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Local Farm Becomes More Sustainable And Reduces Fertilizer For Environment, Cost

3:23 PM, Sep 14, 2018

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Chloe Nordquist, Michael Adam Mora

Part of what causes blue-green algae is fertilizer, which comes from yards and farms. Those nutrients run off into fresh water creating blue-green algae.

Local Farm Becomes More Sustainable And Reduces Fertilizer For Environment, Cost

Vomiting is common when a person ingests cyanobacteria. Plant life in the water will have decreased exposure to sunshine from floating blue-green algae, leading to their death. The blue-green algae reduces oxygen in nearby waters, killing marine life.

The systematic effects of the blue-green algae has cost millions in damages, with SWFL residents and politicians searching for solutions. Some farms in Florida have ambitions to become part of the solution by incorporating more environmentally friendly practices.

Kevin Yue, an environmental engineer for Lipman Family Farms, is measuring the amount of groundwater coming from the ground.

The process will help America's largest field tomato grower use only the amount they need.

“We want to know where every single drop of water goes,” Kevin Yue said.

Too much water pumped can lead to saltwater coming into freshwater aquifers.

“Everyone needs water to survive — but we also want to make sure we don’t drop that water level down too deep," Yue said. "What happens is if you drop that water level down too deep, the freshwater, saltwater starts intruding."

There is a delicate balance that Yue must consider. Bringing saltwater will ruin the aquifers over time.

Water management its one of five parts of their, “Sustainability Program,” the Lipman Family Farms recently started.

Lipman Family Farms seeks to become more proactive in managing its water. It is focusing on how much of the water and if the nutrients are being utilized appropriately. Yue said the company is in the process of converting to drip irrigation systems for its Florida farms. The company projects water usage will be cut in half.

“We’re not out to just use water just to use water,” Yue said. “We’re here to make sure we use the right amount of water.”

Most farms use fertilizer.

“It’s important for us to manage nutrients simply because it does cost money for us to put that out there,” Yue said. “We don’t want to put more what’s out in the fields, than what’s absolutely necessary to grow our crops.”

Plants like fertilizer, but research shows that it doesn’t help the environment. It’s also cost effective to use alternatives to fertilizer.

“We’re not in the business to just waste money,” Yue said. “No one’s in business to waste money. And by using more fertilizer, more chemicals because we’re not controlling our water use and our nutrient use, that’s a waste of money for us.”

As Yue, 38, spoke in the farm field, an employee was working on a nearby water pressure machine.

“Sustainability is all about doing more with less," Yue said, clearly passionate. "That’s the way we look at it."

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