even if a drip irrigation system could produce these kinds of savings for individual farmers – and there is growing evidence that one could – it’s improbable to see such large savings statewide. but the savings could still be significant if such a drip irrigation system were more commonplace, given that agriculture accounts for 72% of the state’s water use and only 8% of farmland is fed by drip systems. if we want more farmers to take a chance on this technology, we’ve got to make it cheaper, easier and more attractive to make the change. the result is a setup that costs a fraction of conventional drip irrigation – and one that the company says can save significant amounts of water and fertilizer without sacrificing the crop yields that farmers need to eke out a living.
that’s why it is setting up demonstration projects globally and in arizona – to show farmers how the system performs in the real world and to support them through the learning curve of irrigating with drip. a similar experiment began this year with cotton in the harquahala valley, where the n-drip field is on track to save 40% on water and boost yield by about 15% at harvest time. even a 30% reduction in water use could quickly add up if taken to scale, given that there were more than 300,00 acres in production and that alfalfa used an average of 5.8 acre-feet of water per acre statewide in 2018, according to the farm census. and unknowns remain, like how long the drip tape will last and how to keep it from sustaining major damage during crop rotations – all of which could affect the final calculus for farmers to make this sort of leap. it’s also clear that farmers need more help from businesses, nonprofits and water providers to break down the barriers that have long made it difficult to invest in efficiency or find new markets for lower water-use crops.
n-drip has invented a new kind of dripper that does not require pressure and a ring-profile drip line that is difficult to plug. despite the fact that it is a phoenix, arizona–type climate with no rain and salty conditions, we had beautiful agriculture there thanks to drip irrigation. that means that most of the water that we use today is wasted by inefficient irrigation. we have found that the main expenses of drip irrigation lie in the fact that it requires pressure, which is to say a pump house and electricity, and that the water needs to be filtered, which takes even more energy. in addition to the fact that it does not require pressure, the system uses only half as much water as flood or furrow irrigation, meaning that it also reduces the cost and energy requirements of delivering water to the field.
by the time we held our first round of fundraising, about 2½ years later, we already had a working product to demonstrate. we have also established daughter companies in australia and the united states; we decided to start with those two big nations, which have a lot of needs related to water shortage. in israel, water is precious; the country can’t afford to use flood irrigation. uri shani: the first step is that we would come in to check the characteristics of the field. it costs a lot of money and it’s not good for the environment. my company’s job is to make sure that we play a role in that transition and benefit from it; but in terms of the technology, there is no question that it will advance.
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