Get a Grasp on Water

March 25, 2011 10:14 PM
Get a Grasp on Water

Remote irrigation has been around for more than a decade, but thanks to new technology such as the iPad it is easier to use than ever before.

Roy Paulman of Sutherland, Neb., adopted remote pivot control technology early on. Originally, he used a pager to control his pivots, then a cell phone, then text messaging. Today, using 20 trackers from Valley Irrigation with 40 wells on a rural electric cooperative, he controls his pivots through the Internet on his iPad.

Using the trackers, he can remotely control when his pivots start and when they stop. He can also see where they are at in a revolution. Irrigation trackers aren’t the only way he controls his pivots, though. Recent technology offered by his rural electric cooperative, Midwest Electric, provides another way for him to remotely control when his pivots come on and shut off.

"We participate in load management programs through our electrical provider," Paulman says. "We can sign up for every-day control, one-day, two-day, three-day control or what they call master metering."

In a load management program, each farmer decides how much power he will need to operate his farm. From the co-op website, farmers have the ability to then assign how much power goes where.

"You go onto their website and say, OK, I want this 1,000 hp to run for two days and then when it goes off, these other motors will start," Paulman says.

When Paulman started using this system, he had only two options for accessing the co-op website: his laptop and his smartphone. He now accesses it with his iPad.

Time and fuel saver. Dan Anderson, a farmer from Haxton, Colo., sees a lot of benefits in using remote irrigation on his farm. All of his corn acres are irrigated, with some of his fields more than 30 miles away from headquarters. Being able to remotely control his pivots would save time and fuel.

"If I can make a trip to check the water every five days instead of every day, I’ll save 280 miles a week," Anderson says. "With $3.25 gas, that’s a significant amount of money."

He is not ready to take the plunge, though. He plans to start remotely controlling water on a few of his fields, with the possibility of expanding to the rest of the farm.

"It’s kinda like GPS," Anderson says. "We started out small and eventually we will be fully GPS-operated. You have to add on a little bit at a time."

He is probably most excited about the chance to be able to sit at home in the evenings and make a final check of water on his iPad without leaving the comfort of his chair.

Like any technology, remote irrigation can experience a few glitches, but, according to Paulman, he has never experienced anything worse than normal electrical and weather issues. He admits, though, that the system isn’t perfect by any means.

"Obviously, there are going to be some inherent risks with 100% remote operation," Paulman says. "Just like there will be risks the day that you control a tractor remotely."

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