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Te Awamutu Courier - 2021-10-14

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New water-saving tech has big impact on world stage

The Country

Lincoln Agritech has signed a licensing agreement with Israeli company Autonomous Pivot for a new technology that allows farmers to save water without any loss of yield compared to traditional irrigation practices. Developed by a team of scientists at the Lincoln research and development company, the technology allows farmers to see the actual soil moisture in any part of a field in real time. Trials have shown water savings of 25 per cent. “Traditional soil moisture sensors have to be buried in one position in a field, but our non-invasive, ground-penetrating radar measures soil moisture from a centre pivot irrigator,” says Lincoln Agritech CEO Peter Barrowclough. “Then through variable rate irrigation, farmers can apply just the right amount of water that the crop needs, thereby minimising waste. “Decisions on how much water to apply are based on soil type, actual soil moisture, plant need and forecast weather. Soil and crop growth can vary under a centre pivot, so applying a uniform amount of water usually uses more water than necessary. “This technology allows farmers to apply only as much as they need.” Autonomous Pivot is based in Israel but has taken a licence on the technology to install it onto centre pivots in the US, providing American farmers with detailed irrigation schedules to save water. “Farmers are recouping the costs of the installation of the system in electricity savings alone, while maintaining yield,” says Peter. “There will be further savings for farmers who have to pay for water. With around 300,000 centre pivots in the US, this technology will save a huge amount of precious water when it is widely adopted.” Peter says said the technology was a great example of science making a real impact. “It fits perfectly with Lincoln Agritech’s vision of ‘trusted science and technology for a better world’. I would like to thank the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for the funding under their ‘Smart Idea’ programme, which supported Ian Woodhead, Adrian Tan and Ian Platt in the research and initial development. “We are now in discussions with Autonomous Pivot on how to bring this technology, which was developed in New Zealand, back home to be used by our own farmers to save water.”

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