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Growing Together Summer 2020

Turning Data into Decisions

“It is pretty cool to work for a company that values and encourages being progressive and innovative and allows myself and others to work on entrepreneurial projects using some of the company’s time and resources” – Nathan Azevedo, Grow West PCA

Data is useless if it cannot be analyzed, interpreted, and turned into actionable management decisions for growers. Nathan Azevedo, Grow West PCA, saw this firsthand with the growers he was consulting with along with his own family’s operation. This challenge prompted Nathan to start his own business, Water Labs. Water Labs is an irrigation consulting business providing management recommendations for a variety of crops based on real-time data from your fields and backed by University research. Azevedo analyzes the raw data and pulls it together into a user-friendly format that growers’ access through an easy to use mobile app.

How It Works

The foundation of the Water Labs data is built on four pillars – soil probes, pressure bombs, and long-standing University research, as well as trends and professional recommendations. First, soil moisture data is collected through soil probes installed throughout the growers’ fields. Then, pressure bomb readings are taken on plant tissues to evaluate the present condition of water availability in the plant. These two data sets are pulled together to show the current water condition of the ground as well as the plant. This data is then evaluated and analyzed into a summary report for each field or block that indicates the amount of stress the plant could be enduring and provides the grower with an outline of both when and how long to irrigate to recover from that stress.

Below is an example of the summary data Water Labs is providing to growers. Note the various rates of stress are indicated by blue, green, yellow and red and correspond to pressure bomb values on the right axis. Chart formats are easy to read and interpret. Nathan customizes his recommendations based on the management goals of each individual grower.

Why It Matters

Every time a grower irrigates, they create their own growing environment for the crops. There are certain times in the growing season when modified environments are necessary to increase production yield – whether that be increased stress or increased irrigation. When looking at a management program, Azevedo takes into account the potential for disease and insect presence and makes irrigation decisions based on mitigating these influences, while also maximizing yield. Nathan believes in a holistic approach to irrigation management and understands that water management plays a supporting role in both fertilizer and chemical spray programs to ensure proper disease and insect control, and plant nutritional health. He realized that macronutrients like nitrogen were highly dependent on water to be taken into the plant and saw how excess humidity caused by over irrigating could bring on leaf and plant tissue diseases like hull rot and botryosphaeria while under irrigating could bring on insect pests like mites.  This attention to detail and focus on holistic health balance has impacted not only his business, but business for his customers.

Current Water Labs user and walnut grower Conway Couto has found great success with Water Labs “I have had a great experience working with Nathan he delivers accurate soil reading that really impact our irrigation practices for the better. Since working with him I have seen a significant change in growth throughout our walnut orchards. His program is very easy to use and if there is ever a problem, he is quick to sort out the issue. I continue to recommend his services to other.”

Before using Water Labs walnut grower Emmit Pennebaker would eyeball when his orchard needed to be watered which resulted in a lack of deep soil moisture. “I was watering 24/7 to get caught back up and that led me to run into harvest time which created more problems. Now I water when the soil probes readings tell me to and my soil moisture is always on target, my trees are heathy, and my overall water usage is down,” states Pennebaker.

Get Started

To learn more about Water Labs visit their website at

Nathan Azevedo, Grow West PCA and founder of Water Labs, can be contacted at 530-717-0679 or at

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