Monday, March 30, 2015

Applying Audience Segmentation to Water Conservation Activities in the Home Landscape: Implications for Extension Programming

Laura A. Warner and Alexa Lamm

Faculty in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication are always looking for ways we can increase the effectiveness of UF/IFAS Extension water conservation programming. Since we know that a “one size fits all” approach is not the most effective strategy, we recommend incorporating principles of audience segmentation to Extension programming. 

Getting Specific
Audience segmentation is an approach to changing public behaviors where Extension audiences are divided into meaningful subgroups and programming is strategically delivered based on a specific group’s needs. This is a great strategy for UF/IFAS Extension to focus our limited resources and remain relevant to our stakeholders’ diverse needs, interests, and motivations while encouraging change that benefits water supply and quality in our state.

Figure 2. People who live in Homeowners' Association may have different needs and prefer different approaches to conserving water. Photo: B. Warner
In the case of home landscape water conservation, an Extension agent could divide the residential audience into subgroups based on their values, the way they like to learn about water, how likely they are to adopt water-savings technologies and practices, or by how much water they currently use. A segmented Extension approach might target subgroups of residents who are most likely to adopt a water-saving device, or might target those people who use the most water. By targeting specific audiences we hope to make the greatest differences with the groups having the largest negative impact or the potential to make the largest positive difference.

Ongoing Work
A research project is currently underway to help us better understand Florida residents who use landscape irrigation, an important target audience for water conservation programming. This project is a collaboration between the UF Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology (CLCE), the UF Center for Public Issues Education (PIE), and faculty from both the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication and Family, Youth and Consumer Sciences. Funding was provided by the CLCE.

The purpose of this research is to learn about residents that use irrigation in their landscapes and look at meaningful ways to segment this audience into subgroups that may have different needs or respond differently to Extension programming methods. The results are being used to make recommendations for incorporating audience segmentation into Extension landscape water conservation programming.

Figure 2. People who live in Homeowners' Association may have different needs and prefer different approaches to conserving water. Photo: B. Warner
Initial findings show that approximately half of the residents who use irrigation reside in Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs). HOA dwellers were found to believe that they have less control over adopting good irrigation practices than people who don’t live in HOAs. These findings and many others are providing insight into this audience’s needs and preferences. Results indicate that there are meaningful differences between subgroups of this audience when they are divided based on their current landscape water conservation practices. One group who is characterized by engaging the most in water conservation practices also interacts the most with Extension. A moderate group who engages somewhat in landscape water conservation practices assigns a greater level of importance to clean water than the least engaged group, and is more likely to avoid purchasing plants that require a lot of water.

Read All About It
Detailed findings will be shared in a forthcoming UF/IFAS Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) publication series, Encouraging Landscape Water Conservation Behaviors. This series is being developed to share research results and address promoting specific behaviors (adopting water-saving practices and technologies) to a specific target audience: Florida residents who irrigate their home landscapes.  These EDIS publications will provide information to help Florida Extension professionals to understand this target audience and guide more effective programming. Look for them as they are published here.

Monday, March 9, 2015

UF/IFAS Proudly Presents: Smartirrigation Avocado

Avocado has joined the ranks of important agricultural commodities in Florida with their own mobile irrigation app. Mobile apps for irrigation offer growers and homeowners convenient access to efficient irrigation scheduling and thus water savings. The newly released Smartirrigation (SI) Avocado, along with citrus, strawberry, vegetable and turf round out the Smartirrigation app suite for use in Florida. 
How does it work?
To use SI Avocado, the grower simply enters the irrigation system characteristics in the orchard. The app then estimates crop water demand and provides irrigation run times and event depths by considering: 
  • orchard location 
  • crop growth characteristics 
  • weather parameters (rainfall, temperatures, relative humidity and wind speed) obtained from the nearest Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) station
  • allowed watering days
Passing the savings on to you: a sample app-generated irrigation schedule
Of course, it would not be a proper app without push notifications, and SI Avocado offers growers a variety of alerts, such as:
  • estimated water savings 
  • changes to irrigation run times  
  • weather forecast  
  • when to turn off irrigation events 
  • weekly reports about irrigation schedules
App-generated weather forecasts let you plan ahead
Does it work?
“The apps provide a 20 to 50% water savings, minimize nutrient leaching and provide energy savings due to short pump run times (thus less fuel) if recommendations of irrigation schedules are followed,” said Dr. Kati Migliaccio, Associate Professor, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Florida. “Water savings for the Avocado app are currently being evaluated in a study in Homestead, Florida, but are expected to be in the same range.”

The goal: maximize outputs, minimize inputs
Download today
SI Avocado is available for use with both iOS and Android devices and is tailored specifically for Florida and Georgia residents.

For more information on the app, contact: Dr. Kati Migliaccio.