By Jessie Flo McDonald, EFA Special Events Coordinator
This is Jessie Flo reporting on our video team. On May 3rd we shot down to Watsonville’s Reiter Berry Farms, a grower for Driscoll Berries, to learn about the wireless irrigation management system that they use to regulate their water use. By utilizing Hortau’s web-based system, Reiter Berry Farms uses a whopping 30% less water than before!
Frank Estrada manages 370 acres of organic and conventional strawberry fields for Reiter Berry Farms. About 3 years ago Reiter implemented the Hortau web-based irrigation system by installing wireless towers and in-ground probes on their property. The towers service about a one-mile diameter, inside of which they can read the information transmitted from the probes. The 12 and 6 inch probes are inserted into the ground where they read the soil tension levels, thus letting the wireless network know just how much moisture is in the ground. Frank and his team can then access the soil tension information from any wireless device (computer, iPad, smart phone) and determine how much irrigation they need to give their fields. Hortau’s team installs about 1 probe station per field, and also goes out to each site to perform regular, routine maintenance.
Estrada has been very happy with the web-based irrigation system. It takes little to no maintenance and helps him be much more precise in the amount of water that he is using. The start up costs for this system can be hefty, each tower costs about $6,000 to buy and the probes are about $800 each. However, Hortau has a rent to own program in which farmers can pay $150 per month and receive the tower as well as routine equipment servicing.
Another option for farmers looking to utilize Hortau’s system is the NRCS’ new Wireless Irrigation Network (WIN). This is an initiative to share the benefits of towers in the Pajaro Valley, and not put up redundant towers or waste money.
Check out Hortau.com for more information about the wireless system or network! Just imagine the water savings to our aquifer if all agriculture operations could cut their water usage by 30%!