It makes a lot of sense that agricultural innovation is particularly high here in Nebraska– after all, thanks to the extensive potable farmland across our state, the agriculture and manufacturing industry are two of the main drivers of our strong economy.
Part of the joy of having a passion for manufacturing is the base curiosity of wanting to know how the world works and how to make it better. Recently, sustainability has become a focus in both manufacturing and agriculture as a way to make the world’s creations and current processes function better, as well as more efficiently.
In Nebraska, we’ve seen this in both large and small projects– whether it’s solar-powered pivots in Lindsay or the new irrigation shutoff device recently invented in Holdrege. Over the weekend, the Kearney Hub reported that a farmer from Loomis, his son, and a friend from Mason City created a rainfall-triggered water shutoff device that could potentially save thousands and thousands of gallons of water for irrigation systems.
As with many new inventions, the idea for the device started with a need. For those who aren’t up on their agriculture techniques, if farmers spot rain while running an irrigation system, their options are to wait it out or turn off irrigation in hopes that the rain will be enough to tide them over for a few days. So farmer Rook Thorell, his son Joe, and a college buddy John Van Zandt created a battery-powered system to solve the problem.
The system uses a tip bucket rain gauge on a post, linked to a control box that will switch the fuel shutoff valve on the well motor when there’s enough rain to take the place of irrigation. They estimate that if the irrigation system is shut down for just six hours, for one well, 270,000 gallons will be saved. With the 5,000 wells in the Gosper, Phelps, and Kearney counties, the savings will add up to 1.35 billion gallons of water. The device will also save fuel and electricity by automatically judging when irrigation is no longer needed.
On a smaller scale, a farmer in Missouri is working on a sustainable irrigation plan for his two-acre organic vegetable garden. By using drip irrigation and renewable energy as the power source, Dan Kuebler has been growing vegetables for over fifteen years. He is excited about the potential of using his solar irrigation system on a larger scale, and recreating the sustainability of his small project on other operations. “It presents a model that can be duplicated by other growers in our region and the country as well as stimulating others to refine it further for their unique situations,” says Kuebler.
Questions? Comments? Hoping to learn more about the possibilities of manufacturing and sustainability in an agricultural context? Leave a comment in the section below or send us a tweet anytime!