How irrigation contractors rise to the challenges facing the industry

November 1, 2023 -  By

I can’t imagine other trades challenged to innovate and develop as fast as we have in the landscape industry. All trade partners, including contractors, distributors, manufacturers and related organizations, must stay competitive and on the cutting edge.

Landscape maintenance contractors must train, develop and retain all labor to our vital field workforce. Manufacturers and distributors have had their own challenges, including meeting or exceeding government demands through tight sustainability initiatives while attempting to squeeze out net profit margins through custom software, inventory management and redeveloping and building new relationships.

I believe our industry is absolutely killing it.

How we’re meeting the challenges

While I’m only 14 years into what I know will be a rewarding career, I can acknowledge the opportunities available to this industry over the next several decades will transform our outdoor environments dramatically. The demand and expectation for our industry to conserve water and reduce our carbon footprint will become normal and routine.

Fortunately, we — as an industry — are starting to redefine and in some cases, pivot on what our new landscape designs should and should not incorporate. We have seen newly adopted design trends being reversed and recalculated.

For example, perhaps large swaths of artificial turf aren’t good for our groundwater and overall soil health. Perhaps installing acres of nonpermeable pavers and concrete isn’t good for our natural watersheds and can greatly impact natural water diversion and our waterways. Perhaps installing a 10-year useful life drip line under 30-year ground covers isn’t all that sustainable.

But let’s be optimistic. New irrigation and water management technologies such as smart controllers are flooding the industry at an incredible rate and both manufacturers and end-users are doing their part to ensure the property owner is reaping the intended rewards.

Yes, we are absolutely killing it.

What lies ahead

So what’s next? Our industry innovations, trends and overall project design will continue to start with the landscape architect and designer who ultimately determines the plant types, plant counts and site-specific outdoor water requirements regardless of whether the project is a new construction or a renovation. For example, California will require landscape designs to meet or exceed new government regulations and ordinances that essentially supersede the architect’s goals and objectives for the property.

Simply put, site-based plant water requirements, overall landscape size and layout will dictate where our irrigation manufacturers decide to invest, innovate and develop their product lines.

Examples of this include:

  • The deployment of high-capacity two-wire smart controllers.
  • Flow sensor manufacturers improve the sensor’s ability to capture low flow rates on low-flow stations.
  • Smart controller manufacturers dialing in weather-based scheduling algorithms including forecasting ET values and incoming effective rainfall.

And my personal favorite, manufacturers attempting to increase distribution uniformity on rotary nozzles while also decreasing precipitation rates closer to our soil intake rates.

As we all continue to do our part to transform our landscapes, I challenge you to innovate and continue to develop your skill set. Build new relationships, try out new products and even network with your biggest competitor.

We also can lean on our other industry partners including the Irrigation Association, the National Association of Landscape Professionals, state associations and others to be the glue that binds us together. We can and will utilize each other to bring awareness, exposure, training and ultimately new opportunities to this amazing industry.

Working together is the key to business success and a healthy and productive industry. This is why we are better together.

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