Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Turn down for what? A 2013 recap!

This past year has been quite a ride for me. It marked my 11th year employed with the University of Florida, my 6th year collaborating with Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit (U.C.U.), and my first year of working in the verdant environs of Gainesville, FL.

Getting that drip line B-roll in South Beach tho!
More importantly, however, and the motivation behind this blog entry, is that 2013 saw several efforts and projects come to fruition, and as we move forward, this work can only continue to grow in scope and ambition.

Conferences and symposiums
2013 was definitely a year for meeting and sharing with colleagues. Locally, when she wasn't developing awesome mobile smart irrigation apps, our own Dr. Kati Migliaccio helped spearhead the creation of the South Florida Landscape Irrigation Symposium.

Dr. Kati Migliaccio and Dr. Michael Dukes in conference in Fort Lauderdale
The symposium is a collaborative enterprise among UF/IFAS Extension experts in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, and a private CEU-issuing agency. This year the event convened in the spring and fall in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach respectively. For spring 2014, Miami-Dade will serve as host on May 1st - mark those calendars!
U.C.U. technician Jesus Lomeli holds court in West Palm Beach
When I wasn’t doing visual media work at these symposiums, I was doing visual media work at national conferences! This year I had the unexpected opportunity to attend both the WaterSmart Innovations Conference and the Irrigation Show and Education Conference.
Shooting in November for January: Brent Mecham and I in Austin, TX.
Will I make it out to these inspiring events again next year? I have no idea, but have camera will travel!

U.C.U., baby!
If the info-tainment genre exists in educational videos, this year the U.C.U. helped push it forward for irrigation. We produced no less than 13 short videos in 2013 – some micro, some straight-laced and some deliciously absurd, all of them, however, focused on informing, engaging and communicating about our interest and excitement in what we do out here on the daily: water conservation.

Often we generate our own content, but sometimes we work with others: what up Telemundo!
If you enjoy our work, strap in tight because we’ve only just begun. See the team's unanimous favorite selection from 2013 here or below.

My work in Gainesville saw the birth of IrriGators Productions this year. Enjoyed by students, faculty and deans alike, thus far I’ve shot shorts about all our on-going projects and the massive Florida-friendly demonstration plot study inaugurated in the fall. For 2014, we'll focus on irrigation training videos for Extension Agents, and as I am involved, the primary objective with these pieces will be to educate while not contributing to the “dry-as-dust” canon. Will we succeed? Stay tuned!

Shooting for the IrriGators with Dr. Migliaccio at TREC
Get social!
I cannot recap 2013 without addressing social media. Social media was the topic of the blog entry I enjoyed writing the most this year, and it was at the root of some of my favorite work in 2013. Why? Well, it's invaluable as a platform for distributing content (like our videos and field images) and it's a proven means for networking and relationship building.

A social hero candid: Martha Golea and Richard Restuccia in Austin, TX.
When I arrived in Las Vegas and Austin this year, most of the groundwork for our video projects there had already been laid thanks to twitter. That said, I cannot mention twitter without shouting out #landscapechat.

The U.C.U.: Laura Vasquez and Jesus Lomeli moments before the national spotlight in August
In August, the U.C.U. had the unexpected pleasure of being guests on this national twitter chat to discuss water-use efficiency, water conservation and healthy landscapes, and yes, we crushed it! Follow us now because 2014 promises even more fun in the twitterverse.

This is how you win

Courtesy Gainesville Sun: circa Sept. 2013
At the time of this writing I’ve been in South Florida for 8 days and the work has been non-stop. If you follow us on twitter you already know!
Four years later this underground cistern is slated for tapping as an irrigation source in 2014!
The projects we’re developing now will release in the months ahead as we build on this year’s efforts and continue with our work in the world of water management, conservation and efficiency. 2014 let's go!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Preparing for rain

As we enter dry season we are dusting off our rainfall simulator to test out some lysimeters and nutrient leaching. Dr. Peng Sui, visiting scientist, is preparing his plots for experiment start.
Look for results coming in the future!

Friday, November 22, 2013

I.A. in ATX FTW!

Thanks to Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit (UCU) & UF’s IrriGators, earlier this month I traveled to Austin, Texas, for the Irrigation Association's 2013 Irrigation Show and Education Conference (I.A.).

On the agenda
What to do at a conference that attracts academics, brand reps, and water experts from across the country and features both technical presentations and a ginormous product exhibition? The short answer: everything!

Opening reception with IrriGators past and present!
After attending WaterSmart in October it became apparent rather quickly that this event and the former would be two entirely different animals. First, my event lodgings for I.A. were in the center of downtown for easy access to everything. Second, the two-track presentation schedule at I.A. made deciding which talk to attend much easier. Third, since the emphasis here is on gear, the cavernous expo hall was a seemingly endless feast of brightly colored, product-laden booth after booth after booth.

All chrome errthing!

