Silver Reef Organic Farms – Wellington, Colorado
In Northern Colorado, the majority of seasonal water comes from adjudicated wells and from purchased or rented water from ditch companies – both sources can be expensive.
“With adjudicated wells, there is usually a limit on the amount of water you can pump every year. And, in the case of ditch water, we must project our water needs before the season starts,” said Amanda McGee of Silver Reef Organic Farms. “If we underestimate our needs, we are out of luck. There is no additional water to be rented after the season starts.”
And that, McGee said, is one of the reasons FieldNET® by Lindsay is an important part of the 2,300-acre operation near Wellington, Colorado.
“FieldNET allows us to monitor our water use throughout the season, which gives us a better estimate for how much water to rent for the following season,” McGee said.
The industry’s leading remote irrigation management solution, FieldNET also gives Silver Reef’s irrigation manager the ability to view and control the operation’s 18 pivots from almost anywhere.
“We have fully integrated FieldNET into our operation through the use of the apps on our phones and tablets, as well as a dedicated office-based computer,” McGee said. “Our irrigation manager is able to monitor the pivots throughout the day and make changes easily and efficiently without having to drive to each pivot. The alerts and safety features of the technology allow us to address issues before they escalate to potentially costly repairs.”
McGee added that FieldNET has also resulted in meaningful labor savings.
“FieldNET has helped our bottom line through labor savings, because we no longer have to walk or drive out to each pivot every time we need to change or move direction,” she said. “We’ve also seen electrical savings, because we are now able to start and stop the pivots exactly when we need to, rather than overshooting or having to sit and monitor.”
FieldNET is just one of the new technologies utilized at Silver Reef Organic Farms. They also use Variable Rate Irrigation and drone technology to improve production.
“All of our fields have electromagnetic profiles, which show extreme variables in soil types,” she said. “Variable Rate Irrigation allows us to manage each soil type individually and adjust to reflect holding capacities and run-off potential. The ease of FieldNET’s VRI dashboard allows us to make these changes quickly based on our weekly field health monitoring system.”
Their weekly system includes both on-the-ground and birds eye views of their fields.
“Walking the fields is effective to find trouble areas, but inefficient to cover every acre, every week,” she said. “Our drone uses near infrared imagery to give us a ‘green index’ of our crops – showing us where there are areas of concern or areas that are growing well.”
With the help of this technology, the growers at Silver Reef were able make one of their “trouble fields” more profitable.
“The field has significant changes in slope and elevation, as well as extreme variations in soil types,” McGee said. “In 2016, the bottom half of this field was planted to corn silage. Our first drone flight showed that we had some significant areas of crop health. At that time, our water schedule was a baseline 1-inch without changes in variable rate. We found that in the areas of lower holding capacity, this rate was effective. But in areas of higher holding capacity, this rate was too much, and it was causing the roots to drown.”
A VRI prescription with the necessary adjustments was designed for the field and within a few weeks the crop health profile became more uniform.
“Due to the extreme variations in soil profiles, this field has historically produced no more than 16 tons of organic corn silage per year,” McGee said. “Because we were able to use VRI through FieldNET, we produced 25 tons of organic corn silage, which equated to about $500 per acre more in gross revenue.”
Owner Greg Schreiner said he and his staff will continue to implement new technologies as part of their commitment to being good stewards of the land.
“We want to be the best farmers we can be with what we have. We’ll use technology with our equipment, tractors, irrigation and data to become the best,” he said. “The data that we receive helps us better understand our farm’s capabilities, so that we can make informed decisions to maximize profit potential.”