The Flint River Partnership and IBM (NYSE:

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IBM) today announced a collaboration to deploy innovative conservation measures to enhance agricultural efficiency by up to 20 percent.

The Flint River Partnership (which includes the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and The Nature Conservancy) together with the University of Georgia and IBM will support farmers in the Lower Flint River Basin of Georgia in making more informed irrigation scheduling decisions to conserve water, improve crop yields and mitigate the impact of future droughts.

The Lower Flint River Basin is one of the most diverse and ecologically rich river systems in the southeastern United States. The area is also the epicenter of agriculture in Georgia with its 27 counties contributing more than $2 billion in farm-based revenue annually to the region’s economy. Irrigation is central to production and because of the area’s unique hydrogeology, maximizing water conservation helps support sensitive habitat systems. 

Building upon a successful irrigation model and other water conservation measures already in place, the Flint River Partnership is using IBM’s Deep Thunder precision weather forecasting to help farmers conserve water and improve crop yields. Because the forecasts will be available on mobile devices, farmers will have 24-hour access to critical weather information in conjunction with other relevant field data. The Partnership is also leveraging IBM Softlayer to manage data flows and automate irrigation recommendations, allowing farmers to determine how much water a specific crop needs at various stages of its life cycle. 

“Our job is to help farmers conserve water. Irrigation scheduling based on highly accurate weather forecasts and real-time field data will optimize decision making and consequently reduce resource use,” said Marty McLendon, chairman of the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District. “Having access to such forecasts and field data on a mobile platform makes the data relevant, so that we can make proactive irrigation scheduling decisions on the fly.” 

Innovative Resource Conservation for Agricultural Production Systems 

The integration of complex data streams generated by GPS-enabled farm equipment and in-field sensors with IBM’s Deep Thunder weather forecasting technology delivered to mobile devices will provide 72-hours advance notice of weather in the Flint region, allowing farmers to be more prepared to make decisions on when to irrigate, plant, fertilize, and deploy labor resources. 

“Farming operations are highly sensitive to weather. In the US, that sensitivity is about $15 billion per year. For example, the USDA estimates that 90 percent of crop losses are due to weather. In addition, improving efficiency in irrigation will reduce the impact in areas with limited water supplies. By better understanding and then predicting these weather effects, we can help mitigate these impacts,” said Lloyd Treinish, Distinguished Engineer & Chief Scientist, IBM Research. “Innovators like the Flint River Partnership are showing how they can leverage IBM’s advanced modeling and analytics to increase crop yields. When we consider the need to increase food availability to a growing population, their leadership is helping to create a more sustainable approach to agriculture.” 

About IBM Big Data and Analytics 

IBM has completed more than 30,000 analytics client engagements and projects $20 billion in business analytics and big data revenue by 2015. IBM has established the world’s deepest portfolio of analytics solutions, deploys 9,000 business analytics consultants and 400 researchers, and has acquired more than 30 companies since 2005 to build targeted expertise in this area. IBM secures hundreds of patents a year in big data and analytics, and converts this deep intellectual capital into breakthrough capabilities, including Watson-like cognitive systems. The company has established a global network of nine analytics  solutions centers and goes to market with more than 27,000 IBM business partners. For more information about IBM Big Data & Analytics, visit www.ibmbigdatahub.com

Follow IBM Big Data & Analytics on Twitter: @IBMbigdata and @IBMAnalytics.

About SoftLayer, an IBM Company

SoftLayer, an IBM Company, operates a global cloud infrastructure platform built for Internet scale. With 100,000 devices under management, 13 data centers in the United States, Asia and Europe and a global footprint of network points of presence, SoftLayer provides Infrastructure-as-a-Service to leading-edge customers ranging from Web startups to global enterprises. SoftLayer’s modular architecture provides unparalleled performance and control, with a full-featured API and sophisticated automation controlling a flexible unified platform that seamlessly spans physical and virtual devices, and a worldwide network for secure, low-latency communications. For more information, please visit softlayer.com. 

About the Flint River Partnership 

Conservation powered by innovation is the next step in the long-term preservation of our natural resource base. Agricultural producers are stewards of the land, and their adoption of technology-driven conservation practices is opening new frontiers in precision agriculture. Our team is geographically based in the Lower Flint River Basin of southwest Georgia and led by the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and The Nature Conservancy in cooperation with an all–star team of agricultural producers and researchers. Our mission is to design, develop and deploy accurate and user–friendly conservation measures to enhance farm efficiency, reduce natural resource use, and generate forward momentum toward a new iteration of data–driven agriculture. Since 2004, our conservation team has worked with agricultural producers to deploy new and innovative conservation measures on more than 200,000 acres. Measures include the low-pressure drop nozzle retrofit with end gun shut off, advanced irrigation scheduling, and GPS-driven variable rate irrigation. Our shared objective is to reduce water use by more than 20% across a diverse cross–section of irrigated agricultural landscapes in Georgia.

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