SWIIM® stands for Sustainable Water and Innovative Irrigation Management®.
It provides a new standard in water measurement than allows growers to receive an accurate accounting of the water both delivered and consumed on their fields.
This patented process was developed with the help of the USDA and is being used successfully by both growers and water providers.
SWIIM accounts for your water with the same precision as your CPA accounts for finances. With the regulations and the increase costs associated with water usage this information is invaluable.
Harry Ferdon, Business Development Manager for SWIIM, joins host Tony Kramer to discuss the role water data can have in a grower’s operation.
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Episode 106 transcript:
Now with that, let's get back to the show. I had the awesome opportunity, we are here at the Growing Innovations Conference in Las Vegas. The previous episode, episode 105, you actually got a little recap of the show, talking to some different people at the show.
While I was here, I got the opportunity to sit down with the gentleman right next to me that I'm about to introduce and record a podcast and at the end of this show, we actually got a little bit of news to share. I'd like to welcome Harry Ferdon to the show, who is the Business Development Manager with SWIIM.
Thanks for joining me on the show today, Harry. To get started, let's hear a little bit more about you and your background and how you got involved in this industry.
Harry Ferdon: Absolutely. Thank you Tony and thanks for the opportunity, really happy to be on the show. My name is Harry Ferdon, Business Development Manager for SWIIM. A little background on me. I actually come from kind of non-Ag background. I grew up in the Bay Area originally, mostly living in the city of San Francisco. Playing football, playing music kind of typical city kid, but I really always had fascination with agriculture.
Our family historically had been strawberry farmers in the Watsonville area. Over time, most folks had moved to the city, but I became involved in that kind of early on and still on the side continue to work with my family strawberry growing operation there in the Burrough Valley. Then educationally really got into it. I went to UC Santa Barbara and studied Economics and then got my Masters at Cal Poly in Agribusiness.
Did some work in irrigation technology also and did a thesis project on irrigation district trading models, water trading models, which kind of teed me up for the type of stuff we're looking at in some of the regions we work at in SWIIM.
Professionally, before SWIIM, I had sold soil moisture sensors for a number of years long with some other agronomic type of research equipment. Then I met with SWIIM, I realize what they're doing and how important data is, especially with regulations coming on with other things farmers are facing today, and really got excited about it and jumped on board almost three years ago.
I've been happily working with SWIIM ever since originally as a regional sales manager in DL central office and then eventually in the Fresno office and now in my current role in business development, working with our channel partners.
Tony: That's really cool to hear. It just goes to show you don't need to grow up in agriculture to have a lifelong career in Ag, so neat to hear your background. SWIIM, I would imagine it's an acronym, not sure what the story behind it is, but let's talk about it Harry, what is SWIIM?
Harry: Of course, yes. SWIIM stands for Sustainable Water Innovative Irrigation Management so those listening and they're not reading it, it is with two I's, SWIIM. SWIIM is a comprehensive solution for having accurate on farm water data for clients.
Specifically our niche is doing a full water balance analysis. That's taking the integrating with hardware for monitoring all the water applied to a field and that could be a flow meter at a ground water well, that could be level sensors in a channel for monitoring open channel water, could be level sensors on a jacket for an Irrigation District that does delivery or a flow meter coming out of a reservoir that might have multiple sources of water.
Measuring all of that and then balancing that with what the crop's using. The way we monitor how much water the crop's using is within evapotranspiration model which integrates weather station data typically taken from a SWIIM installed weather station, cross-compared with some public weather data and remote sensing satellite data.
The pixels from Landsat imagery, we use to adjust on a field by field basis to know specifically how much water each field of a specific crop is using. That can be granular down just to a few acres.
Tony: You talk about kind of a hardware side of things, kind of a software side of things. Is this specific to certain types of irrigation? Do you guys offer the irrigation platform as well or are you retrofitting on to things that are already out there?
Harry: Mostly, we're retrofitting to things out there. It's really not specific to any type of irrigation. For example, down in the Imperial Valley, Palo Verde Valley, some other areas off the Colorado River. It's a lot of flood irrigation. Irrigation districts are mostly using delivery gates or some kind of open channel system.
