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Considering your irrigation ‘ecosystem’

prudkov/Getty Images scenic irrigation at sunset
CONNECTED IRRIGATION: How your pivots and controls interact creates a technology ecosystem. For a healthy setup, the tech in which you invest has to work well across your operation; it’s a conversation worth having with suppliers.
Commentary: Investing in irrigation going forward will involve some interesting considerations.

Walk through Husker Harvest Days, the nation’s only totally irrigated farm show, and talk with exhibitors. You’re likely to hear one word that you may not have considered — ecosystem.

The interconnection of the parts in an irrigation system from water to crops is of growing importance with the rise of new technologies. Over the years, farmers have acquired different controllers and systems depending on price, or farm acquisition, which can muddy the waters of the ecosystem conversation.

Yet that’s what you have to consider. As you look at investing in new “all-seeing” systems that can monitor pivots, model the crop to better use water, incorporate sensors for enhanced management and improve your overall water management, the key is getting different tools to work together.

And the bigger challenge is your investment going forward. What ecosystem do you deploy on your operation? That will bring up a series of questions for your irrigation tech supplier that need to be thought through before writing the big check.

The good news is that major players in the market are investing in the tech, and there’s an eye to making disparate systems work together; they know that farmers often have mixed systems. But beyond those mixed systems, how well does that company’s tech play with others?

Playing well with others
Beyond managing pivots, there’s other information you’ll want to pull into an irrigation management system for better modeling in the future. Farmers have been collecting yield maps for years, with valuable information about what field areas perform best. How can those be rolled into the water management system?

Soil moisture measurement is changing, too, and more companies are coming on board with internet-connected sensors that can provide more valuable information for water management. Does the ecosystem open the door to that kind of interconnectivity?

The tech investment today can be challenging. Your nonirrigated equipment is already a set of rolling computers collecting planting, spraying and harvest information. How that’s put together with your irrigation management system is important as well.

But it’s not a time to wait and see on the tech. Companies are advancing with well-thought-out plans for all those data you’re gathering. The key is having that in-depth conversation with your dealer sooner rather than later, and then putting together a tech advancement plan for your irrigation network.

And beyond “ecosystem,” irrigation “network” should also be a keyword. No longer are pivots a bunch of islands connected to an underground stream. They are a network of watering tools you can see from afar and manage more precisely than ever. This holds great potential for enhanced water management at a time when external forces are looking at how agriculture irrigates.

As you go into the winter, consider your existing irrigation tech, and work on a road map of upgrades that can carry your farm into the future.


TAGS: Crops
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