works as well for an agronomist in front of a tablet or a ranch manager in the field. The director of farming can track how accurately the water is applied by management areas against a water budget and can also track how precisely the team implemented the plan. On average, the 12 farms have increased their profits by $200 to $400 per acre. One example is a ranch managed by Teixeira & Sons for RPAC, a well-known almond processor on the west side of the valley. They were able to reduce the variety in plant vigor and crop yield from 25 percent down to 10 percent from 2018 to 2020. This year, they were able to cut back on water during the drought while maintaining a good yield. Actually, they realized that they did not apply all the water that they had planned thanks to CropMonitor. They used the water available after harvest to prepare the next crop. “On average we found that farms execute 70 percent of their irrigation plan. We have seen numbers as high as 90 percent and numbers as low as 50 percent. Sometimes they irrigate less and sometimes they irrigate more depending on field activities,” explained Jerphagnon in a follow-up email. Teixeira & Sons is on the higher end of the spectrum with 90 percent. Even they found a use for AgMonitor. Working with their automated irrigation systems, they were able to bring precision agriculture beyond 90 percent to optimize every drop of water. Mike Chrisman, a fourth-generation farmer and the former California Natural Resources Secretary, advised AgMonitor to be patient. They had a good vision, he said, but it was going to take time for the farming community to integrate data and new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence to adapt to the new regulations. AgMonitor listened and he joined the Board of Directors in 2016. AgMonitor has raised $9 million in funding, Jerphagnon said; of that, $6 million has come from grants and $3 million from farming partners and family who care about water. To date, the company has taken no venture capital money. That fact speaks to the broader mission of the organization; they understand that bestowing technical knowledge without tried-and-true agricultural connections is pointless. “We have a dual culture—we’re as much from Central Valley as from Silicon Valley,” Jerphagnon said.
Being embedded with the agriculture community allows AgMonitor’s technology to be ground in real-world, on-the-farm applications. “Today, [technology] puts the burden on farmers to stop farming, go on a computer, and look at data. That’s not what they want,” Jerphagnon said, noting that the company tracks inputs via machine learning and publicly-available, large-scale data to set a baseline. They are currently working with the OpenET consortium led by scientists at CSU Monterey near Salinas, Calif. Once an opportunity to increase profits has been identified, AgMonitor can integrate other private sensors that farms purchase but this time with a clear return on investment in mind. It is about the answer to the grower, not just the data. “So we do all the data messaging. We try to automate some of their insights and rules by looking at data on a much
higher frequency, like every day or every hour. You can start to send alerts and notifications so it’s easy for them to consume all the data,” he said. Jerphagnon added that making the technology dashboard intuitive to use became even more important during COVID. “Everyone needs to work on the same digital copy of the farm to make decisions and collaborate, as opposed to having things in a binder, looking at a map, and then looking at imagery with an iPad somewhere else,” he said. “If that happens, ownership doesn’t see it, or the accounting person is only looking at the data. You have to bring those people together.” AgMonitor will be part of a panel on the “digital transformation of agriculture” with Terranova Ranch and Vann Brothers on November 18. It will be moderated by Western Growers.
Don Cameron manages water and energy cost from his AgMonitor dashboard. Staff gets alerts on the field about pumps and solar generators.
NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2021
Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com
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