We're putting our hardware and we use different hardware. We're not specific to any one vendor, we're hardware agnostic. We'll figure out the solution we want for that and implement that so we can get accurate data.
In other cases, we might be working with someone who does have some hardware out there already for monitoring their water. Maybe they have a digital flow meter on their groundwater well for example in Salinas area, that's typically what you'll see.
In that case, we can put data loggers and the telemetry and field enclosure on top of that to collect that data for doing the water balance for our purposes. It's not specific. We have folks that are flood irrigating, drip systems, micro sprayers, sprinkler, really any type of irrigation, center pivots and linear pivots, any type of irrigation, we can put our system on top of.
Tony: Is it the system so the hardware and the software that you offer, do you guys also offer any sort of consulting or something along those lines?
Harry: By doing a full water balance report, I think it's consulting in of itself. Anytime we have a client who is monitoring their fields for, always going to sit down with them, explain to them what we're seeing, get feedback from them and figure out a solution for improvement if that's what their ultimate goal for the system is.
We do some more specific consulting in certain regions for example in the Imperial Valley, we do consulting for a efficiency program specific to that region, and then we also work with consultants and some other regions and then with our channel partners.
Oftentimes, we'll have a consultant wing to what they're offering and then we can leverage our data to ensure that they can help their clients do the most with their water and do the most given whatever they have restrictions or policies are for that region specifically.
Tony: You're really working and doing everything you can just to help the customers best understand what's going on with their water?
Harry: That's right. Yes. Our ultimate goal is to make sure that our clients are getting the most value out of the data that we're giving them as possible.
Tony: I got to ask why is water monitoring important? Is there anything legal behind it or why is it important to be monitoring and why is SWIIM a thing?
Harry: Water has always been considered a valuable resource in all regions of the world, especially the Western United States. More so, now than ever, there are a lot of legal programs coming out that are making it more important to monitor water.
A big one specifically in California would be this sustainable groundwater management act, SGMA. It's an issue a lot of people are worried about, a lot of people are confused about what's going to happen there. They're not sure how they're going to monitor their water and their efficiency. They might be frustrated about what some of the implications or the reasons behind it.
SWIIM can come in and not only offer a resource for collecting that water history. Most of the regions, most of the agencies they haven't really finished up their plans, that's coming out soon, but they haven't dictated exactly what the restrictions are, what the fines are.
However, a lot of farmers and the ones that especially that work with us are realizing they want to have that information now, so they're ready for whatever it's going to come down the pipe. That's where SWIIM comes in to help them establish their baseline water history.
A lot of folks have a pretty good idea, how much water do they put on, but they don't have it all in one place where they can say, here's how much I'd put on, here's what my crop used, here's how efficient I am, here's how much recharge there was, where SWIIM can come in and give them that information.
More than ever, that has tremendous value to people. Ultimately having record for that, and being able to prove your efficiency improve your water use, that can protect water rights for generations to come for some people.
Tony: Yes. That kind of leads me into my next question. You talked about why water monitoring is important. Who is it benefiting? is it just the farm or is it bigger than that?
Harry: It's absolutely bigger than that. When SWIIM was first started in- we started in Colorado originally and did some work in Northern Colorado. The system of water transfers there at the time, and this is a system that a lot of people still use, was what they call buy and dry which is known I guess more formally as fallowing where if you want to sell your water, you just take a certain number of acres, you do nothing with it and then somebody else gets to use whatever the established amount of water that crop would have used, they then have rights to use that.
SWIIM came in as a platform to say, "Hey, technology can drive conservation". You can continue to farm, be more efficient, save some percent of that water and then sell that off instead. By doing that, we're able to keep more farming in production which doesn't only affect the farmers themselves but all the different vendors that work for them, that's employees, millions of people in California and in the United States and ultimately the consumer.
When people are cutting acreage and we're having less acreage of this stuff that we love to eat every day, taken out of production, we'll have to spend more money.
