Large California Vegetable Grower Says Rivulis Water System Provides Many Benefits
As production manager at Sea Mist Farms in California’s Salinas Valley, Chris Drew is a man on the move. That’s because he’s in charge of over 5,000 acres of a wide variety of mixed greens and other vegetables—including close to 3,000 acres of their signature crop, artichokes—and that acreage is spread out over 18 ranches.
Drew knows that being in charge of production means he’s responsible for having correct soil moisture levels. A year ago, before they had a Rivulis Irrigation drip irrigation and soil monitoring system installed, Drew was constantly out in the fields. He needed to know what’s going on in the root zone, after all, and artichokes have roots that extend down two to three feet.
“Before (we had the Rivulis Irrigation system), to go down to 40 inches, you’d have to be out there for 45 minutes or an hour,” he says. “Now I get those readings every 30 minutes every single day of the year.”
Even better, he doesn’t even have to go into the field to get the readings. He can get them off the PC in his office, or more likely, from the laptop in his pickup. “It’s great because it’s giving us information on what’s going on in the soil—in real time—down to 40 inches,” he says, “so we really know what’s going on with the plants.”Drew says that like everyone else today he’s working harder, so he appreciates the fact that he’s getting more efficient every day. “Once I have the baselines, I can basically feel the soil by just looking at my computer—or my smart phone.”
Now he can apply water—and even include fertilizer—with pinpoint accuracy. In addition, he can irrigate even in high winds, and the breezes can blow pretty strong in the coastal valley. Also, unlike with sprinklers, he’s not applying water to the foliage, helping to avoid the spread of fungal pathogens that can cause diseases and ruin crops.
Sea Mist isn’t the only one who benefits, says Drew. The Rivulis Irrigation system provides significant benefits to the environment at large. “It’s also improved our conservation efforts, because we don’t apply water we don’t need,” he says, “and we don’t run the pumps for extra hours, saving on electricity.”
Those conservation efforts pay off in real dollars as the cost of electricity and water, especially in drought-prone California, continues to rise. Besides saving Sea Mist in those two areas, the Rivulis Irrigation system will also pay off in other ways, says Drew.
Perhaps the most significant is in labor. Before the system was installed, Sea Mist spent countless man-hours moving irrigation pipes around, he says. The Rivulis Irrigation system also saves Sea Mist in other ways. The system’s pinpoint accuracy doesn’t just improve the quality of the crops; it ensures that no fertilizer is wasted. Every ounce of fertilizer is applied directly to the root zone.
It also saves in another way that Drew hadn’t considered before the system was installed. As mentioned above, they used to apply free water over the foliage with sprinklers, which could promote fungal pathogen development, potentially hurting quality. By applying water to the root zone, they’re less prone to such pathogens so they don’t have to apply as many increasingly costly fungicides.
“Yes, the upfront cost of the system is a significant investment, but the upfront costs will be far outweighed over time,” he says. “Sometimes it’s economical to spend money, because you reap benefits in the long run.”
Also, with the help of Rivulis Irrigation staff, you can tailor a system to your operation. “You don’t have to Cadillac it if you don’t need to because the folks at Rivulis will help you figure out exactly what you need,” he says.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Rivulis Irrigation field representatives aren’t focused on getting a commission, says Drew. “The guys who come out aren’t just salesmen,” he says. “They have real expertise in how these units work – some are even growers themselves.”
From the beginning, when the Rivulis Irrigation representatives came out to take soil samples and set up baseline moisture levels, Drew says they’ve exceeded his expectations. He worried he might not see them much again after that, but that feeling didn’t last long.
“In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to get a call from them asking about a (soil moisture) level they find unusual,” he says. “They dispatch someone if there’s no response (from a moisture sensor) or there’s an odd reading. Rivulis Irrigation provides the most reliable integrated Ag water management solutions with superior channel partners to growers that want to optimize operations and output.
Customer Service is Top of the Mark
Sea Mist Farms, in Castroville, California, recently installed a Rivulis drip irrigation system. Out of the many systems available on the market, Sea Mist chose Rivulis because of their quality products and excellent service. Chris Drew, production manager at Sea Mist, had a large stake in the decision because he is responsible for thousands of acres of cool-season vegetable crops. He knows that mistakes with irrigation can mean disaster. “We chose Rivulis because of the service they provide and because we felt very comfortable with their system,” Drew says. “Their technical service is top of the mark, their customer service is top of the mark, and their product is top of the mark.”
