During a recent webinar, I had the privilege of discussing AG Water Treatment Solutions with Cory Broad, an expert in the field. There’s a lot to unpack as we explore this increasingly important subject, especially considering the recent shifts in the Californian climate.
Cory began by highlighting the significance of AG Water Treatment Solutions, especially during last year’s rainfall anomalies in California. We had recently attended a conference on California agricultural irrigation, where one of the primary concerns highlighted was the ongoing de-irrigation process. In essence, water was still being drained from fields. This reveals the ongoing struggles of the AG Community, stressing the potential water treatment issues they face. Addressing these concerns adequately is paramount for ensuring a productive season ahead.
Cory, currently serving as the Agronomic Sales Manager for AvidWater, expressed his optimism regarding water investment. He suggests that the return on investment (ROI) for water solutions can be almost immediate and substantial. What sets AvidWater apart, according to Cory, is their excellent staff. They offer expert guidance, helping clients navigate the complex waters of risk mitigation and profitability.
One of the most compelling takeaways from our conversation was Cory’s insights into the changing water sources in the Central Valley. The trend suggests a shift from pumped water to surface water. This change poses its own challenges, especially when considering the Canal systems and other transport means that have been dry for extended periods. The buildup of trash, contaminants, and unexpected plant growth in these previously dry systems might pose substantial hurdles. Addressing these issues requires not just activity but precision in choosing the right chemicals at the right time. AvidWater’s approach is to work hand in hand with growers, ensuring they’re equipped with the right tools and knowledge.
But AvidWater’s prowess is broader than addressing these immediate challenges. Cory discussed the company’s current position and prospects. They operate primarily under two significant banners: Micro Pro and Bio Drip, serving the Central Valley of California. An exciting development on the horizon is the merging of these two entities in 2024, providing an integrated offering to their clientele. Currently boasting around 150 customers and overseeing 350 field or pump site locations, AvidWater’s expansive range covers almonds, pistachios, walnuts, grapes, tomatoes, cotton, garlic, onions, citrus, and stone fruit, to name a few.
The success of AvidWater can be attributed to its skilled workforce. As Cory rightly pointed out, the organization boasts two certified crop advisors, four certified AG Irrigation Specialists, seven certified irrigation designers, and eight experienced installation and management technicians dedicated exclusively to water treatment and management.
Wrapping up the first part of our discussion, Cory shed light on the economic challenges growers face in the current landscape. From the lingering effects of COVID-19, high fertilizer prices, increased costs in pesticides, herbicides, fuel, and labor, to low commodity pricing and soaring land prices, growers have a tough road ahead. But with organizations like AvidWater, there’s hope for a brighter, more sustainable future.
During the second half, Cory highlighted that many almond orchards are 15 years old or older. These orchards were established during the almond boom, and many of these systems might be operating in the 0.82 distribution uniformity (DU) range. With drip irrigation, applying 44 inches of water using a basic setup requires almost 1500 hours of operation. The difference between a system operating at 0.82 DU and one at 0.92 DU is significant, particularly regarding the net water application. This difference translates to an application variation of almost 5.7 inches.
Delving into the economic implications, Cory shared that the average cost to pump and apply water in the Central Valley is around $100 per acre-foot. Using an example of an 80-acre farm, the cost of inefficient water application could spiral up to $47.50 per acre. The additional cost can be saved if the system operates more efficiently.
Cory then drew our attention to the fertility angle. If 75% of the fertility budget, which might average between $350 to $400 an acre, is applied through the irrigation system, imagine the impact on the bottom line.
He shared an enlightening tidbit: “One of the most important things I learned in ag finance was compound interest.” The benefits of efficient water usage compound over time. It starts with water, then translates to energy, labor, and fertility, and the resulting value becomes exponential. Cory emphasized the longevity of these gains, noting that we’re talking about investments that span 25 years or more.
At a recent CAIA conference, Cory and I attended a presentation referencing a profound statement: “Every 1% drop in DU results in a 0.5% drop in yield.” This insight, from the respected Dr. Charles Bert from Cal Poly, drives home the significance of DU on the yield.
Drawing from real-world scenarios, Cory provided examples from markets like almonds and tomatoes, detailing the potential financial implications of yield changes due to variations in DU.
During our session, a participant from Turkey mentioned how valuable Cory’s insights on water treatment and working areas on LinkedIn were. It was a testament to Cory’s widespread influence in agriculture.
Cory also shared the importance of conducting water samples before making any recommendations to growers. These samples can reveal valuable information about the water’s composition, such as nitrate levels, which can significantly affect farming strategies.
Towards the end of our conversation, Cory stressed the importance of viewing challenges as opportunities. Using the example of the water sample, he discussed how discovering high nitrate levels could lead to significant savings. By understanding the water’s composition, farmers can adjust their fertilization strategies, resulting in more efficient and cost-effective operations.
In conclusion, our discussion with Cory Broad underscored the importance of efficient water management in agriculture. It’s not just about saving water; it’s about the compounding benefits across various facets of farming, ultimately impacting the bottom line significantly.