What is in this article?:
- Entrepreneurs and agricultural pioneers are eager to find new ways to feed the world’s growing appetite with a scarce water supply.
From left: Henrik Skov Laursen, director of Grundfos Pump Co. and chair of Blue Tech Valley; Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s; and Bill Smittcamp, president and CEO of Wawona Frozen Foods.
Sense of urgency
According to David Zoldoske, director of Fresno State’s Center for Irrigation Technology, the event provided an important opportunity for developers of new water technologies to meet with those in the farming and processing industries who will be the end users of those technologies and systems.
"We’re all sharing a sense of urgency about future threats to our water supply in California,” Zoldoske said. “This provided a great opportunity for networking and the sharing of ideas among the conference participants. I think the collective feeling is that as a community we will be able to solve these problems.”
The conference included presentation of a $450,000 grant from the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) for a new AgWaterEnergy Center that will oversee demonstrations of how innovation can save energy and water and preserve water quality in agricultural operations in California’s Central Valley.
Operating under the Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT), the AgWaterEnergy Center will work with manufacturers to design, install and monitor the most advanced water- and energy-saving systems available for demonstration and production on Fresno State’s University Agricultural Laboratory.
Woolf Farming is a diversified operation with land in Fresno and Madera counties, and processing tomatoes are among its major crops. Woolf talked of how the company increased its tomato yields threefold between 1974 and 2013, by switching from furrow to drip irrigation and changing some cultural practices.
He and several other speakers talked of a “more crop per drop” approach that boosted yields.
Woolf also talked of extracting water from the tomato itself, water that is then used in some further processing steps, as well as for growing more tomatoes.
“It’s a closed system,” he said.
The use of drip, though beneficial, has the drawback of concentrating salts “where the plants are,” Woolf said, rather than spreading it evenly as flooding did. His challenges include finding tools to better manage salt accumulation.
He would also like to see systems developed for re-using water more at the Los Gatos Tomato Products plant. On the farm, Woolf would like better monitoring tools and water scheduling tools.