CALSUN–GRADIENT Crop Yield Solutions develops novel and efficient irrigation technologies
In recent years, California Agriculture has been affected by a long-term drought that is causing serious productivity and profitability problems to food processors and the farming community. Unfortunately, water scarcity continues, thus bringing restrictions to a critical point in some agriculture production areas. The drastic reductions in water allocations are forcing growers and food processors alike to optimize this valuable natural resource.
In response to these challenging times, Morning Star Company is actively supporting agriculture research to find novel and efficient irrigation technologies to assist tomato growers in optimizing water usage. In 2019, the CALSUN- Gradient Crop Yield Solutions business unit was created to be the means to transfer all agriculture innovation generated by the Morning Star Agriculture Research and Development Program. Gradient’s mission is to implement intelligent agriculture technology and data driven solutions in collaboration with growers, assist them in the decision-making process to achieve better crop yields, quality and overall profitability while improving sustainable production practices.
The benefits that Gradient’s technology is providing have been rapidly recognized by tomato growers. Improved yields, water savings ranging in an average of 15% (depending on grower and area), fruit quality, better maturity and less soil compaction during harvest are some of the benefits obtained using our technology.
Gradient has shown steady growth since its inception two years ago, and in 2021, it is projected to provide precision irrigation management services to 18,500 acres of processing tomatoes. Furthermore, new agriculture research developed by Morning Star’s Ag. R&D indicate that its precision irrigation technology can be expanded to other crops such as almonds, pistachios, wine grapes, garlic, peppers, etc. Therefore, additionally to the tomato acreage contracted this year, we will be providing irrigation monitoring services to 1,500 acres of almond trees.
The future of Cal Sun’s Gradient Crop Yield Solutions could not be any brighter. We are now partnering with high-tech agriculture technology companies around the world to develop artificial intelligence and autonomous robots applied to agriculture. Currently, we have established a partnership with a laser specialist to develop an autonomous weeder machine for tomatoes. If this concept provides the results we expect, this technology could revolutionize how growers eliminate weeds in the field while using fewer herbicides, but most importantly, it could help them to optimize labor cost, improve profitability and be more sustainable.
The plant water stress index model can be a reliable tool to manage tomato irrigation during the growing and development season.
Water savings are variable depending on grower practices, soil type and seasonal weather, but we have observed an average 15% optimization.
Less soil compaction after harvest.
Identification of crop anomalies with IR sensors before they are visible offers an opportunity to make proper adjustments.
Sensors are not the only solution; improvement of culture practices create a compounded impact on crop yields – alertness.
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