Electric car at an irrigation show? This is how you win!
Further, following the success of our WaterSmart video (released the week prior) I arrived in Austin with a working plan to shoot content for no less than three future UCU productions. This meant non-stop media mode while on location.

Watering restrictions are not always effective, reports Mackenzie Boyer

Camera time with Kansas State's Dr. Isaya Kisekka

Making movies with I.A.'s Brent Mecham
Harvesting the sky

One new development at the I.A. show was the inclusion of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) in the proceedings. While they conducted their own meetings and talks, ARCSA also contributed presentations to I.A. and exhibited all their sundry rainwater collecting devices in a pavilion within the larger product expo.

Alternative water sources for irrigation are the future. Fitting that in September we produced a video about using rain water collection systems in irrigation. See that work here or below.

In ATX and on that tweet board!
Social media was in full bloom during I.A. I certainly took full advantage of our social media platforms, firing off pictures and tweeting about the many goings-on.  

From L: Tucson Water, Municipal Water District of Orange County, Austin Water and San Antonio Water on the water purveyor panel
Never to busy to share expertise: ValleyCrest's Richard Restuccia contributes to our certification video
The Water Bloggers were also present and conducted several twitter interviews throughout the conference days. As they are my social mentors, it was a joy reconnecting with them while we each focused on different aspects of the conference.
Doing work: @theweathermatic interviews @H2Otrends
We ride free, or...

Longhorn life!
On the final conference day, I had a moment to explore the larger city. Only days earlier I had read about the water conservation measures initiated by the University of Texas, Austin campus, and suddenly there I was – surrounded by xeriscape and multi-stream spray heads, etc.
The UCU made it to Austin by winning a magazine drawing for complementary conference registration. Suffice to say we’ll be hitting those giveaways just as hard in 2014. For us, Arizona would mean staying abreast of the latest in urban landscape irrigation gear, while also reconnecting with our west coast colleagues.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Full steam ahead to ATX!

Did I mention October would be an eventful month for our group? Conferences, symposiums, app releases, videos, etc. With just two months left in 2013, the work surges forward.

Dr. Kati Migliaccio presided over another successful South Florida Landscape Irrigation Symposium last month. The fall 2013 edition took place at Palm Beach County’s Extension Office and once again proved that private/public sector partnerships can be effective – convening vendors and a full house for UF/IFAS presenters from Gainesville, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties, with Allstate Resource Management issuing CEUs to all in attendance.

Let's talk success: U.C.U.'s Jesus Lomeli on the mic
The next South Florida Landscape Irrigation Symposium is slated for May 1st, 2014, at the Miami-Dade County Extension Office! Keep watching this space for further information.

Coast to coast for conservation

Last month was also notable for the WaterSmart Innovations Conference. I attended with UF’s IrriGators and while there produced a video for Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit (U.C.U.) about successful water conservation initiatives in the arid, often drought-stricken western U.S.

Clockwise top-left: Mackenzie Boyer, Stacia Davis, Dr. Michael Dukes and Peter Mayer
What does this topic have to do with the U.C.U.? Only everything! Conferences like WaterSmart help make tangible the importance of water management and showcase the sundry players from all sectors working not only to implement proven conservation measures, but also developing new approaches.

In the coffee line with Denver Water's Reyna Yagi
I had the opportunity to meet software coders, irrigation techs, communications experts and water authority reps, everyone willing to share about their work and expertise.

L to R: Water blogger Richard Restuccia and Economist Laura Grant
Just as we create content to educate locally about water-use efficiency, UF/IFAS research and Miami-Dade programs, we’re also aware of the larger picture and are happy to use our platform to highlight the great work of others in our field.   

In session: Southern Nevada declares multi-streams inefficient...and the crowd goes wild!
See the video filmed on location at WaterSmart Innovations 2013 here or below.

Next stop: ATX!
This week I’ll be traveling to Austin, Texas, for the Irrigation Association Show and Education Conference.

This event was not in the plans for us, but a few months ago the U.C.U.'s Jesus Lomeli struck gold and won a drawing for complementary full registration. I’ll be attending in his otherwise occupied place: taking hundreds of pictures, filming for a future video and live-tweeting from the technical sessions and the Expo floor.

At WaterSmart and on that tweet board!
Stay tuned for a report back later this month!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Smart irrigation in your pocket!

I recently produced a video for Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit (U.C.U.). This short piece introduces one of three recently released mobile device apps developed by our own Dr. Kati Migliaccio et al.

Out here in these streets
The U.C.U.'s Jesus Lomeli: just another day at the office 
Working with urban landscape irrigation systems in Miami-Dade at the residential, commercial and homeowner association (HOA) level allows for some insight into our area’s tendencies and practices. First, turf is everywhere.

The rolling hills of South Florida
Second, where the nearby ocean is not a factor, groundwater from a pump is the irrigation method of choice.

The exception: a well-water system with a digital on-site weather-based timer
And third, among both well and potable water systems alike, mechanical timers and indexing valves remain popular.

