Investment in irrigation systems can provide peace of mind for growers

Inman Irrigation of Aberdeen offers latest in technology

Connie Sieh Groop
Special to the Farm Forum
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Fields across the world depend on moisture to make crops flourish. Some years there is an abundance of rain. Other years, the ground cries out for rain. Being able to provide water to growing plants when they need it and in the amount the plants require for optimal growth is an important tool for farmers.

In the 1970s, technology developed center pivot irrigation systems, capable of pulling water from wells and bodies of water and spreading water across fields on demand. Inman Irrigation started in 1975 in Aberdeen to provide irrigation systems to those in the farm community along with residential lawn irrigation.

“The biggest benefit to irrigation is that it’s like an insurance policy,” Tim Swisher said. “It gives farmers the ability to give crops the shot of water when they need it.”

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Swisher and Peter McDowell own this company which works with producers to evaluate the need for systems. Their staff of six has 75 plus years of combined experience in commercial, residential and agricultural irrigation systems. In 2016, Inman Irrigation moved from their long-time location near the Aberdeen Mall to a more rural location at 421 392nd Ave, just off U.S. Highway 12 east of Aberdeen.

Farmers are used to technology making systems pretty easy to operate. “The technology makes a world of difference,” Swisher said. “We still repair the old tech, but also have systems that are wireless making use of GPS. The technology allows us to do a lot of the installation work through the use of laptops and routers while sitting in a pickup truck at the field.”

The company uses product from Valley Irrigation of Nebraska which is a worldwide leader in precision irrigation, AgSense of Huron, and Nelson Irrigation located in the state of Washington.

As innovations in farming increase, specially designed systems can take the guesswork out of knowing when to apply moisture. The features of AgSense telemetry offers remote irrigation management using devices such as a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. Probes in fields can relay the information to smart phones or tablets so the grower knows when to turn on the system. Farmers no longer have to go to a field with a shovel to determine how the soil “feels.”

“Irrigation gives the farmers peace of mind. Some depend on the crops for feed, so with irrigation, he knows he’ll have a crop he can feed his animals. Corn and alfalfa require the most water; with soybeans, it’s more about the timing of the water. We’ve installed a few systems for specialty crops.”

This year’s low commodity prices and the economic situation have reduced the demand for irrigation systems. Like others, the company has adjusted as they took on other projects and continue service to those needing upgrades and repairs. Their warehouse has a full inventory of parts for those systems in need of repair or retrofitting.

“Many systems installed in the late seventies are still up and running. We’re able to provide upgrades and make the system work with new technology.”

The toughest part of installation, according to Swisher, is designing it and getting it laid out. If the design is good, then the installing can be seamless. They set most up on a quarter section of land which is the most cost-efficient designs. They can do any configuration that the customers like.

Once the design work is complete, well drillers dig test holes to look for water and make sure they can pump the water. The owner applies for a permit which takes at least 60 days at the state level. Once approved, the crew can put in a system in a few weeks.

“It’s hard to say how much return that customers will see. A great deal depends on the price for the commodity. If corn goes up, then there will be a bigger boost. From what I’ve heard, farmers believe putting in irrigation is a better investment than buying more land. It’s more cost effective to improve the land you have compared to buying more.”

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Another advantage of today’s systems is the ability to provide the application of nutrients when the water flows onto the field.

Power for systems comes from 480V 3-phase public power. Swisher said there is a lot of conversions from single phase lately as the technology for single phase has advanced with solid-state components.

Inman Irrigation also offers cattle cooling systems. “They use the same controller as used for watering the football field or lawns. These systems give the producer the ability to turn it on during those hot, humid days when their animals are suffering. We also work with them on installation of water lines which run to tanks which can fill with water all night, storing the water for the next day.”

With the new technology, the systems are getting better all the time with the ability to control zones and show if it plugs a nozzle. There is artificial intelligence that will tell you when to put on water and how much and allows you to schedule applications.

Keeping the center pivots running is the most important service they provide to their customers, Swisher said. “We have quite a few customers ranging from Redfield to Huron, out to Pierre, Highmore, Mobridge and Mound City. It seems like there are pockets where growers decide the systems are good investments. The producers who are most innovative are the ones most interested in installing systems and see the value of it.”

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