As the world population grows fast, water supply decreases, arable land shrinkages and climate is rapidly changing humanity faces one of its most severe challenges.
According to the UN, By 2050, with the global population expected to reach 9.8 billion, our food supplies will be under far greater stress. Demand will be 60% higher than it is today, but climate change, urbanization, and soil degradation will have shrunk the availability of water and arable land. The bottom line: much more mouths to feed with less resources.
Sustainability as a mission
Sustainability therefore has become a battle-cry for an entire economical and cultural movement that seek to fight the food and water crisis as well as to restore equilibrium to our planet's eco-system.
At Phytech, we're happy to contribute our small share to this critical mission. In fact, our "Plant-based Farming" statement reflects the core belief that in order to make farming more sustainable from an economic and an environmental perspectives, we must put plants and trees at the center of everything we do. From there on, growers can adapt their irrigation practices to optimize production while saving water and energy. The result: Happier plants, people - and Planet. So let's go over all the P's that are parts of our effort to make farming more sustainable.
Sensors on selected plants and trees measure micro-variations in their trunk size, which is a scientifically proven indicator of their stress, or, water demand level, In other words, for the first time in agricultural history we have established a plant-human "translator" to help growers know where, when and how thirsty and healthy are their plants. The result: happier, more productive, plants.
By avoiding yield-affecting stress, growers are optimizing yields on the short-term but also maintain their trees' productivity and health for years to come.
Phytech's plant reference, based on data from millions of the same trees, is another tool that help growers compare their trees' growth and health against a benchmark. This is the equivalent of growth chart for children, where the grower can easily track how his "kids" are doing and quickly take action if they fall off the graph.
With clear visibility of their plants' needs in real-time, growers have the ability to apply irrigation according to actual water demand, thus manage to save precious water while optimizing production. This is
Water is constantly becoming an ever precious resource in
many parts of the world, leading not only to increase in prices but to strict governmental regulations (such as the SGMA act in California). This is where Phytech not only makes a difference but changes long-time irrigation practices ,as validated by our partners around the world.
Select Harvests / Australia - saving 600 megaliters in just one farm
Select Harvests is Australia’s largest vertically integrated nut and health food company and one of the world's leading almond growers, with 9,262 planted hectares (22,886 acres) of almond orchards. The Company is also fully dedicated for sustainability and sees itself as "a custodian of the environment" by deploying sustainable farm management practices and technologies.
At a recent conference Select Harvests presented a sustainability case study of water efficiency which involves the deployment of Phytech's technology.
"At one farm alone, Amaroo in South-Australia, this data-driven approach has saved over 600 megaliters of water a year, amounting to cost savings of more than $250,000".
Different varieties , different irrigation practices
Based on direct plant data from 6 million almond trees in California, Phytech's team has observed significant phenomena that have already caused a shift in irrigation strategies applied by our customers. Researchers at UC Davis recently discussed the possibility that Nonpareil almond trees and pollinators might differ in water requirements. This can be attributed to the difference in tree size and crop load. Phytech's growers already know the answer: they differ and not by a small margin. According to our data, Carmel and Monterey experienced 3 times more stress compared to the NP variety. This was further validated by data from Australia, where our almond customers managed to save 80 billion liters in 2019 thanks to irrigating differently between varieties and based on real-time water demand.
Frequency, quantity and duration - Just ask your trees how they like it
But knowing that different varieties have different water demand is only the first step. Now comes the irrigation dilemma. Should growers deliver more water during a long session or apply smaller quantities more frequently? Again, no need to guess. Phytech's data shows that in most of the cases, the quantity of water delivered was not the issue. Stress-avoidance was achieved by raising the irrigation frequency. Pollinators' bigger size and crop load might affect their water uptake from the deeper root zone, so keeping the upper part of the soil adequately irrigated with frequent water delivery will keep the trees happy. Another advantage of the "frequency" strategy is that smaller quantities will less likely wash away important nutrients that are still in the soil.
A sweet transformational practice
Achieving high-quality fruits is an acrobatic irrigation challenge, a balancing act that requires careful fine-tuning of water delivery. Common practices by growers include deficit irrigation which might harm trees' health and future productivity or using hormones to artificially boost fruits. By introducing Pytech's BRIX reference, we're happy to make this challenge, well, less challenging and much more manageable, efficient and eco-friendly
Soon to be recognized by the US patent office, Phytech's BRIX optimization practice is a scientifically proven method that has already helped our leading vines and citrus customers achieve higher BRIX values, by fine-tuning their water delivery according to trees' growth data.
So plant-based farming goes well beyond different quantities . If done correctly it transforms the traditional approach to irrigation and help make better decisions along the season. How to optimize veraison in grapes? How much stress should almond growers apply before shaking takes place? How should they maximize growth during post-harvest? All these questions that have major effects on plants, farmers, consumers and eventually the planet receive clear answers once presented to the trees.
Ryan Speer / Kansas, USA - Yields increase
"Following Phytech's recommendations in corn yielded 251 bushels per acre; 10% under-irrigating yielded 239, and 10% over-irrigating yielded 232", said Ryan Speer of Jacob Farms and Cattle in Sedgwick, Kansas.
By understanding their trees' health and water-demand, growers can optimize production while saving resources at a vast scale.
Al Stehly / California, USA - saving hundreds of thousands of gallons
"We can skip irrigations. We can skip days. When you add that up over the course of a year, it's thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands of gallons of water", Al Stehly from Stehly grove management told the San Diego news how Phytech is helping him save water and fight climate change. Watch Al's interview to 10 News channel
Hayden McIntyre, California, USA - A better understanding of trees
"Water supply is crucial, but with Phytech I can actually know what the tree needs", says Hayden McIntyre, Farm manager of Sierra Pacific Farms and a 3rd generation grower. "what makes Phytech different from other services is that it enables understanding of the trees. Installation is just plug n' play and it's been definitely a cost-save for us" . For Hayden's video interview click here
Antony Yousefian, England - the next level
Phytech has taken us to another level. We're able to save water but more importantly, we're giving the tree what it needs when it needs it", says Antony Yousefian of Bardsley, One of the UK's largest top fruit growers. Watch Antony's video here
More oxygen being breathed
Trees our not only a corner stone of our precious eco-system but are the reason we humans can breath. Trees contribute to our environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, conserving water and preserving soil. During the process of photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen.
So happier, healthier trees means more oxygen and less carbon dioxide, and by being connected and understating their needs our growers can prolong their trees life-span.
Less water being spent
As already mentioned, delivering water exactly according to what the plant needs in real-time leads to significant water savings - a key in solving the water crisis facing humanity.
Last but not least to our list of sustainability contributions is energy. Irrigation, weather by pumping water, using pivot, drip systems or sprinklers demand electricity. Irrigating according to plants water demand means less unnecessary irrigation events - and more energy being saved. In farming operations where vehicles are used in order to open and close valves manually at distant locations, Phytech helps lower carbon footprint by cutting redundant drives to the field.
Hen, Kibbutz Beit-Hazera, Israel - cutting unnecessary irrigation events
"I think that the more we've been using Phytech - the better we've been in cutting unnecessary irrigation events. we get a plant-status indication when an area is being over irrigated and we immediately close the valves. By following closely Phytech's plant status we're changing our irrigation plans to adapt to what the tree truly needs in terms of water supply. when you take it across a year it's a lot of litres being saved. Read Hen's story here