Use of New Technology Helps Ak-Chin Farms Achieve Bountiful Harvest

Ak-Chin Indian Community, Arizona

The Ak-Chin Farms produces crops on almost 16,000 acres, with cotton as its primary crop. Other plants include about 4,000 acres of corn and 400 acres of pecans, along with alfalfa, barley, milo maize, potatoes and more. The farms’ silage crops, which ferment other parts of the crops that would not otherwise be used, are produced for cattle feed. These silage crops serve about six dairies in the area.

According to an article in the Tri-Valley Dispatch, Ak-Chin Farms initially covered about 3,000 total acres until they reached a water settlement agreement with the US federal government in the 1980s. This agreement helped pave the way for the farm’s acreage to increase and grow to its current size of almost 16,000 acres.

Currently Ak-Chin Farms employs between 75 and 90 people depending on the time of year and what crops are being harvested.

Steve Coester, Manager, Ak-Chin Farms

Steve Coester, Manager, Ak-Chin Farms

Over the years, Ak-Chin Farms has kept up with new technology available to the farming industry. These advances help the farms run more efficiently and aid in saving water, too. In 2013, a new GPS auto-steering system was installed within the tractors. The GPS method helps with record-keeping as the system creates graphs in a software application to monitor the fertilization needs and health of the crops, including areas where crops are having growth problems. The farms staff also keeps an eye on its water use and currently uses central pivot sprinklers on a test field. “This technology uses up to 30 percent less water per acre and is used by about half of the farms in the Santa Cruz Valley region,” says Steve Coester, manager of Ak-Chin Farms.

"Technology in farming is a very good thing," Coester said, noting that technology developments enable farmers to "farm smarter, save money and be more profitable."