Helping Growers Tackle Irrigation Challenges with A New Kind of Valve Controller

By David Wallace, CEO

U.S. ag irrigation isn’t a monolith

As a company specializing in new irrigation control and irrigation monitoring technologies, we have the good fortune of working directly with growers across North America who produce a wide range of crops. Over and over, we see firsthand how each operation has its own unique irrigation control challenges. What is a commonplace ag irrigation practice in one part of the country would probably seem like complete nonsense to a grower in a different part of the country growing a different crop. The data bears this out, and I recently wrote about how different parts of the country follow very different irrigation practices.

So irrigation for farms certainly isn’t a monolith. 


There are many sub-markets within agricultural irrigation that have almost no technology overlap at all. For example, center pivot irrigation systems cover the vast majority of irrigated acreage in the United States, and there are a few dominant center-pivot irrigation monitoring and control systems available on the market, like FieldNet. But none of these center-pivot control technologies have any measurable use among growers in California using drip irrigation. 

The drip irrigation control market, in turn, features more and more options. With a wide variety of residential and commercial drip irrigation control systems widely available at consumer prices, there are many options for the small grower, indoor horticulturalists, or hobby farmer. 

But for larger operations that need to pay close attention to water consumption, plant water demand, and labor costs, these consumer-grade drip control solutions often don’t fit the bill. 

Several companies have recently brought new options to the market, specifically for vineyards. Lumo (https://lumo.ag/) makes a compact valve and smart irrigation controller with an integrated flow meter, and Verdi Ag (https://www.verdi.ag/) uses large fleets of small valves to break traditional valve blocks into small sections.

A missing piece of the irrigation valve control puzzle

Throughout our visits to farms throughtout the US and Canada, we’ve learned that a huge number of growers face irrigation valve control challenges that are not being addressed by existing solutions on the market. The challenges faced in these scenarios are generally that the valves:

    • Need to be controllable in real-time and on-demand
    • Need to receive open and close signals from other equipment
    • Are separated by long distances from other fields and infrastructure
    • Do not have a dedicated electrical power

We wanted to help growers meet these challenges with a new kind of valve control solution. Unlike consumer-grade irrigation controllers and the new generation of drip systems targeted at vineyards, we focused on developing a valve control solution that met a very different set of requirements for growers who rely on large irrigation valves to control their watering. To meet those requirements, we set out to provide a solution that would:

    • Have its own always-on cellular connection;
    • Have the ability to connect and communicate with pumps and sprinkler systems;
    • Be completely solar powered; and,
    • Work with large (>6”) solenoid valves of any brand, like Nelson, Netafim, and Bermad.

Driving 900 miles a week to open and close irrigation valves

This has changed the game for us and I am grateful!

Richard Moore

Owner, Carolina Turfgrass Sales

Carolina Turfgrass Sales (https://carolinaturffarms.com/) is a prime example of the kind of operation where our valve control solution could lower costs and protect valuable crops. The family-owned operation based in South Carolina is comprised of several farms and fields spread out over more than 50 square miles, with a headquarters roughly in the center. They irrigate with a combination of center pivots and irrigation hose reels, many of which are fed by a shared irrigation well pump. For that reason, the irrigation equipment is alternated each day to provide the crops the appropriate amount of water. Because accidental flooding can quickly ruin their high-value crop, irrigation requires close attention. During the hot summer months, their irrigation manager often drives more than 900 miles per week performing visual inspections and manual valve actuations to switch equipment.

The addition of FarmHQ’s valve control solution, along with pump control and hose reel monitoring, has completely eliminated the need for repetitive in-person inspections and allows a substantial portion of the manual labor to be eliminated as well, saving hundreds of miles of drive time and hours wasted effort each week. Now, the irrigation manager is able to change between different sprinkler systems using the FarmHQ app. He gets immediate feedback from the cellular networked systems. Richard Moore, owner-operator, says of the FarmHQ solution: “This has changed the game for us and I am grateful!”

Jack Hulbert of Skagit Seed Services in Washington State faced a different challenge. During the peak irrigation season, when surface water is not available, Jack draws water from a pressurized municipal water supply at a cost of nearly $2000 per day. FarmHQ’s valve control solution enables his hose reels to automatically close the valve at the supply line, saving hundreds of dollars in water costs per day and allowing his crew to stay in bed during middle-of-the-night irrigation runs

Explore the FarmHQ solution for valves

Interested in a valve monitoring, control, and scheduling solution for your operation? Reach out today to learn how we can help your farm with a new kind of valve controller.