Being in the irrigation industry for as long as Eagle Signal has been, we are always analyzing what we will do next to respond to industry trends. Almost mindlessly I take my iPhone out of my pocket and begin to tinker with the web to research topics and information for this blog. Then it occurred to me – is the future of irrigation really sitting in the palm of my hand? Can I honestly expect the market to adopt touch screen technology complete with downloadable apps? Does Farmer Ben really care or pay for the ability to upload moisture content and operation schedules from his mobile device to his center pivot on the other side of his field?
I think we get distracted with ads of the latest, sexiest technology on the market. Shiny high definition screens, GPS guidance and complex algorithms certainly help us in the irrigation market to save money (in the long run), but I don’t think we need it.
Consider the actual consumer of center-pivots. Every single one of these owners is hard working and just wants to set up their equipment to run automatically and walk away. But what about the consumer who cannot afford to shell out the extra money for GPS guidance? What about the third world countries beginning to acquire these systems? In these cases, the end user may not need to control his system from his iPhone, or the digital infrastructure may not even exist to support this (i.e. Brazil and the Middle East). A Wired Magazine article seems to hint at this approaching trend: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/09/st_essay_pennies/. A Repeat Cycle Timer remains the best choice.
In these cases, manufacturers must revert back to the tried and true – repeat cycle timers, often called percentage timers or delay timers. These are attractive because of their simplicity. A user simply walks up to the control box and turns a dial to the proper setting and walks away. How long does it take to train someone to do that? Minutes compared to the hours of instruction that would be required to teach operation from an iPhone (not including the wait for the proper digital infrastructure to be built). A simple process like this eliminates all confusion and, in case of physical mishap, is inexpensive to replace. If a thunderstorm happens to plant a bolt right on your system, say goodbye to those fancy, expensive electronics. Have fun waiting on the insurance company to reimburse you. If you have the older system, just head to your nearest distributor, buy a new delay timer, plug in and off you go.
That’s something I can smile about!