Top 7 innovative irrigation products in the past 5 years…says who? VCTO reached out to irrigation industry expert Brent Mecham who serves as the Industry Development Director for the Irrigation Association for his opinion. Prior to the last 6 years with the IA, Mecham spent over 13 years with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District as the Landscape Irrigation Management and Conservation Specialist. He also has a few initials (certifications) after his name including CAIS, CGIA, CIC, CID, CIT, CLIA and CLWM.
Innovative Irrigation Product #1 – Flow Sensing
What makes flow sensing an innovative irrigation product today is real time adjustments and alarms. Today irrigation technicians can be in the field and be automatically notified on their smart phone or tablet what zone the high flow occurred and how the smart controller handled the high flow.
Innovative Irrigation Product #2 – Pressure Regulators for Valves
Irrigation systems are designed to be operated at a specific PSI, but often times field conditions will vary. As the pressure increases the irrigation efficiency decreases and water is wasted in the form of misting. Hunter Pressure Regulators for valves are preset and can solve the high pressure resulting from being downhill from the water source or providing optimum pressure for spray heads which require less pressure for optimum operation than rotors.
Innovative Irrigation Product #3 – Durable Components for Reclaimed Water
What started in the west and in Florida is spreading east. Codes and standards are changing. Potable water is being used less and less for irrigation. There is just too much embedded energy in the process of cleaning water to drinking standards to use for plants.
Potable water may be too good for plants, but using reclaimed water comes at a price. Reclaimed water has higher chlorine content and more dissolved solids both of which are bad for traditional plastic irrigation components (not to mention the plants). Rain Bird has responded with components specifically designed for the harsh properties of reclaimed water.
Innovative Irrigation Product #4 – Push-on Fittings
Say goodbye to PVC cement and solvent with push on fittings. Lasco and Hydro-Rain both make fittings for use used with standard PVC pipe. There are many advantages of push-on fittings including being chemical free and being able to install or repair irrigation pipe in wet conditions. Once installed the system can be pressurized again without waiting. Now if only they weren’t 10 times the cost, but with time the cost gap should decrease.
Innovative Irrigation Product #5 – Smaller HDPE Pipe and Tools
Time will tell whether HDPE or black pipe will be the 8 track tape or the CD. HDPE has successfully been used for years in the gas industry, but is relatively new in the irrigation industry. The advantage is there are no joints so there are no leaks. However, HDPE degradation and pipe failure are increased in warmer environments and higher levels of disinfectants such as chlorine so there are still some improvements to be made. Of course all pipe will eventually fail over time. It is not a matter of if pipe will fail, but when pipe will fail. When HDPE pipe fails the question will be are there any irrigation contractors with the know how and the equipment to repair the HDPE pipe.
Innovative Irrigation Product #6 – Improved Soil Moisture Sensing
The electronics of soil moisture sensing have improved so temperature and salt don’t have the effect on the moisture reading like they once did. Baseline, Acclima, Decagon, Rain Bird, Toro and IRROMETER all manufacture good soil moisture sensors. However, moisture sensors are still sophisticated electronics buried in moist soil so human interaction and monitoring is imperative.
Innovative Irrigation Product #7 – Low Precipitation Rate Heads
At the far edge of the five year time frame for innovation are Toro Precision heads. Winner at the 2008 IA show the Precision heads reduced water rates by 33% which increased infiltration rates and reduced run off. Because the head throws a larger water droplet the spray is also less susceptible to drift caused by wind.
Best Innovative Irrigation Product Yet to be Developed
VCTO: Finally, if wishes were fishes and pigs could fly, what innovative irrigation product would you like to see next?
Mecham: Wireless Irrigation System and say goodbye to copper wires and the controllers as we know it today.
The valves could have a unique MAC address and be programmed in the cloud. A watch could be programmed so when an authorized irrigation tech is near a valve it could be opened at the touch of a virtual button for a manual check. Of course, there is the issue of power, but that is just another opportunity for innovation.
Innovative irrigation products like any other innovations are hit and miss. Sometimes the innovation is great coming out of R&D and other times the innovation needs to go back to the drawing board or sometimes to the junk heap. Tell us about the innovative irrigation products have you tried.