How One Successful California Farmer Uses Technology To Battle Drought
Jeff Klein is a fourth-generation Stockton farmer managing thousands of acres of farmland in California and he has used technology to battle drought. He understands excellent water management is necessary for the success of his farming operations. Water management as a service changed the way growers are producing food and help them adapt to variable field conditions.
This season Jeff Klein partnered with Jain Water Management Services to take advantage of soil moisture monitoring and satellite imaging to manage water. He sat down with us to discuss the benefits he receives and his outlook on water management for growers, and why he thinks technology is vital for the future success of California farming.
Technology to Battle Drought
For farming, water is crucial now, it is well over 100 degrees in Stockton and the Tracy Delta in early June, and crops use more water due to the heat. Jeff farms fruits, nuts, and vegetables, including almonds, grapes, asparagus, feed corn, and cherries.
He has riparian rights for water. According to the Water Education Foundation, riparian rights grant owners of the land that physically touches a water source have a right to use water from that source that has not been deemed appropriate by another party. Even with the grant of water, Jeff treats the situation like he could be cut off from water at any moment. “Maintaining moisture in the soil is a priority now,” Jeff tells us, “We are looking okay right now, but things could turn down quickly.”
How Is The Drought Impacting Crops?
Nut crops are going to be okay. They progressed quickly this year. The nuts are hardening off and have a good size. Next year’s crop is the one to worry about. Lots of people will have to limit or cutwater. In next year’s almond crop, we could see a significant impact.
For row crops, the effect is immediate. We will see smaller size fruits and vegetables across the board. Lots of what we grow is water weight. Less water means less size and less sugar.
What about prices?
Not much in this world drives the farmers’ prices higher. It’s amazing how cheap these products are right now, considering where we are with the conditions of the state. Potatoes, corn, and melons are cheap. The only thing decent right now is feed corn, grain corn. The run-up in prices is just inflation. Consumers won’t see much impact on prices unless the grocery store wants to charge more because they can.
Why Partner With Water Management Services From Jain Irrigation?
I signed up for water management services from Jain Irrigation because you can always learn more about water management. In the past, water management technology was installed on my farms, and there was no training or much help. With Jain Water Management Services, we have a partnership.
Great tools to see the water move through the soil, plus satellite imaging, working together to see water movement. Jain also provides forecasting schedules and recommends water schedules based on past weather conditions and forecasted weather. It has been helpful to see real-time water penetration. I am learning water can be saved if you are applying it correctly. I also learned a lot about the durations and frequency of watering.
Did you have to buy lots of equipment?
No, you pay a per-acre fee, and all the equipment (soil moisture sensors, telemetry units, flow sensors, and satellite imaging) is supplied and installed. Installing the hardware was half the battle. Jain worked with me to set up the software. Then you set up the parameters, and Jain was excellent at assisting me with the setup.
I trust walking into a field and determining if it has the right amount of water by throwing a shovel in the field. That’s great if you are irrigating a few acres, but when you work with thousands of acres and need to check water and moisture daily, you need more than a shovel. You can’t get behind in the water, especially this year, or you will have a financial impact that can be in the millions of dollars.
It took me a few months to observe the software and water content to get familiar with how it works, but I found the information invaluable once I learned. This is my third zoom ever. I am not a technology guy. I picked this software up reasonably quickly.
What Makes Jain Water Management Services Different?
It is easy to set up your dashboard and able to select what you want to see based on the field. Everything on a platform that is user-friendly and easy to navigate. What widgets work best for you.
You set up your own homepage for what you want.
We have some fields that are gravel, and water drops through quickly. Others have water tables about 2 feet below the surface. Jain Logic is easy to customize, so I can quickly view the crucial factors of the specific soil I’m dealing with. You need to know your soil and know your software accordingly.
I don’t take what Jain tells me as gospel. I have been doing it one way for years. Sometimes you need to take a leap of faith and try it. What I have learned is the computer can see things I can’t see. Almonds, for example.
Trees look happy and healthy. They are doing well, but I have hull split in 10 days, so I need to spray and get it wet again. Then dry it down for harvest. What I didn’t know was what it looked like deep down. With the soil moisture sensors, I can see exactly how deep I am watering. I can have water at 30 inches but not 48, and where I really need water in two weeks is at 48 inches. Now I can see that and trust my trees are getting the proper amount of water before it was essentially an educated guess.
I have schedules now that help me move water as deep as I need to during the season.
I’ve learned shorter shots and higher frequencies allow me to push water to the exact depth I need at the proper time.
Every farmer knows you are not working for today. You are working for a week from now and always looking forward to what you need to do.
How does communication take place?
In-person and telephone. It could be zoom, but I don’t want to do zoom. I prefer to talk on the phone or meet in person.
How much time do you need to devote?
Minimal once everything is set up, emails and text once a week schedule. Once the probes are in and stations are running.
Check it in the morning when I wake up, the first thing I do in the morning.
I spend about 30 minutes checking what is happening in the field to see where the water is traveling and how the hot weather is impacting the water movement.
Jain sends a report every Friday. It covers last week’s performance and a schedule for next week’s water.
Advice to anyone sitting on the fence?
Just do it. You don’t have anything to lose. It’s Jain equipment, Jain setup, Jain even offers a money-back guarantee. There are no upfront costs.
You better be using every last drop of water you have as well as you can. It would be hard to do what we do without seeing how the water moves below the soil. Today, with this technology, we have a tool that helps us reduce water use while increasing yields. Water conditions are deteriorating in California. Jain Water Management Services offers the technology and the partnership to combat the water crisis. This is the future of farming in California.
If you would like to talk to an expert for Jain Water Management Services.
We would appreciate the opportunity to show you how technology can lower your costs and increase yields.