including irrigation which is labor intensive for certain crops. Farmers are now looking for the ability to turn on/ off pumps with field valve control from their phones or computers, whereas in the recent past they would have their irrigators drive the fields to manually turn on valves. As farms become larger, it also became much easier to manage large blocks of acreage using automation for the irrigator, in effect multiplying an owners’ time and effort across larger acreages.
With our acquired and internally developed hardware and software, we are in a great position to immediately begin helping the grower automate irrigation on their farms.
We can also deploy our agronomic and diagnostic tools to better help the grower with the choice of when and for how long to irrigate. These key decisions can be made utilizing over 10 years of farm data acquired with the Jain-Puresense acquisition. Soil moisture, local weather information and history can be utilized in machine learning models to accurately predict how deep the water from an irrigation event travels through the soil - Whether the irrigation event reach the roots, or if the event goes past the roots and the water, fertilizer, and energy is wasted).
The accurate prediction of soil moisture, paired with the upcoming weather forecasts and associated ET (evapotranspiration) can lead to simulations for getting water to the root zone (no more nor less). Taking this one step further, Jain Irrigation will have the ability to then further automate the irrigation cycle by asking the grower where they want the water to be (at what level in the root zone), and irrigation schedules can be automatically sent to the pump and valves through our automation systems.
We will also take a satellite space view of the field correlated to the point source information we have. We are really the only company in this current position, with so much soil moisture and infield data, automation control capability, and the use of machine learning to deliver this leading solution that saves labor and resources (water, energy, fertilizers), helping the grower farm better.
There are increased regulations in California and other parts of the country for the amount of ground water that can be pumped. Surface water utilization will also be regulated to ensure that basins are in balance. Due to agriculture’s nitrogen run-off and ground water leaching challenges, you now need to manage and report on Nitrogen usage and how it relates to what the crop utilizes in many parts of the country. The focus will be to manage the applications of nitrogen appropriately so that the grower will get a good crop, while also ensuring that there is no waste or pollution.
Management of water and nitrogen (most forms of nitrogen are water soluble and readily flow throw the soils with water movement) will provide significant business opportunities. With our monitoring and controls systems, we can help growers apply the appropriate water and nitrogen with the right timing for maximum yield with the lowest environmental impacts.
The future is bright for the Jain Irrigation, Inc. Through smart, strategic, and timely acquisitions, along with internal parent company support, the division is set to provide globally leading technology to farmers to fulfill the mission – Leave this world better than you found it.