In 2017, the Water Efficient Technologies (WET) Centre, developed at NIAB EMR, opened in East Malling. Its mission: to optimize the yield of high quality full flavored strawberries while at the same time reduce the amount of water needed.
One of the commercial partners involved with the development of the WET Centre was New Leaf Irrigation. Its Precision Irrigation Package (PIP) was the first commercial application of the applied research undertaken at NIAB EMR. The system provides fully automated irrigation to maintain moisture at precise levels to optimize yields, berry quality, and water productivity.
Modular system allows for new features
The PIP system is modular by design, meaning that as new technologies are developed, they can be quickly and easily added to an existing system.
"For this year, as a platform for precision growing, we have added EMR’s model to predict the likely incidence of mildew and botrytis based on current environmental conditions (temp/relative humidity) together with automated tunnel venting which uses the same sensor to drive venting systems to ensure optimal growing conditions", explains Darran Grieveson, Managing Director at New Leaf Irrigation.
Automation saves labor
The PIP system monitors irrigation performance via the ‘real time’ 24/7 online system, backed-up by NIAB EMR’s experts in the crop/water relationship.
“The system does what you tell it to and once it is set up, it looks after itself 24 hours a day. It provides me with peace of mind that my crop is being well irrigated, meaning we spend less of our time manually monitoring. We are targeting, and expecting, a minimum of 2% reduction in waste, giving us a higher proportion of marketable yields over conventional and traditional substrate irrigation practices”, says Stephen McGuffie, Director of New Farm Produce.
Ollie Bekker, Irrigation Manager of Clock House Farm in Kent, adds: “The PIP will cut down our labour cost because one person can monitor more hectares. Overall, I can see that it’s going to save me quite a lot of time and give me reassurance – you can use your phone to see what’s going on and you have quite a lot of back-up with alarms. It sends me a message when the moisture is above or below optimum.”
With its PIP system, New Leaf Irrigation provides precision equipment, professional installation, expert training and crop monitoring. You can find out more in the product flyer.