It also leads to more water for other uses too. A lot of people get concerned about environmental use for water or the demand cities have and if we're able to help farmers conserve water instead of just having to cut stuff out of production, there's more water for those other purposes without having to take acres out of production which, unfortunately, has been the result of water restrictions in the past.
Tony: Like you said, there's a lot more to it than just the managing the water on farm, there's a much bigger picture when it comes to managing your water. With your time with SWIIM Harry, there's got to be a success story out there that when the day was done, it put a big smile on your face. Tell us a little bit about that.
Harry: Yes, absolutely. Well, when I first joined SWIIM , working in the Imperial Valley, still was early days for SWIIM but what we were able to do for our early adopters there was we actually created deals with them or that we said, "Look, you don't need to pay us now, we're going to help you get a benefit by saving your water, you're going to be able to make X amount of money and we're willing to make our whole deal with you, our whole system contingent upon how successful you are with the program they had there for conserving water".
We ended up being so successful that our early adopters expanded, we ended up signing up a bunch of people and now work with a lot of folks down there, and that all started from essentially us saying, "Hey, we'll make the bet that this is going to work. We're not going to make you make the bet, we're going to let it be contingent on this", and sure enough, we were successful and have been able to replicate the work we've done there in a number of other regions now.
That was really exciting to be a part of the company, as all that was beginning to take place and seeing how successful we can be and seeing that this thing really works and it really adds value to people and it's going to all over the Western US and potentially one day, all over the world. Really exciting, really proud to be part of a company that it's really here to protect the farmers. Ultimately, water is important to everybody but we really want to protect that farming legacy.
We know farmers are always going to work hard to be as conservative with water as possible and that's why they're willing to adopt systems like ours and make serious investments in it. We want to protect their rights to that water so that they can continue to produce the great food that they do for all of us.
Tony: Yes. It's always exciting to prove the technology that you're offering out there. It's definitely a success when it comes to the SWIIM organization. Like I had said at the beginning of the show, Harry, you guys have some exciting news to share. Why don't you share with the listeners what this exciting news is?
Harry: Yes. As made official, I think just a few weeks ago and really made public this week, SWIIM now has a joint partnership with RDO Water and RDO equipment. Essentially, in the western growers' region which would be California, Arizona, Colorado which is SWIIM s' primary region in a region that RDO is obviously very, very active in.
We'll be working with them on essentially, a joint agreement where RDO offers a lot of really great technology, cutting-edge stuff, have some of the best people in the business out there installing and maintaining, talking to growers every day and improving their whole operation not just on the waterside, but obviously with an emphasis on water on the RDO water side.
Now, SWIIM being able to come in and offer the analysis and the reporting and the software that we have, to put on top of that, so that we can work together to give that next level of data analytics and protection of water rights that SWIIM offers through the RDO network.
It's an honor for us to be partnered with obviously such established and well known and reputable company like RDO, being a new company that SWIIM is, and look forward to what the future brings and excited about all the new opportunities.
Tony: Yes. It is really awesome, Harry. We, as RDO equipment, RDO water, we are very excited with this partnership as well. We look forward to watching it grow into the future. If somebody wants to learn more about SWIIM and your guys organization, where can they go? Who can they talk to?
Harry : The easiest place to start would be to go to our website which is simply swiim.com That's S-W-I-I-M dot com. If they want to reach out directly to me, I'll leave my email which is firstname.lastname@example.org. That's H-F-E-R-D-O-N @swiimsystem.com.
Currently, we have offices in Fresno which is the one I predominately work out of. We have an office in Brawley, corporate headquarters in Denver, Colorado and a deployment center in Fort Collins, Colorado and we also have a hot desks at the Ag Center 59 in Merced, California and at the Western growers center for innovation technology in Salinas, California.
Tony: Great. I just want to thank you, Harry, for taking the time to sit down with me here at growing innovations and talk a little bit about SWIIM , learning about what it is and then also announcing that awesome partnership with RDO water and RDO equipment. Thanks again for doing this.
Harry: Yes. Thank you, Tony. I appreciate the opportunity.