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Duck River Agriculture and the advantages of data-driven management

Duck River Agriculture, founded in 2019, is currently one of the largest investors in almond cultivation in Portugal, with 2600 hectares of orchards planted in Idanha-a-Nova and Baixo Alentejo, and is also a new player in the olive oil sector, after having acquired, in 2022, the company Olivais do Sul and its assets: more than 630 hectares of olive groves and a mill, in Portel and Campo Maior.

“The purchase of Olivais do Sul was motivated by the security of the right to water, the estates have almost all their area within the irrigation perimeters and this is rare nowadays in Portugal; other reasons are the possibility of integrating an excellent field and mill team that already exists; the diversification of the business and the expansion into the agro-industrial sector", explains Duarte Correia, managing partner of Duck River Agriculture.

The company's management is based on the permanent collection and analysis of data about cultural operations, application of production factors, and human resource performance, aiming at efficiency and profitability. “The more data we can collect, the better decisions we can make”, guarantees Duarte Correia.

Managing the irrigation and fertilization of millions of almond and olive trees is not an easy task and, for that reason, the company created an Irrigation Department with teams dedicated exclusively to these tasks. It all starts with the collection of information through proximal sensors at three levels: in the soil (capacitive probes to read the soil humidity), in the plant (dendrometers that measure the water stress of the plants by reading micro variations in the diameter of the trunk), and in the environment (agro-meteorological stations). These data are presented in the Irristrat computer platform and App, developed and commercialized by Hidrosoph, supporting Duck River Agriculture's irrigation teams in their decision making. All operations are centralized and triggered from another management platform that communicates in real time with the developers of the irrigation systems installed on all of the company's farms.

"With these tools from Hidrosoph and our irrigation management software we adjust the watering at each moment to the evapotranspiration and therefore to the real needs of the plant. We know on the day what we watered and irrigation is planned for the week, according to weather forecasts and the state of the soil and plants”, explains Duarte Correia.

Duck River Agriculture collaborates with the Association of Irrigators and Beneficiaries of Idanha-a-Nova (ARBI) in measuring water losses in the region's irrigation, by installing flow meters (Parshall canal) in the water lines that drain the farms. "We and the vast majority of farmers in the perimeter are being efficient, but there are high losses of water in the distribution channels before it reaches the farmer," explains Duarte Correia, adding: "our dream is to rehabilitate the perimeter, which is more than 75 years old, by putting the entire water distribution system under pipeline. The project is underway and we hope to be able to start the works with the support of funds from the next Community Framework," concludes the vice president of ARBI.

Source: Associação Portuguesa de Horticultura, 23th January 2023


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