Irrigation Innovation Consortium Awards Seven Grants

Fort Collins, Colorado

  • Sustainable Water Management

FORT COLLINS (March 29, 2021) — The Irrigation Innovation Consortium (IIC), a university and industry collaboration that accelerates the development and adoption of water- and energy-efficient irrigation technology, is funding seven research projects in 2021. Launched in 2018 with a $5 million contribution from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR), the IIC leverages public-private partnerships to maximize impacts from investment in irrigation research. This year, the consortium awarded a total of $533,126 in FFAR funding to selected projects. Through collaboration with partnering institutions and industry, these collaborations are bringing an additional $979,424 in matching funds to support their innovative research and outreach efforts.

As freshwater resources become ever more precious, research in irrigation technology is critically needed to maximize efficiency. Water use efficiency is necessary to ensure resiliency in agricultural and landscape systems. Through the consortium, industry and the public sector co-develop, test, prototype and improve equipment, technology and decision-support systems.  IIC-funded research is equipping today’s turf managers, farmers, and water district managers with cutting-edge, user-friendly tools and technologies that have the potential to transform how water is managed in the future.

“We are excited to include projects with several collaborators from new institutions into the research efforts supported by the IIC,” said Tim Martin, Executive Director of IIC. “We believe that a growing network and increased collaboration is necessary for innovation.”

We are excited to include projects with several collaborators from new institutions into the research efforts supported by the IIC. We believe that a growing network and increased collaboration is necessary for innovation. Tim Martin
Executive Director of IIC

The selected projects are:

  • Integration of Precision Mobile Drip and Variable Rate Irrigation Technologies for Specialty Crop Vegetable Production (Principal Investigator (PI): Charles Rush, Texas A&M University); Industry Partners:  Dragon Line, Valmont, and Dynamax Inc.
    • Dr. Rush’s team is integrating existing irrigation technologies into a new system for improved irrigation water management to facilitate diversification and sustainability of center pivot irrigation cropping systems throughout the High Plains.
    • Budget: $128,333 (Total investment, with match: $393,394)
  • Towards Pivot Automation with Proximal Sensing for Maize and Soybean in the Great Plains (PI: Derek Heeren, University of Nebraska- Lincoln); Industry Partner: Valmont
    • Dr. Heeren’s team is developing thresholds that trigger irrigation events configured for the sub-humid climate of the eastern Great Plains; evaluating an existing patented system; evaluating the accuracy of irrigation sensors; and comparing crop health and water stress of maize and soybean.
    • Budget: $50,061 (Total investment, with match: $113,355)
  • Improved irrigation scheduling combining soil water supply and atmospheric evaporative demand (PI: Trenton Franz, University of Nebraska- Lincoln); Industry Partners: Aspiring Universe Corporation, Arable Lab, HydroInnova LLC, Corteva and PlanetLabs Inc.
    • Dr. Franz’s team is quantifying and comparing the water use efficiency of several common irrigation practices at two study sites in Nebraska.
    • Budget: $83,333 (Total investment, with match: $257,777)
  • Connecting Field-Scale Performance to Watershed Health: The Added Power of Sharing Data (PI: Dayle McDermitt, Nebraska Water Balance Alliance); Industry Partners: Grower Information Services Cooperative and Olsson.
    • Dr. McDermitt’s team is improving algorithms that estimate water delivery through the growing season by using electrical power consumption data for systems that experience static or dynamic aquifer levels through the growing season and communicating the results to irrigators and water managers. The information generated from this research is providing irrigators and watershed managers with knowledge of real-time water use to support optimal data-based management decisions.
    • Budget: $113,083 (Total investment, with match: $256,984)
  • Quantifying Irrigation Water Savings from Multiple Agrivoltaics Configurations (PI: Jordan Macknick, National Renewable Energy Laboratory)  Industry Partner: Jack’s Solar Garden
    • Dr. Macknick’s team is demonstrating and quantifying the potential irrigation savings and cost trade-offs under and around solar panels using different vegetation types at a Colorado farm. In current systems, the deployment of solar panels and agriculture compete for land resources. However, co-locating agriculture and solar panel systems could improve the efficiencies of both.
    • Budget: $60,091 (Total investment, with match: $153,266)
  • Closing the Loop on Sustainable Plasticulture (PI: Charles Hillyer, California State University-Fresno) Industry Partners: Jain Irrigation and DOW Chemical
    • Dr. Hillyer’s team is investigating the economic and technical feasibility of using recycled plastic materials from thin-walled drip tape in thick-walled drip lines to benefit long term investments of perennial plantings such as fruit and nut trees.
    •  Budget: $75,583 (Total investment, with match: $190,132)
  • Precision Irrigation on Golf Course Fairways Using Soil Moisture Sensor and Mapping Technologies (PI: Chase Straw, Texas A&M University); Industry Partners: The Toro Company, United States Golf Association
    • Dr. Straw’s team is demonstrating the benefits of using precision irrigation practices on golf courses, thereby reducing inputs, economic costs and environmental impacts. The researchers are also surveying golf course superintendents nationwide to better understand their willingness to engage in, and approach to pursuing, precision water management on their courses.
    • Budget: $100,000 (Total investment, with match: $225,000)


Projects were selected through a competitive review process that weighed and prioritized projects according to their innovation, scientific merit, inter-institutional collaboration, outreach plans and potential for impact.

The consortium, which is headquartered at Colorado State University, includes four other U.S. land-grant universities: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kansas State University, Texas A&M University and California State University-Fresno. The consortium’s founding and sustaining industry partners are: FFAR, Aqua Engineering, Irrigation Association, JAIN Irrigation, LI-COR, Lindsay Corporation, Northern Water, Valmont, Hunter Industries, Toro, Rubicon, Colorado Corn Growers Association and Senniger Irrigation Inc.

To learn more about the Irrigation Innovation Consortium, visit:


Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

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