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Episode 10: Maximizing Water Use Efficiency with Zac Ellis


This episode takes us to Fresno where we visit with Olam Farms senior director of agronomy, Zac Ellis. Zac is in his sixth season with Olam Farms, but he has been around almonds since he was a kid. He discusses the need to continue to push the envelope when it comes to water use efficiency, what that looks like for Olam Farms, and his experiences as a grower collaborator with a huge research effort called T-REX.

The T-REX project is part of the Almond Board of California's Irrigation Continuum of research projects, and it stands for Tree Crop Remote Sensing of Evapotranspiration EXperiment. At its core, the project is trying to answer the basic but complicated question of how do we track how much water each tree needs efficiently and affordably using remote sensing?

“Water use efficiency is the forefront of our concern and our need for innovation. So we're really focusing on that: how we can be more efficient with using the water sources that we currently have.”
Zac Ellis

This multifaceted issue requires a cross-disciplinary research approach. Where an individual project may look at satellite imagery and water use or yield prediction in irrigation totals as examples, this project is bringing them all to the table. This is a major research effort to continue to be even more precise in water use efficiency.

“The biggest value proposition in doing this type of collaboration is just the ability to bring different areas of expertise into the field and get different perspectives on very similar problems. And when we find that we're able to actually collaborate….. these different perspectives bring a whole new set of solutions.”
Zac Ellis
In Today’s episode:
  • Meet Zac Ellis, Senior Director of Agronomy at Olam Farms
  • Learn about the water scarcity Olam Farms is facing and the efforts they are making to mitigate its concerns
  • Explore the T-REX project and the water efficiency research it is exploring
ABC Update

The focus of today’s episode is all about striving to unlock the next level of water use efficiency. But what should not be overlooked, says Tom Devol, is how much progress has already been made in this area. Tom is the senior manager for field outreach and education at the Almond Board. As initiatives such as the T-REX project are underway, there are also tools being developed that growers can use in the near term. Including a new slide rule calculator that will be sent out in a mass mailing with the How We Grow publication, but if you want one ahead of that time, just send an email to and they will get one sent to you.

Reminder: The Almond Conference 2021 is around the corner. Visit to register, book your hotel and stay up-to-date on the latest information. 

The Almond Journey Podcast is brought to you by the Almond Board of California. This show explores how growers, handlers, and other stakeholders are making things work in their operations to drive the almond industry forward. Host Tim Hammerich visits with leaders throughout the Central Valley of California and beyond who are finding innovative ways to improve their operations, connect with their communities, and advance the almond industry.

ABC recognizes the diverse makeup of the California almond industry and values contributions offered by its growers, handlers, and allied industry members. However, the opinions, services and products discussed in existing and future podcast episodes are by no means an endorsement or recommendation from ABC. The Almond Journey podcast is not an appropriate venue to express opinions on national, state, local or industry politics. As a Federal Marketing Order, the Almond Board of California is prohibited from lobbying or advocating on legislative issues, as well as setting field and market prices.