How tech-savvy is your irrigation department?

June 29, 2023 -  By
Smart irrigation features can add new revenue streams to your business. (Photo: Rain Bird)

Smart irrigation features can add new revenue streams to your business. (Photo: Rain Bird)

With a proliferation of “smart” devices, Wi-Fi-enabled technology has integrated itself into everyday life. Some irrigation contractors have been slow to adopt or capitalize on this trend and risk overlooking business and sales opportunities.

The irrigation industry focuses on sustainability and water conservation. And with this core mission in mind, manufacturers added smart functions — including Wi-Fi-enabled features — into their products.

“While we all do it a little differently, these technologies afford what that old Ronco infomercial used to say: ‘Set it and forget it,’” says Rain Bird’s Joe Porrazzo, marketing group manager for controllers. “That’s a huge draw for the platform and a very important function for professionals and users alike.”

Consumer interest

Data trends reveal that consumers are open to and desire this technology. For example, Americans spend more than 5 hours on their mobile devices daily, with 48 percent admitting they’re addicted to their smartphones, says Kevin Battistoni, national customer experience manager at Hunter Industries. Moreover, in 2022 the smart-home industry was estimated at around $30 billion and projected to reach $52 billion by 2027, according to

“What most contractors fail to recognize is that everything and anything that can talk to someone’s mobile device is desired,” Battistoni says. “This creates the initial want or need (in consumers) for this technology because anything that talks to your phone feels right.”

It’s up to irrigation contractors to capitalize on this consumer trend. Some irrigation pros aren’t as confident discussing “the world of connected devices and wireless local area networking and Wi-Fi” as they are discussing the technical aspects of irrigation, Battistoni says.

“They’re going into the situation thinking, ‘I don’t want to look like an idiot,’” he adds.

Mobile first

So why sell Wi-Fi? It provides customers with a service level that wasn’t feasible before this technology became widespread. At its base level, Wi-Fi-enabled controllers monitor the electrical and hydraulic integrity of the irrigation system in real-time, which is a billable service. So, a broken pipe, a stuck valve, a shorted solenoid or a faulty wire connection immediately alerts the homeowner and the irrigation contractor in tandem.

In addition, when paired with weather data, this technology considers an algorithm of temperature, wind, humidity and precipitation probability for a predictive trigger the contractor sets up for more accurate and responsible water usage.

“It paints within the lines that the professional has set up knowing how much water is needed,” Battistoni says. “And it uses that accurate data to fine-tune the system.”

New revenue opportunities

Contractors find additional revenue opportunities in the relative ease of retrofitting existing systems with Wi-Fi modules.

“We saw contractors who created a new sales process in their businesses where they hired college interns to go door to door in subdivisions that had Rain Bird controllers and offered to set up Wi-Fi for a nominal fee,” Porrazzo says. “Because the install takes 10 seconds, they could add $150 to $200 worth of revenue on a door-to-door basis with fairly minimal work.”

Lastly, keeping homeowners updated weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually leads to monitoring and reporting fees, which can be a new revenue stream.

“A contractor can charge $75 annually to monitor the system’s hydraulic and electrical integrity, making adjustments and/or suspensions to the system, as well as being available via text or email to answer questions,” Battistoni says. “Let’s say the contractor has 3,000 customers — that’s potentially an additional $225,000 in new revenue.”

Those contractors still unsure about Wi-Fi technology must reconsider the benefits of becoming more tech savvy and strengthening their position as well-versed irrigation pros in the eyes of their clients.

“This technology is here to stay, “Porrazzo adds. “Our industry will only continue to adopt it more in the coming years.”

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