Modern technology manages water consumption and maximizes efficiency.
by Eddie DeSalle, Net Irrigate, LLC
April 16, 2015

Another benefit of current M2M technology is ease of installation, which often leads to lower labor costs compared with the typical expense of installing remote monitoring devices. Some devices have technology that interfaces directly with hard circuitry rather than proprietary controls, facilitating interoperability and making installation less time consuming. The best devices should take around 15 minutes for an equipment dealership employee to install, making it easier for widespread adoption to occur.

Remote Monitoring ROI

The benefits of remote monitoring technology for irrigation systems make a compelling case for a famer to invest, especially if the goal is to minimize environmental impact while increasing production. Farmers with any number of irrigation pumps can use the technology. Providers offer remote monitoring solutions at various price points with costs starting at $1,500.

Some solutions require monthly or annual subscription fees for monitoring services and require contractor installation costs. Others offer an up-front investment with a one-time purchase fee. Users should note potential charges for necessary technology updates and improvements in the future.

With remote monitoring technology in irrigation, the long-term benefits are nearly limitless and paves the way for innovation, increases in efficiency and greater profitability.

Remotely Managing Pumps on the Farm

Mark McCormick farms approximately 5,000 acres scattered across 22 miles of land near Floydada, Texas. He’s a fourth-generation farmer who produces cotton, corn and grain sorghum. This farm requires a substantial amount of watering. The irrigation process occurs for 24 hours per day for weeks at a time, depending on the time of year and environmental conditions.

pivot irrigation systemImage 3. Mark McCormick uses remote monitoring devices on all 22 pivot irrigation systems on his farm to ensure proper watering.

The Problem
In the past, McCormick had to be present at the farm nearly all day to ensure the pumps and pivots were operating correctly. Common problems included power loss or equipment malfunction—which can lead to flooding that wastes hundreds of gallons of water—and crop damage caused by over- or under-watering.

The Solution
In 2012, McCormick was introduced to products that allow irrigators to manage pumps and pivots from the convenience of a mobile app. The product provider estimates that these solutions have the potential to conserve approximately 5 percent of gravity flow irrigation water per year, or about 800 billion gallons of water in the U.S. Additionally, the provider predicts that these products can reduce total energy pumping expenditures by $96 million annually and automotive fuel expenditures for field travel by $22 million.

These products allow irrigators to remotely monitor, start and shutdown irrigation pumps. When used with center pivots, the products eliminate the need for kill wires to associated irrigation wells. Functionalities often include:

  • A virtual timer to set the pump to turn off at a given time online or through a mobile app
  • The ability to remotely start and stop the pump with a mobile app or phone call
  • Thermal overload and power failure notifications can be sent to up to ten recipients through a call, text message or email
  • Notifications when a pump starts or stops
  • A global positioning system that streamlines center pivot management systems
  • Copper wire theft security that allows farmers to better protect the wire on their irrigation systems by immediately sending alerts through phone call, email or text message when a copper wire is cut, which saves thousands of dollars

After initially purchasing a few of these solutions for his pivots, McCormick has since purchased more, now outfitting all 22 pivots and 45 irrigation well pumps with the technology. He typically accesses the mobile apps three to four times per day during watering season and has enjoyed spending time away from the farm more often. He no longer drives more than 100 miles per day to visually check pivots and pumps to ensure that they are working properly. These products allow McCormick to decrease labor, fuel and maintenance costs and increase the application efficiency of irrigated water.