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    How Automating Irrigation with Lumo Pencils Out

    Lumo Irrigation Automation ROI blog post thumbnail
    by Steele Roddick

    Lately, we’ve been working with a lot of growers to go through a return on investment estimate to see how Lumo pencils out in terms of tangible cost savings for their ranch. 

    The actual numbers depend on a bunch of factors, of course: how many acres, how many blocks, how much water, the length of your irrigation season, what you currently pay for water, what you currently pay for irrigation labor and overhead, what kind of pump you have and whether you’re already irrigating overnight and at off-peak times. 

    It’s a long list of considerations, and it can feel a bit overwhelming at first. But when you go through the numbers, we’re typically able to show a positive return in the first year, even including the one-time hardware and installation costs. Every year after the return increases dramatically. 

    The cost savings and potential upsides typically come from the following five buckets: 

    1. Irrigation Labor (and overhead or administrative costs)

    The big promise of Lumo is that you’re going to be able to automate, and even schedule ahead, all of your irrigation runs, eliminating the need for irrigators to drive out to different ranches to manually open and close valves. They won’t need to walk the lines looking for leaks or clogs or other issues either because the flow meters in our valves will monitor and measure the actual amount of water being applied and send you an alert if there’s a big move away from what’s normal that would indicate a problem worth looking into. 

    You’ll still need a modest amount of irrigator labor, typically 10-20%, to perform maintenance and solve other day-to-day challenges. They’ll just be able to do more and spend their time in more valuable ways to your vineyard team. 

    Your flow data and volumes applied will automatically be saved and logged securely so that you have an accurate, up-to-date record of your actual water usage, which can help viticulturists learn from past seasons and allow your vineyard to more easily comply with any water reporting regulations that may pop up in the future. 

    The cost savings here tend to be significant and are typically a big part of the return equation. Overhead costs are also a consideration, as are the fuel savings that come from driving around a lot less. Managers of the irrigation scheduling and reporting will also likely save some time and stop having nightmares about spreadsheets, but this savings tends to be a much smaller portion. 

    2. Reduced pumping costs

    Growers save water with Lumo by catching leaks automatically, shifting to nighttime irrigations, and irrigating with greater precision, based on specific volumes rather than rough durations. 

    The size of the savings will depend on how much you pay for water and how expensive your pump is to run. 

    3. Off-peak energy use savings 

    This is for folks with an electric pump who are currently pumping during peak hours, usually based on the practicalities of their irrigators work schedule. 

    With Lumo, you can schedule your irrigations in advance to be executed at any time of the day or night. By shifting to only irrigating at off-peak times, some vineyards are able to save 20-30% on their energy bill alone. 


    4. Crop quality and yield improvement

    Different growers have different thoughts and confidence levels on the improvements they think they’ll see on crop quality and yield. Estimates tend to vary between 3-10%, which can end up playing a significant role in the return on investment, or be viewed as a very nice bonus, depending on how you want to look at it. 

    Many vineyard managers are excited about being able to irrigate faster ahead of heatwaves, which could help significantly with losing less yield. Other viticulturists are more excited about finally closing the feedback loop with accurate water usage data and being able to more finely tune or dial-in their irrigations with even greater precision. 

    Running the water for an hour or two longer just because no one was there to turn off the valves becomes a thing of the past. You don’t water a bit longer just in case you lost pressure at some point. You know exactly how much water was applied and you’re able to execute your irrigations to a higher standard. 

    Few doubt that there’s room for improvement on quality and yield with better-timed, more precise irrigations, and almost all the growers we work with believe Lumo will help them get closer to the ideal. 

    5. Equipment maintenance savings 

    There’s a couple different ways to think about this one. 

    One way is that Lumo helps diagnose performance issues with your irrigation system. We’ve helped clients detect problems with their pumps, pressure tanks, emitters, and more. Sometimes the savings here come from being able to catch an issue early before it becomes a bigger problem. 

    Another way some of the growers we work with think about this is in terms of being able to better prioritize their irrigation maintenance. If you have a Lumo One valve at each block, every time you irrigate you’re able to see the distribution of water between blocks. You can see which block is performing the worst relative to others, or relative to its historical performance, and focus your maintenance efforts there first as a result. 

    The exact number here tends to be hard to pin down, but almost no one doubts that their maintenance costs will be lower one way or another, based on the flow data and support from the Lumo Field team that they’ll regularly receive. 

    Delivering Real Returns

    The last thing worth mentioning here is that we know these are just numbers on paper and that in the field is where the rubber really meets the road. 

    As a company and a team, we are relentlessly focused on seamlessly integrating our technology with the day-to-day operations of growers and holding ourselves accountable for delivering real results. 

    From day one at Lumo, we’ve known that irrigation automation, first and foremost, needs to make financial sense for the grower. We’re passionate about making that a reality because we know water savings and better water stewardship will come about as a result. With strong innovation, profitability and sustainability can go hand-in-hand. 

    If you want to see how an investment in Lumo would pencil out for one of your ranches, get in touch with us at [email protected] or request a demo here. 

    Go Back to the Lumo Field Journal