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Combating Drought with Sustainable Agriculture

Drought is a feared word in agriculture. Technically, it is a period of little to no rain that extensively damages crops. However, in the real world, its impact goes far beyond farmers. Drought leads to higher farming costs, increased crop prices, and can even contribute to food insecurity. Here is my view on what the agricultural industry is up against and how we can solve the problems we are facing.

The State of Drought

Unfortunately, as I type, drought conditions are worsening in many parts of our nation. This is driven by both natural and human-related factors. However, the sad-but-true situation is if you do not work in agriculture, there is a good chance that you still know little about the challenges that drought conditions pose to the agricultural community. Take California as an example – as residents enjoy the benefits of developed urban life, most Californians are still unaware that we live in a desert and rely on our decades-old infrastructure to deliver snowmelt for farming and drinking water. Under this elevated level of urbanization, people are more disconnected from our water supply and agriculture than just ten years ago.

What Should We Do?

In the extended fight against drought, people have tried to cope with water scarcity in many ways

In some regions, farmers have been avoiding “thirsty” crops to save irrigation water. Despite appearing “immediately effective,” this leads to rising grocery prices and worsening food insecurity concerns.

In some regions, farmers have been avoiding “thirsty” crops to save irrigation water. Despite appearing “immediately effective,” this leads to rising grocery prices and worsening food insecurity concerns.

Another proposed solution focuses on public administration - limiting water use with strict regulations. Take Southern California as an example: new rules are limiting outdoor watering to once a week, impacting more than six million residents in the area.

While these tactics do cut down water use, they can cause additional problems. We often rely on temporary remedies that are neither sustainable nor truly touching the core of the problem. Having spent decades in agriculture, my experience has shown that there is never a simple single bullet that we can rely on to solve our water scarcity issue. To alleviate our water challenges, we need to focus on efficiency. With little water, how can we keep growing crops and feed the population?

Technology can help to solve this challenge.

Boosting Efficiency with Technology and Innovation

In the fight against drought, we should prioritize the application of technology and save water by efficiently managing our irrigation practices. 

Instead of saving water by growing less, we should aim at growing more, but with less water used. This might have sounded crazy 20 years ago, but today’s drip irrigation solutions have made this concept a reality in many regions worldwide. Drip irrigation is not just about water delivery; it also relies on automation and irrigation scheduling powered by AI, machine learning, and data analysis. This technology allows farmers to deliver the specific amount of water needed for optimal growth. In this climate cycle marked by ongoing drought, technology is the key to sustainable agriculture and the food security challenges we are facing.

Taking Care of Our Farms with Technology

As ag technology has evolved over the last few years, we have become better connected with our farms. We now better understand plant health, soil condition, and water quality. Much of this data is provided by sensors and imagery systems. These critical variables can be monitored, analyzed, and managed in real-time to help our human labor focus on site-specific challenges in our fields.

Today, the data that we access helps us to take better care of our crops. As our entire world faces drought-related challenges, we should continue to believe in the power of research and development. Innovative technology will enable us to find and carry out solutions. In the case of Netafim - one drop of water at a time.