Hydro-indexing valve: neither smart, nor aesthetically pleasing
So when the U.C.U. gears up every morning to evaluate sprinkler systems, note ghastly design and maintenance, and spread the word about water-use efficiency, this is the context in which we operate.

Indeed: five mechanical timers water a high-rise in Key Biscayne
And generally the message boils down to recommending homeowners and/or managers upgrade to a digital system to usurp control of their irrigation run times, and where possible, install smart irrigation technology - digital control enhanced by a soil moisture sensor or on-site weather sensor.

Doing work: a wireless soil moisture sensor in action
Enter the app
The SmartIrrigation Turf app allows users to water their turf landscape as if a weather-based timer is operating their irrigation system. How? It combines irrigation system inputs like system location and zone soil and sprinkler head type with real-time local weather information to generate watering recommendations. Did I mention it’s free?

Tested and approved
I’ve been testing this app since early summer. I set up the Landscape Unit research plots (a site in Gainesville with rotors, drip line and multi-stream nozzles) as a system, and the app never fails to send me recommendations to increase/decrease run times, or warn me when rain is likely.

In fact, ryegrass was just planted there this week to add some color over winter and I’ll be relying on the app to alert me to turn off the turf establishment watering program when rain is afoot.
Practical and effective
For our ends, this smart turf app will prove invaluable as a teaching tool for clients still on the fence about going digital or smart with their irrigation systems. Almost everyone today, from children to grandparents, is well-versed with engaging media on mobile devices.

Jesus schools a tech
An app that can simplify the same technology used in smart irrigation timers and successfully communicate with users through a medium they value and understand can only help in our mission to promote outdoor water-use efficiency and water conservation.

See the video here or below, then learn more about the SmartIrrigation Turf app here

Now available for free at both the Android and iOs app stores!

Monday, October 21, 2013

UF and UGA irrigation apps released!

We are very excited to announce the release of three new irrigation apps (smartirrigationapps.org). They are available in the Apple and Google Play Stores. Check them out! Great, free products:

An EDIS is also available to help walk you through using the turf app: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae499
More apps are in the works!! Stay tuned for more information!

Monday, October 14, 2013

UF IFAS Irrigation filming

Dr. Michael Dukes and Dr. Kati Migliaccio are preparing to release a new course for graduate students on irrigation - the course will be available in the fall of 2014 through the ABE department. We are working now to prepare irrigation videos  from all types of agriculture and urban systems to show students - big thanks to UF IFAS Michael Munroe for his assistance last week!

Also want to thank Michael Gutierrez for this awesome pic (as well as many others!!)...
Great shot of drip irrigation! Can't wait to release the videos - stay tuned!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

West Palm Beach & Las Vegas!

October 2013 promises to be an eventful month in urban landscape irrigation for our group in South Florida.

Back for fall
On October 3rd UF/IFAS Extensions from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties are joining forces once again for a day of information sharing and product demonstrations at the fall edition of the South Florida Landscape Irrigation Symposium.

SFLIS in April: Standing room only!
If you were fortunate enough to attend last spring’s sold out event, you know it was teeming with property managers, municipal workers, and technicians, and that it showcased seven vendor booths with reps answering questions and sometimes giving away product samples.

Experts also presented about smart irrigation technology, low-maintenance landscaping and irrigation basics. You can watch the video above and relive the magic, or register for October to experience it live!
Dr. Migliaccio on the mic in April
Our very own Dr. Kati Migliaccio will be presenting at the upcoming symposium, informing on all things smart, including a smart turf app for mobile devices she has developed that is about to take the marketplace by storm.

They still make those? U.C.U. tech Jesus Lomeli evaluates a potable system
Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit (U.C.U.) will also be in attendance. And of course cameras will be rolling for a video project filming in different corners of the U.S. at the same time.

UF/IFAS Extension: Solutions for your life!
The fall edition of the South Florida Landscape Irrigation Symposium takes place in West Palm Beach. The complete agenda can be found here. Register now!

This month to celebrate Labor Day one of the largest landscape management firms in the country recommended several videos to its web audience for engaging leisure viewing. The list included shorts from several western U.S. water utilities and a U.C.U. production!

I mention this because those utilities we were grouped with are some of my water heroes – developing successful conservation initiatives and promotional campaigns in the context of severe droughts. During the first week of October, I’ll be attending the 2013 WaterSmart Innovations Conference (WSI) in Las Vegas, Nevada, and meeting them all.

WSI is the premier west coast water event uniting vendors, utilities, non-profit organizations and academics. Attendees will include many forward-thinking municipalities whose water conservation programs have not only changed the way homeowners think about landscapes and conservation, but also resulted in significant water savings. There are hundreds of presentations planned over several days, including those of UF graduate students Stacia Davis and Mackenzie Boyer.

EXT. DAY - EL PORTAL VILLAGE: Michael Gutierrez doing work!
While at WSI, I’ll be representing for the U.C.U., taking hundreds of pictures, filming for a future video, and live-tweeting my fingers off! Stay tuned to this space for report backs from both events!