2022 continues to be dominated by droughts, famine and war. Fortunately, Opti-Harvest is trying to help feed the planet quicker and more efficiently under less than optimal conditions.
The six-year-old Los Angeles based company is helping farmers to better use sunlight to increase their yields, improve water-use efficiency, reduce labor costs and mitigate adverse environmental impacts.
Opti-Harvest is donating its technology to Ukrainian grape farms in Odessa in hopes of lessening their war pain and increasing their crop production in these trying times.
Jon Destler, the CEO, is in Washington meeting with members of Congress, the EPA and USDA about food supply, drought, farmers and carbon sequestration.
I spoke with Mr. Destler.
BF: Tell us about how you use light to increase crop efficiency.
JD: We optimize natural sunlight by maximizing the sun’s most productive rays and getting them into the shaded parts of crops. We’re focused primarily on citrus, pistachios, almonds, table and wine grapes for now.
BF: So the Opti-Filter system you’ve devised converts natural sunlight into scattered red enriched light. How does this work?
JD: The science behind how light affects plants is well known. It’s used for indoor cultivation, where you can change the light bulbs to have different spectrums. The cornerstone of photosynthesis is light, and last I checked it’s still free. It’s all about increasing yield. But it’s also about accelerating newly planted crops, getting them into production sooner. So you don’t have to wait as long to get that first crop. This is a powerful physiological response we’re eliciting which also results in stronger root systems, which means higher water uptake. It’s sort of like we’re getting stronger athletes out of these crops, vines, and trees.
BF: So it’s all about the roots?
JD: Well the root system plays a very important role in so many ways. In simple terms, the more roots, the more straws to drink up the water and other nutrients, so less is being leeched down to the ground. Because the way the plant then establishes a stronger root system, the whole system becomes optimized.
BF: The company started in California, right?
JD: Yes. In California, where you have drought conditions, you have fires. When a vineyard gets knocked out of production, they have to plant a new one. Getting back into production quicker is key. Instead of waiting two or three years before you get a crop, getting that sooner, makes a big difference. We’ve typically seen that happen in one season, so we accelerate the development and shorten the time for vines to get into production.
BF: So you can accelerate things, sometimes up to 300%?
BF: What is your relationship with Ukraine?
JD: We are in the process of arranging shipments of some units over to a vineyard there, again, to show how you can help recover from all kinds of challenges. Getting plants to become better established early on, getting into production sooner and having a lower mortality rate and higher production down the road. It’s a win-win. And my hope here in DC has been really to get in front of some of the influential AG legislators — which is an industry that tends to be slow to change — and make them aware of this technology.