System integration & automation: What’s the manufacturer’s perspective?

Irrigation manufacturers share thoughts on using an integrated system.
EDITED BY ANNE BLANKENBILLER

Irrigation systems and their capabilities are becoming more and more technologically advanced every year. Irrigation Today turned to four irrigation manufacturers on the forefront of system integration and automation technology to get their unique perspectives. We asked each to tell us what they see as the primary benefits and challenges growers experience when using a fully automated or integrated system and how their company believes these technologies improve irrigation efficiency, profitability and sustainability.


Jain Irrigation

Jeff TuelIrrigation system integration and automation in agriculture, at its essence, is about using advanced ag tech to do more with less and finding ways to increase yields without burdening already overtaxed water resources.  At Jain, we view optimized irrigation with highly integrated intelligent scheduling that utilizes satellite imaging, high-resolution weather forecasting, soil moisture monitoring and machine learning as the only path to sustainability. However, rising water costs (+$1,000/ac-ft), inflationary input costs and labor shortages force today’s growers to invest in system automation to maintain depressed profitability. This is all while facing the challenges of overcoming field worker education and technology adoption, not to mention choosing the right supplier when ag tech startup-driven companies fail as fast as new companies enter the market.

Challenging times call for innovative and sustainable solutions supported by tried-and-true technology from companies that will be there for the long haul. With over 15 years of commitment to ag tech, Jain’s technology focuses on providing a holistic approach, ensuring irrigation system distribution uniformity (DU) meets acceptable standards.  No amount of ag tech will overcome poor DU, a fact too often overlooked. Jain’s broad suite of automation technology is deployed in over 25,000 locations globally, saving users billions of gallons of water and millions of dollars in labor and costly inputs, providing sustainable economic and environmental returns. Jain believes a true partnership with growers using our integrated data-driven agronomic tools is the answer to achieving the full potential of water-use efficiency and “More Crop Per Drop.”

Jeff Tuel
Executive Vice President
Jain Distribution Holdings


Netafim USA

Mike HemmanTechnology development and adoption in all parts of our lives are on the rise. We are seeing widespread usage of autonomous vehicles, utilization of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and it is now commonplace to have “smart homes” that help us save energy and water every day.

 Farmers throughout the United States, and the world, are now able to fully automate their irrigation systems by utilizing the latest digital farming technologies. However, realizing the full sustainable benefits of a fully automated irrigation system comes with its own challenges. Automated irrigation systems can apply precise amounts of water and nutrients through a site-specific recommendation based on the crop’s development stage. This is an important benefit that can lead to yield and quality improvements, but this represents a fundamental change in agronomic decision-making. Both industry and farmer education are necessary for any system to work, including a fully automated system.

Sustainability is at the core of everything we do at Netafim. Included in any sustainable model is the profitability of the farmer. Not only do automated systems save water while increasing yield, they also lower the farmer’s dependance on labor. Ensuring the biodiversity of the land, while saving natural resources and increasing yield, should be a goal of every farmer. Technology and agronomic expertise delivered through companies like Netafim and other precision agronomy companies are helping us to realize these goals. Companies in the agricultural industry will need to continue to cooperate and work together to increase the commitment to sustainability in order to make our goals a reality. It truly is an exciting time to be a part of the irrigation industry!

Mike Hemman
President and CEO
Netafim USA


Lindsay Corporation

Reece AndrewsGetting more value from every drop of water requires a constant daily, or even hourly, feedback loop that analyzes inputs, uses proven science and irrigation methods to create recommendations, and reliably and automatically generates irrigation programs that growers can easily and quickly execute to attain the highest levels of sustainability.

That level of monitoring isn’t possible for most growers, whose operations are increasingly complex and demanding, without some degree of automation. Irrigation management solutions are designed to provide growers with simple science- and data-based irrigation recommendations to help maximize yield potential while reducing unnecessary input costs. Combining this vital data with a user-friendly interface allows recommendations to be immediately put into action without the need to create irrigation programs by hand.

Our philosophy when it comes to automation is a commitment to building solutions that are flexible and reliable for any grower. As a global company, we recognize that no two fields are alike and that our growers are the ultimate experts in their operations. We offer highly customizable solutions that can include various degrees of automation, depending on the comfort level of the user. We also provide accurate and actionable recommendations that can be implemented with the touch of a button on a smart device. 

At Lindsay, we’re also rethinking automation beyond just water application, including machine diagnostics and advanced field and crop monitoring, to drastically reduce downtime and save growers time and labor.

Reece Andrews
Product Manager, FieldNet and Zimmatic Controls
Lindsay Corporation


Valley Irrigation

Aaron CaugheyThe ag tech revolution continues, and growers who embrace technology like fully integrated pivot irrigation systems are positioned to grow and succeed in the future.

Connected crop management integrating pivots, remote management, scientific irrigation scheduling, variable rate irrigation and artificial intelligence help growers produce more with less, giving them a big-picture view of their operation to make more informed decisions. They save time, conserve resources and can reduce costs.

Connected crop management technology helps growers be more efficient in several ways. They can manage their operation from anywhere, remotely access data and troubleshoot, and use reporting to make smarter decisions.

Technology also increases profitability by enabling growers to be more precise, not wasting water, energy, fertilizers, crop protectants — or their valuable time. 

These same benefits also lead to improved sustainability, using fewer inputs and increasing yields. Plus, remote access saves emissions from traveling back and forth.

Some growers may not know where to start or feel intimidated by the options, but your local irrigation dealer can help tailor a package with the features that work for your operation and train you to get started today.

We have been the leader in advancing agricultural productivity, from the first center pivots in 1954 to the precision ag technology of today. Decades of thought leadership and technological innovation have helped growers increase food production and conservation of natural resources around the world.

Aaron Caughey
Product Management Director
Valley Irrigation 


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