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Solution

Irrigation Control

BT Loftus Ranches Inc., an Eastern Washington grower, uses an automated irrigation control system to help prevent frost and sunburn damage and make operations more efficient!

Background:

The fertile soil in the Yakima Valley, located in the heart of Central Washington, has gained it recognition as a leading agricultural center.  Known as the "The Fruit Bowl of the Nation", the valley's hot and dry summer and cool winters make it ideal for a large and highly varied farm base.  Apples, cherries, pears, grapes and many other fruits plus a wide variety of vegetables, seeds, field crops and cereal grains make the Yakima Valley one of the top agricultural producers in the nation.   BT Loftus Ranches, Inc. which was established in 1932 is one of the longest running hops farms in the Yakima Valley, producing organic hops with various orchard crops.  BT Loftus Ranches, Inc. is one of the largest growers of hops for the craft beer industry and uses many sustainable farming practices in its conventional and certified organic fields.

Problem Statement:

With hop yards and orchards distributed over a large area, management of irrigation over the BT Loftus holdings was both time consuming and inefficient.  Loftus wanted to be able to achieve better control of irrigation zone water management to improve efficiencies and reduce labor costs.  Loftus also wanted to reduce frost and sunburn damage through the application of an automated monitoring and control system.   

Solution Description:

To meet BT Loftus Ranches, Inc. needs, MeasureTek provided them with a monitoring and control system that:

  • Automatically measures real-time temperature & weather data throughout their hop yards and orchards.
  • Automatically measures flow and pressure data for each pump station.
  • Provides centralized control of all irrigation systems, drip and overhead.
  • Makes all data available on internet accessible, computer display screens.
  • Provides frost control in apple orchards by turning on overhead irrigation based on temperature.
  • Provides sunburn control by the same means.

The solution uses Campbell Scientific data loggers to monitor irrigation flows and pressures and MeasureTek's 16 port controllers for irrigation valve and pump control.  Communication is via unlicensed UHF spread spectrum radio.  Data is logged and is internet accessible on a computer located in the Loftus central office.  To help make the solution viable, it was installed in phases and is now in use across all of BT Loftus Ranches' properties.

Result:

The system was very successful, delivering effective crop protection almost immediately upon installation.  According to BT Loftus Ranches, "One control station paid for itself, literally, in the first month of operation by catching an unexpected frost event in an apple block."  Loftus also recognized the expected efficiency and labor savings as well since "The monitoring display screens free up one full-time person and truck through the season because he is able to quickly view and go to any problem areas."

Technology Utilized

  • CR1000 datalogger
  • MeasureTek ControlX 16 Port Controller
  • RF450 Spread Spectrum Radios
  • MeasureTek ResultX Software