Precision application of water and nutrients to crops has been a goal for farmers since the first producer cut a ditch to shift a creek’s flow into his field. Drip irrigation systems bring a high level of precision to water use but are challenged by water quality issues. Netafim is working to change that with the launch of a new filtration system.
The AlphaDisc filter is designed to protect irrigation systems against clogging caused by contaminants and to more uniformly irrigate crops. The product range was developed in collaboration with Amiad, a firm focused on water treatment and filtration solutions.
Farm Progress talked with Dror Negbi, global filtration product manager, Netafim, about the filter and what it means for precision drip systems. The product will be launched in North America later this year.
The new filtration system features a range of innovations, including artificial intelligence for system management. “The smart controller we’re bringing to market [will] give the farmer the ability to follow up on what is going on with his irrigation from anywhere,” he said. “We know that water in some cases has different qualities during the season, during the month and, in some cases, even a couple times a day. The water quality is changing.”
With this system, he explained that a farmer can know if the filter is being forced to do more backflushes, a condition that can show decreasing water quality. Negbi said that given that situation, a farmer might turn off the system for a short time until conditions improve. The smart controller can also monitor pressures and energy use to help a farmer better manage irrigation.
He noted that with more than 70% of the water used in irrigation coming from surface sources, globally, conditions are changing. Algal blooms, particulates in the water and other contaminants can wreak havoc on a filtration system. With this smart controller, a farmer will be better able to manage the system and keep water and nutrients flowing as needed.
Knowing how water quality is impacting an irrigation system plays into cost of ownership. “If you’re looking at the overall system, it’s the footprint, the energy consumption and the amount of backflushing that can impact the total cost of ownership,” he said.
For example, if water quality falls and the system automatically backflushes more than normal, a farmer can evaluate what’s happening and elect to stop irrigation until the situation improves, or if there’s a problem it can be resolved. This can reduce energy requirements.
In an unmonitored system with automatic backflushing, Negbi said a farmer might clear water back to a reservoir, and then pump it back in many times. However, that can bring contaminants back in, forcing another backflush and adding to the cost of the system. The new filtration system and the smart controller are designed to prevent this.
Beyond smart controller
The new AlphaDisc filter is more than its algorithms and artificial intelligence. The physical design of the system itself is different. For example, the disks used for filtration are redesigned to provide precise, high-grade filtration through all depths for better clogging protection. And the system has a high dirt-holding capacity with a high filtration volume and area, and lower head loss rates for improved particle capture and fewer backflush cycles.
The new filter is also highly modularized, which makes customizing it for a specific irrigation setup easier. Need more filtration capacity? No problem, you can remove the standard disc set and replace with a higher-capacity choice simply by releasing some clamps and swapping in the new parts.
For dealers and system designers, the AlphaDisc provides much more flexibility, and Negbi said the system can be added as a retrofit to an existing system. This allows farmers to bring the new tech into their drop system, though he noted some piping changes will be needed.
Negbi said precision drip irrigation systems offer the most efficient irrigation, “providing uniformity by giving the food with a teaspoon, like you give it to a baby, straight to the roots of the plants.”
This requires precision delivery and raises the need to keep contaminants out of the system. “I’m not calling [AlphaDisc] a filter, it’s a protection system. I need to protect the irrigation system; this is my main investment.”
He said to get more farmers to adopt drip irrigation and save water, there is a need to have a “very high-efficient protection system that will last longer, and we will have less maintenance.”
You can learn more about the new filtration system by visiting netafim.com.