With water in short supply, how can farmers ensure that every drop of water is efficiently used by their crops? Duncan Family Farms took a hard look at this question, with support from Measure to Improve, LLC sustainability consultants, and realized to find the answer they would need to improve the granularity and accuracy of their water data. As a result, Duncan launched a new companywide Water Use Efficiency initiative for measuring, collecting, and analyzing water data and making it widely available across the organization.
Duncan Family Farms has always prioritized the land and communities where they built and grew their business. Since its founding in 1985, Duncan has heavily invested in water-related R&D, new irrigation equipment, sophisticated weather station, and training programs to improve how water is used. However, without high quality, real-time, granular water data the organization hit a plateau in its ability to validate the water savings from its investments and evaluate new efficiency measures.
The overarching goal of Duncan’s Water Use Efficiency initiative is to change the company culture, defining a new way for its supervisors and irrigators to think, talk, and act in order to be able to grow more crops with the same amount of water. “We want to get the point where we can be predictive of how much water our crops will need and when we have applied the right amount of water,” said Arnott Duncan, Founder of Duncan Family Farms®. “It will take a lot of measurement, data collection, and analysis to get to that point. But this is what will get us to the next level – where we have conversations about water inches applied, not hours irrigated. It will allow us to relate moisture levels to soil texture, and how water will move through the soil based on the current moisture levels.”
The new Water Use Efficiency initiative at Duncan is the next step in documenting, measuring, and validating the company’s sustainability practices and formalizes its commitment to being a recognized leader in sustainable farming.
“Sustainability is more than a strategic initiative for us, it is an acknowledgment that it is at the core of who we are,” said Will Feliz, President Duncan Family Farms®. “We need to be able to articulate what we are doing in sustainability. While we have done an excellent job talking about our practices, we don’t have the metrics in place to measure and validate. This commitment will allow us to continue our sustainability journey and authentically quantify the benefits for ourselves and our customers.”
Duncan’s commitment to sustainability and water use efficiency comes at a time when buyers and customers are increasingly skeptical of companies who might be “greenwashing” or lack transparency in their sustainability claims. “It is really difficult for farmers to measure water in drops per crop,” said Nikki Cossio, CEO and Founder Measure to Improve. “Duncan Family Farms is taking a real leadership role with their Water Use Efficiency initiative by putting the measurement and data systems in place to be able to provide buyers and consumers with the documentation, data, and third-party certifications needed to validate their sustainability claims and demonstrate improvement over time.”