There's An App for That: Mapping Irrigation
The Farm2050 collective is a recently launched initiative that aims to bring Silicon Valley tech to the Central Valley. CropX is part of the collective which just closed a $9 million round of Series A financing. The startup has been testing an app and sensors to help farmers collect data on their fields about irrigation-needs on different parts of their land. The app tracks exactly how much water is needed on a farm, and where it's needed. Uniform irrigation tends to overwater sections of a field while underwatering others, as land is not uniform — fields often have a range of soil profiles and slopes. Big data algorithms can help map these variations and create an irrigation map for the field.
One of the primary problems with most existing technology is that it's expensive, pricing out most small farmers. Which may be part of the reason some 90 percent of all U.S. farmers don’t use any tool for optimizing irrigation decisions. But CropX’s system could change that, and in doing so, it could save a significant amount of water. The system is affordable. It only needs 3 or 4 sensors to monitor variations in over 100 acres, and the mobile app is simply run on a smartphone. The technology might be complex, but the user-experience is designed to be simple.
The system can save as much as 25 percent of water used in irrigation — which could have huge implications for drought-stricken, water-stressed regions, like California. With agriculture composing 80 percent of California’s non-environmental water use, a widespread technology that could effectively reduce even a fraction of agricultural water use would be huge.