In each edition of Smart WaterMark news we provide certificate holders with an opportunity to talk about their approved product or service - the benefits it offers and how it saves water. This month (July 2016) AFS Agriculture, an irrigation consultancy based in Western Australia tell their story.

AFS Agriculture (AFS) is a WA based consultancy business specialising in the provision of water scheduling and nutrient management to irrigation enterprises throughout Australia. AFS has developed, managed and reported on irrigation projects subject to formal environmental assessment under the Western Australian EPA Act. It has recently become the first such business certified under the Smart Approved Watermark in the services and analytics categories.

There is growing evidence that smart farming technologies, such as those being applied by AFS, are able to provide significant financial benefits for users and minimise waste. AFS smart systems are suitable for a range of applications utilising centre pivot, spray and drip irrigation systems (e.g. pasture and field crops, horticulture, active and passive public open space, reclaimed water use, mine dewater disposal).

A unique feature of the AFS scheduling model is direct access to the Bureau of Meteorology’s seven day forecasts of weather parameters (including rainfall and evapotranspiration). Along with site historical data these are used to predict plant demand and changes in soil moisture status. This modelling facilitates forward planning of watering and other operations. It is an innovation that can further increase water savings and help minimise production and environmental risks. Continuous data collection enables improvements through review of predicted versus actual outcomes.

AFS’s data management system enables efficient generation of reports to meet client needs, including tracking of performance measures related to, water use efficiency, leaching and production targets. These can be used internally for business review and fed into external reporting requirements.

Current developments – the SWAN platform

Product customisation, fast communications, data management and analytics are key elements of AFS’ business.

Over the past four years AFS has developed and refined a set of spreadsheet based scheduling and analytical models to assist in the planning, scheduling, and monitoring of water and nutrients for any type of managed vegetation. This substantial investment is currently being leveraged to migrate service delivery to SWAN (Scheduling Water And Nutrients), a location-based web platform.

Monitoring supported by cloud-based data processing, storage and retrieval will allow rapid, automated and timely 2-way flow of information and scientific knowledge to field operators and managers to inform tactical and strategic decisions, improvement, QA and EMS.

Features and benefits of SWAN

SWAN targets three user segments: active and passive public open space; irrigated agricultural and horticultural businesses; agronomic and horticultural consulting services.

It is:
Science based - value and amenity from water assets are maximised; environmental risks minimised.
Integrated – combines site, local knowledge and monitoring inputs for water and nutrient management, data storage and analysis.
Cost-effective – internet enables mass delivery to individual clients or client groups under a range of charging options.
Unique – forecasting soil moisture status 6 or more days ahead through link with BOM location-specific forecasts provides prospects for further water savings. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) feed used to monitor plant production/health.
Flexible – adaptable to individual needs and current irrigation systems, incorporates published and in-house knowledge.
Locally relevant and supported – readily updated and can embed local research, environmental guidelines and regulatory constraints.

Reporting – timely provision in a form and frequency negotiated with the user to fulfil feedback, stakeholder management and accountability requirements.

Stage 1 of the SWAN will be completed for trial and assessment with turf clients at the end of August 2016. Stage 2 with enhanced capabilities is due for completion October 2016.

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