UCSB scientists work to help local farmers save water and power

Jun 15, 2015

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara are beginning work on a project that could reduce the amount of groundwater and power that is used by farmers in the state, after receiving a grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) of $2.3 million.

Crop of process tomatoes that receive underground micro irrigation, in Woodland, CA on Wednesday, Apr. 15, 2015.
Credit USDA

UC Davis and a Silicon Valley startup called PowWow Energy are also involved.

The UCSB team will primarily be crunching numbers from a huge amount of data coming from sensors measuring conditions like soil and plant moisture, and weather variations. The results will show farmers exactly how much water is needed for their crops so they won't need to over-pump, saving both water and power.

The project was inspired by PowWow's co-founder Olivier Jerphagnon, who is also a UCSB alum.

“It takes a lot of electricity to pump water out of these wells,” said Jerphagnon. “And as there is little surface water allocation during the drought, the electrical draw on these wells becomes higher.”

The data collected from field and farm will be kept private, according to UCSB.