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Case Study: Bigsby Farms Saves 40% on Cannabis Irrigation with EarthScout Soil Moisture Sensors!

January 4, 2022

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Joe Pries

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Bigsby Farms is a ten acre farm in the beautiful foothills of Oregon. When Amanda and Blake bought the property, they had never grown anything, ever. Amanda’s background is in politics, and Blake is a 3D animator, so you could say they are both creative, ambitious and resourceful.

But neither had experience growing cannabis, and they wanted to give it a try. So for our first four years of our business, we had a new growing team every single year, and they had a lot of issues on the scale up for going from smaller size growers to the larger growers that recreational cannabis allowed you to do.

The contract grow team was struggling to produce results and they were losing money. That’s when they decided to take over by enrolling in a Master Gardener program at the University of Oregon. They also purchased two EarthScouts and proceeded to plant 720 plants on their farm.

So the cannabis plants that my husband and I took care of were leftovers from a previous grow team. They were of different sizes, different lengths of time. Some are overly root bound, some were very tiny. So we faced a lot of struggles on getting those in the ground and what each individual plant needed.

That first year, things didn’t go smoothly for them, so they reached out to their EarthScout grow coach for help. She had two separate EarthScouts in two different field locations. And so after she had done the trans planting in, we were using the EarthScouts just to monitor the actual water usage.

But she had one part of the field that refused to thrive and another part that was doing fabulously. So in our weekly growth coach sessions, we got together and we were trying to figure out where these differences were. It was really great having the EarthScout because we could look at all of the environmental data because you think these plants are in the same field, what could be so different? But it turned out there was some big differences in the actual soil.

So the plants that were failing to thrive were not getting enough actual oxygen exchange in their root system. Luckily, we had the oxygen sensors on and we were able to compare between the two and see that the thriving plants under the same moisture regime were getting a whole different level of oxygenation down in the root system. From there, we were able to come up with some different ideas for backing off that moisture just enough without risking the plants to bring those plants, the ones that were failing to thrive back up and get them up and growing and happy again.

Research shows many growers tend to overwater their crops as a precaution. EarthScout worked with Amanda to reduce her irrigation to the minimum moisture for healthy growth just above the melting point. Since then, she saved over 40% on water and irrigation costs.

So one of the features that EarthScout allows you to do, in addition to just managing the moisture and the oxygen in the soil and things of that sort is taking weekly tissue tests of your plants. You’ll be taking leaves off of them and mailing them in to see where the plant stands.

So when you’re planning to feed for the next week or even the next couple of weeks, you can really fine tune for what that exact strain needs. And both of those things combined together allowed us to have that successful harvest.

Since then, Amanda and Blake have added greenhouses to grow cannabis. I’m standing in this wonderful greenhouse that she was able to put up this season. When you do put up greenhouse lighting, when you do have any kind of change between the Sun and where the plants are growing, one of the best things you can do is actually monitor the light situation. So we do have a quantum sensor on each of her EarthScouts that are going to be indoors. We want to make sure that we’re maximizing the light with the temperature so that these plants are getting those luscious conditions to grow in.

The setup and installation of EarthScout only takes minutes. So the EarthScout was not hard to use or install whatsoever. You have a few sensors that you dig down at six inches and 16 inches and put those in and let the plant do the rest as it’s growing.

One of the most amazing features that it has for the app itself is that you can set an alert for what you want the moisture content to be of your plants. When it dips below that, the app will notify you that it’s time to water, even if it’s different than what you thought it needed to be.

Today, Amanda is leading the charge for cannabis growers in Oregon. I’m the founder and president of Farms Inc, Oregon’s Cannabis Farm advocates. I also chair the Josephine County Cannabis Advisory Panel, where our job is to advise the county on the right rules and regulations for cannabis here in our area.

In addition to that, we’ve been doing a lot of lobbying at the state legislature to protect the farmer. Amanda is excited about their partnership with EarthScout. I think that even at the novice level or at the expert level, having any scientist based approach that you can bounce ideas off of and have science tell you what’s happening as opposed to a guess is a win. The grow coach has knowledge that we don’t have, and we can prove out some theories and test them with that grow coach. I mean, it’s true we would have zero plants if it wasn’t real.

It’s always satisfying to have a grower who’s happy with what’s going on out in their field. But having somebody especially like Amanda, who was practically jumping up and down on the phone, excited and happy and just really looking forward to what this bro was going to be able to bring her after such a rough start was amazing. It was really fun.