Planning for the Future of Ashburton

By Kris Polly

Ashburton District’s rich soil and abundant water make it an agricultural powerhouse, but those resources must be carefully husbanded to ensure economic success and environmental protection. In this month’s cover story, district Mayor Neil Brown discusses Ashburton’s farming prowess as well as the challenges posed by regulation, climate change, and nitrate leaching. 

We also learn about several new developments in horticulture. First, we speak with Mathias Levarek, the CEO of Agrotonomy, which manufactures aeroponic tower farms that drizzle plant roots with nutrients and water. Next, we speak with Dr. Trentee Bush, Jill Heemstra, and Richard M. Wright of Northeast Community College about its Horticulture and Golf Course Management program, which includes significant in-field learning opportunities. Then, we talk to John Scholten, a product specialist at LiveRoof, about its green roofs, which absorb and store storm water, provide desirable green spaces, and can even grow vegetables. 

Chris Roth, the president of Reinke Manufacturing, tells us about some of the company’s recent technical advances, from the installation of a laser tower for metalworking to the ReinCoat galvanizing process. 

John Berge, the new executive director of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) for Nebraska, is a Nebraska native and the former general manager of the North Platte Natural Resources District. We speak with him about current trends in Nebraska agriculture and how the FSA can help farmers. 

Rubicon Water, which creates water management solutions based around automated canal gates, is increasing its presence in Latin America. Jorge Ramírez Contreras, Rubicon’s marketing coordinator for Latin America, tells us about how the company is expanding from Chile to Argentina and Costa Rica. 

Shon Rae, the former assistant manager of the Central Oregon Irrigation District, now works in operations at Oregon Spirit Distillers, which uses pure local water and irrigated crops as important inputs. 

Important progress is being made in unconventional horticultural settings, increasing our food supply and strengthening food security. We are glad to bring you the stories of some of the innovators in this field this month. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at