From farm to tap

How a Saskatchewan hop grower saw 300% more yield than expected in extended drought conditions. 

Craft brewing is a fast growing market in Canada, and the demand for locally sourced ingredients a key driver in maintaining beer quality.

JGL Shepherd Farms - a pioneering hops grower in Western Canada, introduced Sensoterra soil moisture data after installing a subsurface drip irrigation system, in order to guide the irrigation schedule.

In the face of an enduring summer drought, they saw an increase in crop yield of 3-4 times what was expected. With plans to expand the hops field in the 2019 season, Justin Shepherd intends to bring smart data to his fields.

“Sensoterra probes helps growers identify soil moisture behavior at the root zone. You learn plant behavior to seasonal changes, daily moisture, and growth sequence”

Justin Shepherd, JGL Shepherd Farms


Canola and wheat are the most common crops grown in Western Canada. So when Shepherd decided to introduce hops to his farm as a response to local demand by craft breweries, he was taking a leap into the unknown.

Justin Shepherd
JGL Shepherd Farms
JGL Shepherds hops & Sensoterra

“To be a pioneer demands fast learning about the functionality of new things, with no previous references to guide you.”

He allocated 1.3 acres for a pilot field, growing five varieties of hops, and installed subsurface drip irrigation to prevent evaporation and run-off as well as maintain the longevity of the system.

Growth in the face of drought

Over the 2018 summer, Canadian farmers suffered from an 8-week drought. In order to set irrigation schedules, Sensoterra probes helped Shepherd know exactly when and how much to irrigate.

“We had a fantastic growing season”


The post-drought harvest resulted in yield that was 3-4 times than expected, and Shepherd attributes it to the data from Sensoterra sensors.

The smart choice for IoT

With the rapid increase of IoT as a precision agriculture technique, Shepherd believes the expansion of LoRaWAN connectivity is essential for the future of Ag Tech.

“I’m excited to see the future of IoT, LoRa and soil moisture probes. Their potential to work with high-tech efficiency will add great values for farmers who make use of it.”

With this season’s plans for expansion, JGL Shepherd Farm’s hops are sure to be found across Saskatchewan craft breweries.

“Growers who adopt IoT technology like Sensoterra will be successful with their ability to learn and innovate.”

About JGL Shepherd Farms

JGL Shepherd Farms is a 4th generation family farm with the goal of enabling all Saskatchewan brewers to brew beer with 100% locally grown ingredients. Visit www.jglshepherdfarms.ca to learn more.

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Want to learn more? Download the pdf and read a recent article on JGL Shepherd Farms for more information.

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