When Water Stops Flowing, Farmers Turn to AgTech

Farmers Find a New Way

This ongoing drought is unlike anything experienced in almost a millenia. 

The hydrology (the scientific study of the water cycle, water resources and the environmental watershed sustainability on Earth) indicates more hard times to come with no relief in sight. The worst hit by this two-decade-long dry spell spans a nine-state swatch from Oregon and Wyoming down through California and New Mexico. And it’s shaping up to be the harshest drought on record in more than 1,200 years

Folks who find themselves in the ag industry are familiar with dire conditions and unprecedented circumstances. Abnormally warm spring temperatures, below average rainfall, and evaporating snowpack are among a few of the indicators the ag industry monitors to predict what their annual water allotment will look like for their crops and livestock. Farmers just call them “hard times.” But when things look grim, farmers look for new opportunitiesーlike technologyーto unlock positive new ways to get things done.

Being Resourceful Without the Resources

One key trait that the ag industry is known for is being resourceful. Droughts are nothing new. But the competition for water is. In good years, water reservoirs store enough water to supply farmer and human consumption needs without bumping up against environmental requirements. We’re talking about billions (with a B) gallons of water needed in reserves each year to stretch as far as possible. What happens when the water isn’t there to take? 


This year in California alone, state regulators are on the verge of cutting farmers’ rights after notifying them of a water curtailment that will forbid them from accessing water resources found in local rivers. This comes after farmers learned that the current two government water-conveyance systems that they rely on will give them little to no water this year. Without water to plant annual crops in the fall, farmers’ land will need an additional 12 months to recover before starting another harvest cycle. And this threatens consumers nationwide since the majority of the fruits, nuts, vegetables, and beef they eat daily come from these hard-hit western states. Imagine if more farmers understood what digital tools are available to help them utilize and conserve existing water resources. It could be the game changer for making it through the toughest of water shortages.

What’s the Silver Lining? Technology.

Farmers have always found ways to do more with less. When lagging water supplies presented hard times in the past, the ag industry discovered innovative ways to extend the resources available to sustain their life’s work. From finding methods to water the plant’s roots to avoid evaporation through drip irrigation to rotating livestock between fields to reduce water runoff and increase absorption and the water table, the will has always been there. Sometimes a new way is needed, too. 

In the past, a little brawn and applied ingenuity were enough to “get by.” However, over the last decade alone, technology as a whole has made staggering leaps in what it can do to help farmers at an individual level—and the ag industry as a whole—make major strides in transforming operations into sustainable, precision-based enterprises. Tech can help automatically monitor irrigation, provide early issue detection, and ensure resources are used wisely. The possibilities are endless (and exciting!).

Smarter is Smarter

Smart water management considers the time of day, the frequency, and how much water volume is needed to keep crops healthy and pests at bay. In addition to monitoring the soil and plant moisture, farmers adapt their schedules to avoid under- or overwatering crops and continually monitor the weather forecast. Using new technologies, those same things can happen automatically on a digital platform (like your cell phone) connected to wireless sensors deployed throughout the land that are viewed from a device hovering high above. 

The list of water-saving tech is extensive. You can launch an automated drone from your porch or office doorstep to scout how well the crops are doing or check for unnoticed water leaks and problems. Some other new technologies on the list below were covered in a recent blog post. [Read it now.] 

Additional agriculture technology could also include any use of the following: 

  • Drones
  • Land/water data via satellite imagery 
  • Phone-based water management control
  • IoT-based sensor networks
  • Phase tracking
  • Weather forecasts
  • Automated irrigation
  • Light and heat control
  • Intelligent software analysis for pest and disease prediction and soil management
  • Biotech

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

Even though 2021 could be one of the driest years on record, that doesn’t mean help is not available to the farming community. More than ever, the ag industry is fully embracing all that technology has to offer. The traditional choices have run their course and new tactics are needed for these unprecedented times. 

Maybe you have an idea for something that would help collect, process, and analyze critical water data on the farm but you don’t see it being offered in the market. Let us know at Bitwise Industries. We’re experts at bringing ideas to life and incorporating new technologies into existing business structures. If you’re not sure where to start, schedule a chat with us using this link

From mobile apps to custom software, we have the expertise and passion to automate any process that helps you meet your water needs. And that’s just the beginning! Let us equip you with your very own digital way to have more water (with less). 

This post was written by Jeff Rickels, Technical Writer for Bitwise Industries. Born and raised in California’s Central Valley, he understands how important water is to farmers and the world. Jeff will keep writing articles to show farmers the value of technology and he is grateful every day for their commitment to feeding our families.