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Irrigation apps to the rescue

February 10, 2021 -  By
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Irrigation contractors have a lot of information to process, including field data, geographic information system (GIS) maps and smart irrigation systems, and they’re taking advantage of the latest in app technology to manage it all.

“We select apps that will make it easier for technicians to do their best work, and we look for apps that enhance our ability to communicate clearly and expeditiously with our clients,” says Chad Sutton, water resource manager at Gachina Landscape Management. “We also look for apps that help with the bottom line, so we can reinvest into more important areas, like training our irrigation team. We want to reduce our paper waste and use of copiers and ink, along with filing cabinets full of data that is hard to find and takes time to access.”

Landscape Management spoke with Sutton and Max Moreno, director of water conservation at Bemus Landscape, about the apps they use most frequently in their irrigation operations.

For programming, adjusting and testing irrigation systems:

Screenshot: WeatherTrack

Screenshot: WeatherTrack

WeatherTrak Mobile
Free with WeatherTrak controllers

Sutton: We chose the Weather­Trak Mobile app because we are premier partners with HydroPoint, and we manage almost 500 of its controllers online and in the cloud. The mobile app is an amazing tool to help us program, adjust and test our irrigation systems right from our iPhones. We can get real-time alerts, flow information and other diagnostic information to inform us of issues and help resolve them as soon as possible. The app is quickly replacing our need to go to the full website because it has so many great features, with more on the way soon.

Screenshot: Weathermatic SmartLink

Screenshot: Weathermatic SmartLink

Weathermatic SmartLink
Free with Weathermatic controllers

Moreno: We partnered up with Weathermatic. It’s like WeatherTrak with HydroPoint, but with SmartLink, they’ve built a water management feature where we can also program smart controllers, look at the data and use their automated software to create proposals and do inspections. You can think of it as a big water management suite.

For GIS maps:

ESRI ArcGIS platform
$350/year and up

Sutton: We chose ESRI’s ArcGIS platform specifically because it comes with really good apps for the iPhone, which we have deployed to our whole team. All of our irrigation maps have been converted to digital GIS

Screenshot: ArcGIS

Screenshot: ArcGIS

files and are now available on every technician’s phone. Any changes to the maps are real time, and the edits are seen immediately by everyone. The app allows us to manage our clients’ infrastructure better by helping us be more organized, finding assets more easily and having a clear understanding of the details. The app includes turn-by-turn directions to help new employees locate assets quickly and easily. It integrates your location and GPS so that you can navigate to find assets once on the site. It’s been a very powerful tool and one that our clients have embraced as users as well.

For measuring sites with drone technology:

Screenshot: DroneDeploy

Screenshot: DroneDeploy

DroneDeploy
Starts at $99/month

Moreno: We’re starting to use drone technology for measuring landscape areas and conducting surveys of the irrigation from above. In California, we have a lot of slope areas that are hard to access, so we set up the drone to get that information for us. You can see thermal imaging and the dry areas and the wet areas for irrigation. We use the basic pro level, which gets us 1,000 images and allows us to measure out all the landscape areas. You can also add on apps within DroneDeploy to add plant count and tree count.

For managing inspection data:

GoCanvas
$55/user for professional

Screenshot: GoCanvas

Screenshot: GoCanvas

Sutton: We chose GoCanvas to replace our paper-based inspection and repair forms and try and go 100 percent digital in our communication to clients. We take before-and-after photos of repairs, document locations with integrated mapping and give detailed breakdowns of issues encountered. Having used Excel spreadsheets and paper forms in the past, we knew our pain point was managing that paper. We had to reenter data, scan paper forms and keep track of it all in filing cabinets. Moving to GoCanvas lets us streamline that process, eliminate waste and raise our professionalism to a much higher level. Our clients really appreciate the clear and concise communication that flows out of this app.

For customizing workflows:

Screenshot: Appsheet

Screenshot: AppSheet

AppSheet
Starts at $5/user for premium; business and enterprise solution pricing by request

Moreno: We were an early adopter of using cloud-based Google Suite and using Chromebooks companywide, so we looked for alternatives to do as much as we can on the cloud. Google bought AppSheet last year. I got to know the owner of AppSheet, and I became a beta tester.

Basically, it puts a layer on top of a spreadsheet to create an app. It’s been great, and you can customize it however you want. You can do GPS locations and pictures, and you can automate workflows and have it email or save PDF documents.

We started using it for our irrigation techs and started creating our own apps to be able to see GPS locations for technicians and take pictures. Once it’s all done, they’re able to hit save, and then the data is uploaded into our Google Suite. From there, it creates workflows, for example, going into our internal checklist of jobs, then adds a picture and turns it into a nice little format.

We have about 400 users of AppSheet companywide. We started using it for our street crews and account managers; it’s very versatile. There are unlimited uses — we’ve also been using it for our pesticides here in California, since we have to alert the customer 48 hours in advance before we apply. With AppSheet, we’ve set it up so it sends (the emails) automatically for you.

Abby Hart

About the Author:

Abby Hart is the managing editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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