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.