How Hortau Helps Farmers Produce More Crops With Less Water

At a time when water conservation is high profile because of California’s nearly five-year drought, a company that provides more efficient irrigation systems for farmers is important. Hortau provides such systems and has been doing so for over a decade.

What Hortau’s irrigation system does is to use soil tension to determine the amount of water needed. It helps farmers not only improve their yields, but reduce irrigation costs. And it helps reduce water use by determining the precise amount of water that a crop needs.

Until recently, Hortau has mainly operated in California and Canada, and “somewhat” on the East Coast, as co-founder Jocelyn Boudreau, president and CEO of Hortau, told Just Means. The company is expanding to middle America, namely in the Pacific Northwest and High Plains regions. In January, the company concluded “important financing,” as he put it, when they secured $10 million to expand their growth and services in North America. The third major round of financing for Hortau in 20 months, the $10 million investment came from a group led by Advantage Capital Agribusiness Partners, LP.

The expansions came about because of “market demand,” he explained. “Agriculture is at a point where it is shifting from a ‘gut-feeling’ and personal knowledge-based experience to more systematic, data-driven industry.” The global demand for food is “exploding right now.” There are over seven billion people on the planet now, and population growth experts predict that by 2050 there will be over nine million people.

“There is a clear need for technologies to optimize how we use water, to use it more efficiently, to produce more with less,” Boudreau said. Boudreau hails from Eastern Canada but now lives in California. He can “see the drought first-hand.” He understands just how badly his company’s services are needed by farmers.

Hortau is helping farmers produce more crops with less water. There is a “clear demand for that right now.” Optimization is the key, rather than just cutting water per acre. What counts is how many tons or pounds of produce a farmer can grow for every gallon of water. “That’s where we can help to make the farm operations more profitable and use the resources better,” Boudreau said. Hortau’s systems can help farmers reduce water use by an average of 25 to 30 percent, but grow more crops.

Hurt is described by Boudreau as providing the “internet of things” for farmers. They are putting devices in the field. For example, they have proprietary sensors that measure how much water is available in the ground, information about the environment, and even the weather. “So, we’re basically connecting the field to the web,” he explained, “and from there we can enhance that information with external data like soil maps and weather forecasts, and provide farmers with insight.” The company can then “crunch” the information that the sensors provide and tell farmers when to irrigate.

Photo: Flickr/Great Valley Center