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July 20, 2017

AG INNOVATIONS: Companies Abound with New Technology to Explore

Ag technology is the new buzz word and most suppliers operating in this space currently have cutting edge products on the market, in production or on the drawing table.

There are certainly many other firms operating in most disciplines and every grower-shipper is encouraged to call your supplier or distributor and find out what’s new. Solutions to your biggest challenges may already be available. Here are several innovations to consider.

Acuity Agriculture: Headquartered in San Francisco and founded two years ago, this irrigation specialist is the brainchild of water expert Steve Dodge and his engineer partner John Zahng. The company has developed a wireless system to collect field data with regard to soil moisture which can be accessed remotely in real time by a hand-held device. “We are trying to become your pocket consultant,” said Dodge. “What we have done is simplified the data so it is easy to understand and very affordable. We can offer this information at a fraction of the cost of other providers.”

The company goes into a field with a grower, discusses his or her needs as they relate to salinity, soil moisture and climate monitoring. A data logger is developed and a dashboard is created and loaded on the growers iPhone, iPad or other device. From that dashboard, the grower con constantly monitor those inputs and remotely manage those processes.

Dodge said what he brings to the table is a grower mentality. He has been a grower and knows the specific information they need to cut through the clutter and make informed decisions with regard to their irrigation system.

Food Origins: This firm is a data-driven company that works with growers to assess the impact of potential innovations. Recently, it helped a berry grower realize he could pick faster and more cost efficiently using a machine rather than simply hand picking. Nathan Dorn said the company followed 10 workers for a week, collecting hand-harvesting data from each worker. The next week, a harvesting aid was employed and harvesting data from the same workers was again collected. Workers were able to harvest 40 percent more fruit in the same time frame. Food Origins then presented the data to the strawberry grower, who determined that an investment in $1 million worth of equipment was a sound financial move. “That’s what we do,” Dorn said.

North American Pipe: It’s a stretch to call it “new technology,” but PVC pipe with compounds that make it both UV and shatter resistant is an older innovation that is currently making headway in agricultural irrigation. Brad Pinnell, senior territory manager for agriculture for company, said the industrial side of the business world has been using this pipe for a long time, but it has been slow to come to agriculture.

Designed to replace aluminum piping, Pinnell said the chemical compounds added during manufacturing that produce the UV and shatter resistance is what makes this iteration of PVC suitable, and he believes superior, for irrigation. The minimal weight allows for easily moving the pipe in the field producing savings on labor and causing less of an impact on field operations. The pipe, with its patented locking connections, also greatly reduces leakage.