Growers learn more about their own water management: predicting water availability with Grow with the Flow

Published: 9 April 2021

Climate change is putting water shortages and flooding front and centre. Over the past two years, Deltares has been working with Wageningen University and Research (WUR), two water authorities and private bodies on the development of an integrated platform that can be used to monitor data about water availability at the level of individual plots of land, while also taking weather forecasts into account. The aim is to give growers the opportunity to make better decisions, for example about irrigation.

Collaboration needed

The Grow with the Flow platform allows stakeholders to work together on more future-resilient agriculture. The knowledge available at the regional level is shared with the farmers in an accessible way so that the use of water can be optimised using local models. This approach makes the agricultural sector more productive and allows water to be used more efficiently. It helps farmers to take the right steps themselves when there is too little, or too much, water. The project helps the water authorities at the regional level to tailor management decisions to water demand.

Pilot projects to start in the 2021 season

There is interest from the agricultural sector because this is a sustainable solution for proactively dealing with climate change. The pilot project will start with six growers who will go to work using the available information. The results of this trial will be presented at the end of the harvest season. Those experiences will be used for the ongoing development of the Grow with the Flow platform.

Farmer Hardeman from Harskamp (NL): “I expect this system to provide me with a much clearer picture of water availability for each plot of land. That will allow me to plan irrigation more intelligently and possibly save water as well.”

picture Theo Brand, Water Board Vallei and Veluwe

Sustainable by sharing data

Ab Veldhuizen (WUR, water specialist): “I have every confidence that we are taking a step towards a sustainable future here. The model is still theoretical but it’s wonderful that we will now be testing it in practice.”

Grow with the Flow helps water authorities to get to grips better with the local water system and how farmers work on a day-to-day basis. In that way, a knowledge base can be built up for the future. Growers can see how much water is available during dry periods and they make more effective decisions about how to use the water. The platform therefore gives growers an opportunity to reduce the costs associated with water management. In the digital age, the platform is a fast and economical way to exchange data and share knowledge between the parties who work with it.

Dirk Peters (LW/M, agronomist): “The platform dovetails excellently with our Sustainable Cultivation plan, which gives a central position to good soil health and responsible water use.”

Grow with the Flow

The initiative for the Grow with the Flow platform was taken by Deltares, working with WUR, the Vallei Veluwe water authority, the Aa en Maas water authority, Capgemini, Achmea and Lamb Weston/Meijer. The project received financial support from TKI Agri & Food / TKI Delta Technology and contributions from the project partners. Milan Innovincy is developing the basis for the platform in collaboration with Capgemini. The partners are teaming up to look for solutions relating to the increased intensity of agriculture, responses to climate changes and collaboration in complex situations. In this case, they are pooling their knowledge relating to water, potato cultivation and digitalisation in order to contribute to making arable farming in the Netherlands future-proof. The ambition is also to share the benefits with other countries in the long term.