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Improving growers' understanding of their irrigation water

Water certainly is one of the most precious resources, not only because it’s crucially important but also because it can be rather scarce. That’s why it’s essential for growers to understand how to use it more efficiently. On the one hand, this would reduce water consumption and thus operational costs; on the other hand, it would also make an irrigation system more effective and targeted. 

To improve the growers’ understanding of the water coming into the cultivation, Ottawa-based SanEcoTec has developed the Water Health Index, a digital, water-quality management system. It’s a mobile app – called the WHI Platform – that identifies, solves, manages, prevents, and optimizes water issues in real-time. "Growers on municipal water systems may be surprised at the variation in the water showing up at their door," Jim Shubat, co-founder and technical lead at SanEcoTec. 

Jim Shubat, co-founder and technical lead at SanEcoTec

Growers appreciate an app that maps, captures, and records key performance indicators (KPIs) for their water. SanEcoTec offers cultivators a simple way to proactively engage with the water getting into their cultivation. “Rather than waiting too long for lab results to return, you can simply get your water sample in the WHI Platform, and you’ll get a quick, accurate water analysis on your app.” says Jim.

Microbiological activity in water
The WHI app is not only for checking the microbiological activity of given water but also to have a more nuanced understanding of the water uptake throughout a cultivation facility.

“We are constantly learning how people understand water, what they appreciate about their water, and what they don’t appreciate,” says Shubat. “For instance, we’ve been speaking with cannabis growers. Maybe, some of them are on a pond, or they capture rainwater. Of course, that water needs to be treated before it gets into the cultivation, so they add an RO to that rainwater, which absolutely strips out anything nutritious that was there. Basically, that would leave you with water that has no alkalinity, no pH, and then you struggle to get control of that water back.”

From the left: Ed Thoren, Head Grower, Roelands Plant Farms, and Jim Shubat

Bluntly put, Jim is specifically talking about the microbiological content of water and how biologically active that water is. “Or, for instance, if I’m getting drain water, is there already an indication that there are some pathogens in there?” Contaminated or not up-to-standard water can seriously compromise the bottom line of cultivation.

“That contamination came from the water collected that same day. The thing is, by the time you notice something might be wrong with your water, it’s already too late. On top of that, to know what’s going on, you’d need to collect a water sample and send that to a lab that will answer after a week at least.” That’s exactly where the WHI Platform and app come into play.

Uniform irrigation
Just like there might be microclimates, there might also be parts of the greenhouse or indoor farms that do not get watered as much as other parts. “Thanks to our solution, it can be rapidly highlighted where is more demand for irrigation or if the microbiological markers are not within the limits.” 

That’s why SanEcoTec when visiting CEA facilities, carries out an actual water audit to understand not only the irrigation strategy but also where the water comes from, how it gets into the cultivation, and how it’s distributed. “Our job is to provide every grower with the right water so that they can flourish, regardless of the crop they are growing.”

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