Reduce water consumption in urban agriculture in arid climates

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $20,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/01/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G271-20-W7900
Grant Recipient: Merchant's Garden AgroTech Inc
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Chaz Shelton
Merchant's Garden AgroTech Inc

Information Products


  • Vegetables: greens (leafy), greens (lettuces)


  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Sustainable Communities: public policy, urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    This project seeks to evaluate the water consumption of urban agriculture in arid climates.  Increased climate change has amplified the attention of water consumption in agriculture.  New farming methods are being evaluated with the intent to reduce the use of water consumption while increasing yield to address the growing population's demand for food. Much research provides evidence of the reduced water consumption of alternative farming methods for large scale agriculture.  However, little research has been conducted on the effectiveness of these methods in arid climates for urban farming. With increased climate change comes increased arid land.  More research focused on the viability of farming in arid climates must be performed in order to lower the barriers for new farmers to utilize more sustainable farming practices. This project will evaluate the consumption of water in urban farming in Tucson Arizona.  The research will be conducted at a commercial urban farm, Merchant's Garden utilizing smart-water sensors to aggregate powerful data insights to evaluate the effectiveness of urban farming in the arid climate of Southern Arizona.  Data will be collected in real-time and assessed by technical adviser from the University of Arizona.  The results of this research will provide a foundation for water policy change and cost reduction for farmings in arid climates

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Objective: Increased accuracy of measuring water consumption with Smart Sensors in urban agriculture
      • Measure: Water added to the grow system & water added to the cooling system
      • Baseline: 2016-2018 historical data from Merchant’s Garden
      • Goal: 95% or greater accuracy for 3 consecutive months in Q2 or Q3 of 2020
      • Calculation: ((Sum of Smart meters report) - Monthly City Meter Report) / Monthly City Meter Report
      • Who: Parker Filer, will provide planning oversight. Chaz will implement. Dr. Kacira will review and advise
    1. Objective: Reduced water consumption of urban farming in arid climates
      • Measure: Gallons/Head of lettuce
      • Baseline: Average of 2016 & 2017 Data
      • Goal: 15% reduction in water consumption per head
      • Calculation: System updates on monthly log
      • Who: Technical advisor, Parker Filer, will provide planning oversight. Chaz Shelton will implement. Murat Kacira will review and advise
    1. Objective: Encourage the adoption of urban water rates by development and distribution of a case study
      • Measure: Number of regional stakeholders. Number of stakeholders attending presentation
      • Baseline: 0
      • Goal: 50,000 by the end of the project in Q4 2021
      • Calculation: email open rate and attendance numbers
      • Who: Parker Filer will lead classroom based education. Dr. Kacira will lead conference presentations. Chaz Shelton will city engagement  
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.