Water Fights & Rights: Is Technology the Solution?

onion field with irrigation in morning light

Flip a Coin to Find Out

By William “Bill” Glazner, CPA, CITP

 

Every day, farmers and ranchers across Kansas and other midwestern states are adjusting their operations to continue successfully with water supply limitations, among numerous other challenges.  We have today’s water limitations to work through while knowing these water limitations aren’t going away.  The issue will likely become more burdensome and serious as time goes on.

Heads or Tails?
The question is: what can be done about water shortages?  A trend we see in the agriculture industry is inaction.  Many folks are waiting around for the answer to hit them on the head.  You do have a choice though.  Flip a coin if you need some direction.

Heads: Do Nothing
Flip a coin.  If it lands heads up, do nothing and cross your fingers that the issue works itself out without having to make any changes.  If you’re comfortable with that approach, great.  However, I highly recommend flipping it again until you land on the tails side.  Keep reading to find out why.

Tails: Test New Technologies  

When you land on the tails side, that’s when you can start testing different water technologies.  Many technology solutions have been around for a few years and are available. Technologies like those mentioned below can help you drive efficiency and increase production.

You can bank and order groceries through an app on your cellphone, but did you know you can monitor the moisture in your soil from an app as well?  You can place soil moisture sensors in your field, download an app, and get notified any time the soil gets above or below a certain level.  This allows you to save water by irrigating only when it’s necessary.

Numerous apps immediately notify you if the system hangs up or stops and allow you to turn the irrigation system on and off with the click of a button.  With the right tools, you can save time and water without driving by to look and turning the water off and on with the click of a button.

Just as Apple Watches and Fitbit devices can monitor your steps and heart rate, a similar technology exists for crops.  With this technology, you can place bands on corn that will notify you when corn is distressed.  If it’s dry and hot, you’ll get a notification on your phone and you can decide whether or not to irrigate.

Produce More with Less Water

A grain farmer we work with is testing some of the technologies mentioned above.  In the testing phase, the most significant benefit has been increased yield.  This farmer decreased water usage in one corn field by 30% while increasing yield by 18%.  Those are significant results for just beginning to test these technologies!

We’ve seen some water allocation cuts already, but this is only the beginning of increased water restrictions as a whole.  Water technologies have the potential to be a solution for your operation.  But it’s going to take some work to find the right combination for you.

If you’ve ever watched kids flip coins, sometimes they fling coins high into the air and look up expecting it to come down, even after it’s lost.  Just like you can’t expect a lost coin to fall from the sky, you can’t expect answers to water limitations to hit you on the head either.  The solutions to your water issues are out there, you just have to find which one fits best.

 

William “Bill” Glazner, CPA, CGMA, Partner, leads Adams, Brown, Beran & Ball, Chtd.’s Agriculture Industry niche. In addition to extensive research and analysis on emerging technologies in the Agriculture space, Bill has over 30 years of public accounting experience.  He consults with ABBB’s agriculture clients on a wide variety of strategic issues.  In addition, he manages the firm’s McPherson, KS office. For more information, contact Bill.