New investment in water saving techniques for growers

Thursday, 2 May 2019

The horticulture sector is now co-funding a centre of excellence to develop new commercial water-saving techniques for precision irrigation and fertigation, for soft fruit growers.

In supporting the Water Efficient Technologies (WET) Centre, we aim to accelerate the uptake of innovation and research by demonstrating the commercial value added to the soft fruit industry.

Located in Kent, the facility specialises in irrigation management and moisture sensing technologies, which improve crop quality.

Scott Raffle, Knowledge Exchange Manager from AHDB, said: “One way of improving the adoption of research is to demonstrate it in a commercial production system that is representative of grower practice.  The WET Centre offers us a ready-made site which has already helped develop precision irrigation practices that reduced water and fertiliser use by up to 30 per cent, while maintaining and, sometimes, improving fruit yields and quality.”

We've previously funded a series of water-use efficiency projects on substrate-grown strawberry and raspberry crops with research provider, NIAB EMR. This new collaboration will also share knowledge about growing systems, crop protection, labour saving and other new technology.

Commercial strawberry growers have already had success working with the WET Centre. Stephen McGuffie of New Farm Produce in Staffordshire has benefited from the irrigation best practice and has also adopted NIAB EMR’s Precision Irrigation Package (PIP), a system to manage the irrigation and fertigation of bag-grown strawberry crops.

Stephen explained: “I can rely on the PIP system to look after my irrigation 24 hours a day, providing me with peace of mind that my crop is being well irrigated. This helps me considerably, as we spend less time manually monitoring the system, saving further on cost.

“I am pleased to learn that AHDB will be having future input to the WET Centre, thereby ensuring that much of our levy-funded research will be put into practice on a demonstration site, which is on show to the whole industry.”

The WET Centre has brought together leading irrigation equipment and sensor suppliers and researchers, to:

•   Develop and commercialise an integrated portfolio of leading-edge irrigation technologies

•   Demonstrate on a commercial scale how applying these technologies can enable growers to improve their water-use efficiency, yields, berry quality and financial returns

•   Provide growers with crop-specific workshops, training and 1:1 technical support to enable them to successfully adopt these technologies

AHDB’s partnership with the WET Centre will ensure that results and information reach more soft fruit growers and will provide regular updates on the activities of the centre.

The WET centre will be a part of the Farm Excellence programme. For further information, please visit: https://ahdb.org.uk/farm-excellence