Charles Nichols and Samir Ibrahim think solar energy is the key to helping small-scale farmers succeed. Together, Nichols and Ibrahim co-founded SunCulture and created the AgroSolar Irrigation Kit to help Kenyan farmers farm more sustainably.
The Irrigation Kit that they developed uses solar water pumping technology and high-efficiency drip irrigation. Because the pump is solar it works well in Kenya’s climate, especially the country’s drier regions, noted Ibrahim.
News Release – LOS ANGELES, CA – Worldwide, agriculture possesses the distinction of being the single greatest consumer of fresh water, accounting for nearly 70% of available withdrawals each year for irrigation. In the United States alone, 42% of all irrigated water is lost to evaporation.
With water prices, scarcity and quality all threatening the margins and livelihood of farmers, the SEEDSTOCK Ag Water Conference, scheduled for Wednesday, February 19, 2014, will focus on solutions to the challenges facing sustainable agriculture.
Wendy Baroli is a happy farmer. It even says so in her email signature. She’s happy for many reasons including a productive, profitable small farm, a penchant for heritage breeds and her healthy contribution to the planet. But what she seems most happy about is her small farm business model that brings the customers to her, reduces overheads and provides clients a custom farming experience that’s become a way of life.
Baroli comes from a family of farmers, Italian immigrants that farmed organically because they were too poor to do otherwise, but never planned on actually being a farmer. In fact, politician seemed more up her alley. But then she discovered the truth about politics: there’s only so much you can do from the sidelines. She wanted to be the change.
Landscape Maintenance Co., Toro, Sees Opportunity in Drip Irrigation to Help Farmers Use Water More EfficientlyFebruary 5, 2013 | Melonie Magruder
Known for decades for their landscape maintenance equipment found on nearly every golf course on the planet, Toro is looking to change the way farmers think about irrigation and husbandry of an essential, endangered resource: water. The company moved into agricultural drip/micro irrigation innovation about 15 years ago, when they bought out the El Cajon-based company Hardie Irrigation.
“Since then, Toro started getting into water management and has really developed its micro-ag division, focusing on drip irrigation,” Toro Marketing and Communications Manager Sky Anderson said. “Water is always going to be a farmer’s first concern, so how can he use it more efficiently and economically?”
Reno, NV Startup Sees Opportunity in High Tech, Inexpensive Irrigation Control Systems for Small FarmersJanuary 31, 2013 | Nicola Kerslake
When Reno, NV based sustainable agriculture enthusiast Eric Jennings noticed one morning that, yet again, his irrigation system had watered his sidewalk more than his backyard farm, he decided that it was time to put his engineering skills to good use. “Water is expensive and scarce in this area, and wasting it just bugged me so much that I started tinkering around in the garage” Jennings noted. Most of the commercially available water irrigation control systems were either prohibitively expensive or excessively complex; “there was just nothing around designed for the small farmer” he concluded.
Around six months’ later, he’d created Pinoccio; a small, cheap microcontroller with an embedded WiFi unit that could be combined with a soil moisture sensor to control irrigation remotely.
Stewart and Cheryl Fry, owners of C&S Hydro-Huts, have a vision. The two hydroponic farmers, from Otis Orchards, Wash., want to reduce those truckloads of California-grown lettuce, peppers and tomatoes bound for the east side of the state. Both are long-time residents of Otis Orchards, a tiny rural community located a few miles west of the Idaho state line.
Their efforts are bearing fruit, as the couple have already succeeded in replacing 1,500 heads of California-grown lettuce a week with locally grown, greenhouse-produced butter-head lettuce. Wholesalers distribute the company’s hydroponic produce to an assortment of local restaurants and produce markets.
It’s enough to make you cry. Gills Onions is one of the largest family-owned onion farming operations in the nation. But the Oxnard-based facility doesn’t just grow the tears-provoking vegetable. They control every aspect of production from growing, harvesting, processing, packing and shipping the bulbs in handy, diced up packages to retailers, food service outlets and industrial manufacturers throughout the nation and Canada. And they do so using some surprising sustainable production practices that have lowered their operating costs over a million dollars a year.
Allen Gill had been farming in California’s Central Valley since the 1940s when he brought sons Steven and David into his Rio Farms business.
Since 1978, Don Kretschmann has run Kretschmann Organic Farm, an 80-acre farm in Rochester, Pennsylvania that provides organically grown produce, fruits, and meats to Pittsburgh area customers. Kretschmann has embraced a number of different business models and through business savvy and opportunity recognition has achieved profitability on his farm.
I recently spoke with Kretschmann to learn more about the origin of his farm, his organic proclivities, and how his farm achieved profitability and more.
Sixteen years ago Matthew Kozazcki realized his childhood dreams of running his own farm. Located in Newbury, Massachusetts, Kozazcki’s Tendercrop Farms has grown to cover 600-acres on which he sustainably grows a diverse range of produce and livestock from peaches and spinach to Brussels sprouts and hormone and antiobiotic free chickens, black angus beef and turkeys.
I recently spoke with Kozazcki about the origin of his farm, the challenges that he faces in consistently applying sustainable practices, his goals for the future and more.
Reggie Oakley has set his sights on transforming the tobacco farm that he grew up on into an economically viable sustainable farm. With a passion for farming and a desire to utilize ‘tried and true’ sustainable practices, Oakley started farming his family’s land in Roxboro, North Carolina two seasons ago. His endeavor, New Oaks Farm, has not been without challenges, but Oakley has been honing his business model and focusing on online solutions that he hopes will shortly land his operation on solid financial footing.
In a sign of changing times in California agriculture, the University of California will dedicate its first full-sized center pivot overhead irrigation system at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center during the Twilight Conservation Agriculture field day at 4 p.m. on Sept. 13. The center is at 17353 W. Oakland Ave. in Five Points.
Farmers and other members of the public are invited to the free event to see the system in operation and learn how overhead irrigation can be combined with no-till or minimum-till farming methods to create a more sustainable, profitable and environmentally sound agriculture industry. The field day includes a free barbecue dinner.