The Hollywood of Arizona Farming

By: Karess Melanie

Is it true that you can grow crops without water? Wait, is it true that you can grow crops indoors?

This is true for some farmers in the Grand Canyon state.

New agricultural techniques were developed as a result of the water problem in Arizona to save the state's crops.

Many Arizona farmers are wondering which farming approach is the best solution to the situation.

Farmers are beginning to experiment with new crop-growing techniques, such as vertical farming, sprinkler irrigation farming, and LEHR (Linking Ecosystem & Hardware for Regeneration) gardening.

The Avondale-based OnePointOne vertical farming startup utilizes 99% less water and allows certain seasonal crops to be cultivated all year in a controlled setting.

 LEHR Gardens, situated in Phoenix, Arizona, is another farming approach. The purpose of LEHR is to allow non-farmers with a backyard space to produce vegetables in order to establish "food security."

Vertical farming is the process of growing crops in vertical layers indoors with artificial light, water, and humidity management.

In order to save water, Arizona decided to reduce the amount of water the state takes from Lake Mead.

Central Arizonans who use Colorado River water face the greatest losses since their priority rights are smaller than those of Western Arizonans and Californians.

Arizona will face a Tier 2a water shortage, which will affect approximately 40% of the water distributed through the Central Arizona Project canal and approximately 21% of the water from the Colorado River in Arizona.

This is not music to the ears of Arizonians, who have been severely touched by the water issue. "Arizona's main argument at this point is based on fairness and the idea that conditions on the river (in Colorado) have fundamentally changed," said Kathryn Sorensen, Director of Research at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

The global hunger crisis inspired the OnePointOne journey.

This method uses nutrient-rich mist and a small amount of water to ensure that plants receive the necessary vitamins to grow healthy products.

Vertical-plane-aeroponics, according to the OnePointOne website, is "100% free of pesticides and herbicides" and "250x more plants per acre."

OnePointOne utilizes Artificial Intelligence to maintain crops, reducing the need for human labor.

When asked about vertical farming, Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture Executive Director Paul Briely responded on the flip end of the spectrum, “it is very energy intensive …I don't see it as the future” Briely said.

According to Williams, this method of agriculture saves 80-90% of the water required by other methods. Williams also highlighted how the water issue does not affect his farming methods because tap water is not the primary source of water.

“We can produce food using considerably less water… it's a garden that waters itself,” Edmund Williams said, the inventor of LEHR Gardens.

Rainwater is all that is required for crops cultivated in a LEHR Garden to thrive.

This farming ecosystem may include fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats, eggs, earthworms, and other products.

What appears to be overlooked is how Arizona's agricultural decline will affect produce both locally and globally. Yuma produced 90% of the leafy greens and other green vegetables consumed in the United States and Canada between November and April, according to the Arizona Farm Bureau.

So, what's considered a good farming technique?

According to Briely “really maximizing efficiency and productivity… I say crop per drop, so how much crop do you produce per every unit of water.”

According to the KYl Center , approximately 18% of the water is provided by in-state rivers, 36% by the Colorado River, 41% by groundwater, and 5% by reclaimed water.

To prevent the water levels in these reservoirs from dropping to dangerous levels, the Colorado Basin states, Mexico, and the United States government have entered into a series of agreements over time.