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Successful 2020 virtual offerings propels IA into 2021

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With 2020 officially behind us — and as we reach a full year of managing life and business during a global pandemic — the Irrigation Association (IA) is looking back at the success of new endeavours from last year, while looking ahead to opportunities in 2021.

Like many other organizations, the IA changed course and found new and different ways to continue offering its informative and educational content in a virtual format so that anyone could access it from anywhere. Although we were embarking on somewhat new and uncharted territory, the surprising outcome was that these new offerings were able to reach a broader audience with a wider variety of content.


Education goes virtual

With the cancellation of the 2020 Irrigation Show, the IA developed an all-virtual Education Week+. The Agriculture Industry Insights webinar series spanned six months — from October 2020 to March 2021. People could tune in to a live webinar or watch the recorded version at a later time that fit in their schedule or time zone. All of the Industry Insights webinars are available for purchase to watch online at www.irrigation.org/webinar_series.

As of mid-February, 459 individuals had registered to participate in this series. With an unprecedented selection of topics covered, there was a webinar touching on nearly every aspect of the industry. Offering these webinars has been a great way to broaden the organization’s scope, while allowing people to avoid costly or unsafe travel.

The IA hosted its first virtual conference — the Agricultural Irrigation Summit — in November 2020. This four-hour event featured top irrigation company leaders, a panel of producers and speakers representing the ag industry. The success of that first virtual event propelled the IA through a variety of additional conferences throughout the end of 2020 and into 2021, including a Women in Irrigation Conference, an Irrigation 20/20 event, a Landscape Lighting Conference, a Leadership Summit and a Landscape Technology Conference. Each event provided unique content reaching various segments of the irrigation industry, and anyone interested in the topic was able to register and attend conveniently from their own location.

With the positive feedback received and the availability and ease of technology, the IA hopes to host more similar events in the future.


New product contest

The IA held its annual new product contest virtually in 2020 for the first time ever. The popular contest features ag and landscape irrigation products entering the market in the last year, and it is usually held during the Irrigation Show. By going virtual, the new products and technologies entered in the contest were given expanded coverage through dedicated product profile pages on the IA’s Education Week+ website.

Thirty-one new products and technologies were entered in five agriculture, landscape and specialty categories. Products were evaluated based on innovation, design quality, increased water/resource-use efficiency, ease of use and product life expectancy. Official judging was conducted via Zoom, and video presentations of all products are available online.

  • The winner of the agriculture irrigation category is the All-Flo Pressure Regulator by Nelson Irrigation - The Nelson All-Flo Pressure Regulator has several unique design features that reduce plugging, minimize friction loss and increase accuracy compared to previous designs. It also has increased flow capacity to reduce inventory and installed system cost.
  • The winner of the agriculture specialty category is Sweet Spot Drip Tape by Toro - Sweet Spot is a 6/8-inch ID Aqua-Traxx drip tape. With Sweet Spot, growers get the perfect tape to split the difference between 5/8- and 7/8-inch ID tape, enabling them to achieve longer runs than 5/8-inch tape and lower costs than 7/8-inch tape.


International collaboration

The IA was pleased to play a part in the international irrigation stage through two specific events in 2020. The European Irrigation Association hosted a virtual European Irrigation Forum in November. The conference was a success, with approximately 75 participants from European countries, China, India, Russia, United States and Israel. I was invited to present on the Irrigation Association’s multiple activities and the impact of 2020’s events on the U.S. irrigation industry.

I also participated the Irrigation Association of China’s 2020 annual meeting that was held in December. The livestreamed event gathered over 200 representatives of IA China’s membership companies along with governmental officers, industrial experts and guest speakers.

Through a prerecorded and translated presentation, I discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. irrigation industry and how the association has handled it. Though online meeting platforms have been around for years, the unique circumstances of 2020 drove this type of collaboration and information-sharing among those involved in irrigation worldwide. With technology that is available — and now readily used by everyone — there is no reason why these types of international events can’t be continued in the future.


Looking ahead to 2021

The IA began offering all-virtual education out of necessity. Although we had hosted podcasts, webinars and learning-on-demand before 2020, it was nothing compared to what was offered following the onset of the pandemic. The response from the Education Week+ programming has been very positive, with interest in it continuing. The formats available for this type of education will only improve and expand, allowing us to provide even better ways to connect with the industry and provide beneficial education and valuable information about the latest in the industry. Watch www.irrigationshow.org and www.irrigation.org for information to come about our new exciting offerings.

At the same time, we look forward to the day when we can all gather together safely face to face. The IA is currently making plans for the 2021 Irrigation Show and Education Week in San Diego, California, Dec. 6-10. Special arrangements are being made to allow for social distancing and other adjustments to ensure the safety of attendees. Moving ahead, we hope to continue to provide a hybrid of options to reach as far into our industry as possible. By offering unique opportunities online, as well as
in person, we can further our mission to promote the efficient
use of irrigation. 

This article originally appeared in the March 2021 edition of New AG International. Read the full magazine here.

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