Rivulis Irrigation’s technical support crew left a good impression on Drew. He likes the fact that the service staff and sales team connects with their growers regularly. “I know my district salesman by name. He calls every two weeks to check in with me,” says Drew. “That is one thing that I like to know is available to me. When I set up a drip system the last thing I want to see of my salesman is his taillights.” The technical crew at Rivulis eased the way for Sea Mist Farms by assisting them with the set-up and calibration of the system. When Sea Mist workers were setting up their Field Connect (soil moisture monitoring) unit, Rivulis representatives came out to the field and worked with them hand-in-hand to make sure that the baselines were set up accurately. After the system was set up, the support crew continued to aid Sea Mist whenever needed. Drew says that when problems occurred, the team was always quick to respond and more than willing to come out and help at a moment’s notice.
In addition to technical support, Rivulis Irrigation has an excellent customer service department that is committed to providing quality support no matter what the situation. They work hard to listen to their customers and meet their needs in a timely manner. Chris Drew gives Rivulis’s customer service department high marks for their friendliness and quality service. He says that they are always happy to answer questions and quick to resolve problems.
Rivulis Irrigation is dedicated to helping their customers do more with their water, so they promote the use of high quality, efficient products. The conversion to drip irrigation was a large financial investment for Sea Mist Farms. The fact that they felt comfortable making that investment in a Rivulis drip system speaks volumes about the quality and reliability of Rivulis products. Drew says that the investment has been worth it. He believes that the implementation of drip irrigation at Sea Mist has helped them save time, water and electricity because the system is so efficient. He feels very comfortable with continuing to use more of their products in the future.
Drip Irrigation Brings Beneficial Changes to Sea Mist Farms
Chris Drew is reaping the benefits of change. He is the production manager for Sea Mist Farms in Castroville, California, where he is responsible for over 5,000 acres of cool-season vegetables, the majority of which are artichokes. To say that he is busy would be an understatement, so he is thrilled about the recent conversion from sprinkler irrigation to a Rivulis Irrigation drip system at Sea Mist. The change produced time and money saving benefits for Drew and the entire company.
Sprinkler irrigation can be extremely inefficient and costly. Prior to converting to a drip system, Drew found that sprinkler irrigation added to his operating costs because it was labor intensive. “Sprinkler irrigation required a lot of labor to move pipes in and out of the fields, as well as a great deal of management,” Drew says.
When it comes to windy conditions, Drew feels that drip irrigation systems have the advantage over sprinklers. He explains that running a drip system in 30 mph winds can easily result in an efficiency rate of 90% plus, while the efficiency rate of sprinkler irrigation is often below 50% in the same conditions. Another advantage is that you can irrigate at any time, without having to pay so much attention to the weather.
Switching to a new irrigation system has been a relatively painless process for Sea Mist Farms. Their biggest hurdles were helping their employees feel comfortable with the new technology and training their staff to operate the system accurately. Fortunately, the Rivulis Irrigation technical support crew was there every step of the way to help with the transition. Drew feels that the investment in the Rivulis Irrigation drip system has more than paid off because of the benefits it provides. An increase in uniformity distribution has been one such benefit. “The uniformity of sprinkler distribution can be at best about 80%. If a drip irrigation system is set up and used properly, uniformity is closer to 95% plus,” Drew explains.
The drip system also makes it easier to irrigate with precision, where the crops need it most. Crops are less susceptible to pathogens because they do not have water sitting on their surface. In addition, there is a reduced need for fungicide applications. Applying water at the base of the crop is also advantageous when it comes to fertigation.
Drew believes that running the Rivulis Irrigation drip system at Sea Mist Farms has helped decrease the overall water usage on their ranches. The company’s farming operation is more sustainable because of the savings in water and electricity. Embracing change can sometimes be difficult; but for Sea Mist Farms, the change to drip irrigation has been a welcome one that has brought about many benefits. In the beginning, they chose Rivulis Irrigation because of their quality products and excellent service. Now, they look forward to continuing to enjoy the benefits of the drip system for many years to come.
Rivulis Irrigation provides the most reliable integrated Ag water management solutions with superior channel partners to growers that want to optimize operations and output.