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Inside View: March-April 2019

What’s in your faucet?


March 15, 2019
By Gary Jones

I’ve been reading a book by Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children. This organization works to eradicate child labour and to empower youth to reach their potential. You may have heard of the Me to We1 events that came out of Free The Children.

Kielburger started this group when he was but a thirteen year old, and the book documents his first trip to Asia, meeting kids forced to work in various ‘jobs’ in conditions that can only be considered slavery. He references the number of children who don’t have access to safe drinking water, and that for many, water represents “life itself”.

I’ve heard it said, and you may have too, that the next world war will be fought over water rather than oil. Yet how much care do we take of this precious resource? How seriously do we take our stewardship responsibilities?

At the time of writing, last week was the Pacific Agriculture Show2, and the associated Lower Mainland Horticulture Improvement Association (LMHIA) Growers’ Short Course. Apart from just being a fabulous opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues, the show and short course time is always a great way to hear about the latest pests, diseases, regulations, crops, ideas and so on, in many areas of our industry. This year’s event also saw the first ‘Cannatech’ educational session. With around 150 people attending, this crop is making an impact. You may have noticed.

Anyway, back to the short course. Keynote speaker on the first day was Christian Kromme, talking about ‘The Future of Agriculture’. With absolutely no disrespect meant to previous years’ speakers or others this year, for me this was one of the most interesting and thought-provoking presentations I’ve been to in 20 years attending. (Hats off to the program organizers and sponsors, as always – you do a fabulous job.) Touching on the ‘DNA of disruptive innovation’, Christian delved into robotics, artificial intelligence and other aspects of technology and the changes that will have a profound impact on agri-(horti-)culture. Check out his website, YouTube channel or TEDx talks.3

But, unless I missed it, he didn’t once specifically mention water. If water really does represent ‘life itself’ to many, surely it’s worthy of a mention when talking about the future of agriculture? The kids of Free the Children would probably think so. The short course provided 92 presentations. Fabulous. One full morning session was dedicated to agricultural water management, and of its five talks, three were around licensing and other regulations. Two focused on the practicalities of water use. Elsewhere, the program offered another three irrigation-specific talks and five or so that made reference to water or irrigation issues. In other words, maybe five of 92 (5.5%) talks over three days specifically addressed how we could better use probably our most valuable, life-giving resource.

The Pacific Ag Show claims to have “over 300 exhibitors”2 and it would be interesting to see how many are directly involved in water. Irrigation companies are obviously regular attendees. Government departments bring annual news of updates to legislation. And new exhibitors are seen each year, for example Maximum H2O brought their water conditioning units this year with claims that these use “magnetic science” to “alter water at the molecular level, revitalizing it, [and] making it more productive.”4 I like the idea that water molecules themselves can be made more ‘productive’. But I also hope that some of the messages from sessions such as ‘On-Farm Biobeds – A Natural Means of Protecting Water Resources’ or ‘Using Drones to Monitor Growth and Irrigation Needs’ or ‘Demonstration of the BC Agriculture Water Calculator’, make us more aware of how to better use this most vital and basic resource. Maybe we have a responsibility to do so on behalf of those who don’t have access to clean drinking water. Oh, and if you didn’t make it this year, pencil in a trip to the Ag Show and Short Course next January 30th – Feb 1st. You’ll be sure to learn something.

  1. 1 https://www.we.org/
  2. 2 http://www.agricultureshow.net/
  3. 3 e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfJNB3lDGRk
  4. 4 Sales brochure, ‘Maximum H2O’.


Gary Jones is co-chair of Horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langley, BC. He sits on several industry committees and welcomes comments at Gary.Jones@kpu.ca.


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