Friday, February 26, 2016

On irrigation’s cutting edge with Tampa Bay Water

In the works since last fall, February ushered in a highly anticipated soil moisture sensor (SMS) training in collaboration with Tampa Bay Water and the Florida Irrigation Society (FIS).

The Tampa Bay Water building by sunrise
A Day of Moisture Sensing
As detailed in a previous blog entry, SMS-use in irrigation can result in significant water savings. Buoyed by these facts and long-terms plans to incentivize the installation of irrigation control devices like SMS, Tampa Bay Water hosted Dr. Michael Dukes and his research team for a day of learning about what SMS are, what is their water saving potential and how should different models be used and installed for maximum benefits.

The well-attended event included area contractors, regional UF/IFAS Extension personnel and some water district staff. FIS provided CEUs and six vendors set up booths in the vendor room to display all the available options in soil moisture sensing technology.

Baseline Systems is the model soil sensor currently under research in Orange County, FL.
“Some of those contractors came up after and told me ‘I learned a few things that I didn’t know before.’” Dr. Dukes said later, reflecting on the training. “This is a big win given these guys make their living working in irrigation.”

Tampa Bay Water's David Bracciano launches the day's events
The Digital Plane
From a communicator’s stand-point the training with Tampa Bay Water (TBW) was insightful in several respects. First, TBW maintains a digital presence on Twitter and we were able to effectively collaborate in our event promotion with them via this platform.
And second, we broadcast several parts of the training on the live-streaming app Persicope – peaking at 65 viewers during the outdoor hands-on sessions. Viewer feedback was excellent and we will definitely be integrating this app into our real-time coverage strategy for events like this in the future.

Looking Forward
While there are no set plans for additional trainings thus far this year, Dr. Dukes underscored that “we are available to schedule these trainings to anyone interested in hosting.”

Partners in water saving (from left): Michael Dukes, David Bracciano and Bernard Cardenas