Sunday, February 9, 2014

4th Water Institute Symposium

This is a big week for our South Florida water resource and irrigation team, as we’ll be convening in Gainesville with state and regional water reps, experts and researchers for the 4th Water Institute Symposium at the University of Florida.

A look back
Two years ago, and almost to the day, I made the same trek to Gainesville for this event. At the time, my objective was to meet Dr. Michael Dukes and decide if his program was a good fit for me.

From 2012: You had me at cavernous lab space!
I walked the campus, attended the Symposium, met the man himself, took a slew of photos and closed by helping the strawberry harvest team in Citra. The rest, as they say, is putting in work and long days.

#RedlandRaised: taken in the Redland this winter while working with Dr. Migliaccio
Flash forward to today and I’ll be attending this year's event as a registered participant; my collaborative work with Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit (U.C.U.) and with Dr. Kati Migliaccio is stronger than ever; and three videos I produced will be playing on loop in the exhibitors area during the event.

Swords out: It's a mobile smart irrigation app for turf!
What will we all be getting up to during the Symposium?

The U.C.U.: Laura Vasquez and Jesus Lomeli
Well, coming off our most viral video to date, the U.C.U. is rolling through for the water planning and water in Extension portion of the event. They will also tour the water-use research being conducted on campus, including the Florida-friendly demonstration plot study.

Dr. Migliaccio is wearing several hats for the Symposium. First she’ll present on the smart irrigation mobile apps she helped develop – a venture that has garnered national and global interest. Then she’ll follow that with moderator duty on the Water Initiative in Extension Panel - highlighting some on-going UF/IFAS Extension water initiatives.

Cisterns and alternative water sources for irrigation? We're on the case!
Meanwhile, I’ll be working the media angle: live-tweeting for the U.C.U., taking hundreds of pictures and shooting content for a cistern video series we’re working on, as well as an IrriGators Production that hopes to answer the question: why do we irrigate?

Meet the team: a high-res version of this short will loop at the Symposium 

Stay tuned
Watch this space for a report back about the Symposium and news on all the other projects mentioned above, including the unmentioned South Florida-based Landscape Irrigation Symposium that we’ll all be participating in and is just around the corner.

Friday, January 31, 2014

2013’s Best ABE Thesis...and I

Since fall of last year I have been working with the IrriGators on the strawberry cold protection study. Now in its third year, this study aims to optimize water-use for freeze protection for crops grown during winter.

The how
Using plots varying in size and impact sprinkler heads varying in water pressure, this project seeks to produce fruit yields similar to standard grower practice while also reducing water-use during frost protection.

Maria measures the plot layout
We began putting the cold protection system together in October, transplanted strawberries soon after and began harvesting in December just before winter break.

Pristine plastic beds with plot sections taped-off

Transplant day

The first fruit appears
The colder the better

Much like many growers across Florida, we live on frost weather reports during the cold season.

Unlike them, however, we relish a deep, lengthy freeze period as these conditions will generate the best data on protection effectiveness.

Maria and Eliza gather flow rate data
Eliza measures impact head rotation rates
The neophyte
Last year graduate student Maria Zamora earned her Masters degree for this research. Her thesis was also recently named best of 2013 for UF's Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department.
Ms. Zamora on master's thesis defense day
However, while she administers to some personal business in Central America, young technician Eliza Breder has been cast into the spotlight and is managing this season’s effort.
Eliza: ready for the Bering Sea
Strawberry errthing!
Rain or shine: temperature data is downloaded
While the freezes this season have been consistent, the most intense arrived in early January. That cold spell punished the fruit and flowers, but in a few weeks we should be harvesting strawberries hand over fist.

See a short video about this project here.