HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Wine doesn't just pour all by itself. It's a year round effort to make it at Keel Farms in Thonotosassa.
And this winery is using new technology to help save water for all of us.
Clay Keel's family has owned the farm for nearly 40 years. He's now taking it in a modern direction.
"I think as a farmer, I'm a bit more progressive than some of the others out there," Keel said.
Among the changes, Keel installed a new weather station. It reads soil probes that are placed in the ground. With that, Keel has real time information he can use to water his thousands of blueberry plants. That information is sent right to his phone, which is very important this time of the year when temperatures drop.
"When we have to worry about losing fruit to freezes, how much we're trying to protect the crop with water. We're able to forecast all of that and do it at a much more precise level," Keel explained.
With the new technology and information, that saves water for all of us.
Had a great time visiting Keel & Curley Winery! They are using a grant from the @SWFWMD to help save thousands of gallons of groundwater a day. This new weather station and solar water pump are some of the new equipment Keel Farms is using. @BN9 pic.twitter.com/n9oHEVEvNK— Tim Wronka (@TimWronka) January 12, 2021
The farm received a grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to put in the new equipment.
Through their FARMS program, the district works with growers to help them use less groundwater. FARMS can pay about 75% of the cost with this new equipment.
"Saving groundwater helps everyone. Every gallon that comes out of pond, or is saved by a weather station, is a gallon that doesn’t come out of the ground," Matt Vinzant with the Southwest Florida Water Management District said.
Through the grant, Keel also installed a solar water pump. That pump takes water out of a nearby pond to irrigate the blueberry plants. It saves groundwater and gives the plants a more precise amount of water.
The project also helped keep Keel busy when things were quiet due to COVID-19.
"This has been a perfect time to do things like this. Where we have some time on our hands, keep people working. Let’s go out and do something new," he said.
The new equipment can help save more than 5,000 gallons of water per day.