Kansas State University is part of a $5 million grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) to launch the Irrigation Innovation Consortium, a collaborative research effort to accelerate the development and adoption of efficient irrigation technologies and practices through public-private partnerships.
K-State, in partnership with four other universities and several industry partners, will match the FFAR grant money for a total initial investment of $10 million to support irrigation technology research and collaboration costs over five years.
Membership in the consortium presents a unique opportunity for K-State, according to Dan Devlin, director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment (KCARE).
“The exciting thing about being part of this group is the opportunity to partner with other universities as a team,” Devlin said.
Devlin also noted that the grant will create possibilities for K-State researchers to work closely with industry members to help get their research innovations into the field even faster.
Consortium funds will enable public sector researchers and industry partners to co-develop, test, and improve cutting-edge innovations, equipment, technology, and decision and information systems designed to equip and enhance “farms of the future,” according to a news release from FFAR.
Initial research priorities include water and energy efficiency, remote sensing and big data applications for improving water management, irrigation technology acceleration, and technology transfer. An executive committee, with representation from FFAR and academic and industry consortium participants, will determine specific research priorities.
Universities joining K-State in the consortium include California State University, Fresno; Colorado State University; Texas A&M Agrilife Research; and the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Industry members include Jain Irrigation, Lindsay Corporation and Rubicon Water. Other members are the Irrigation Association (IA), a national membership organization that represents companies and professionals from across the country, and the Northern Colorado Conservation District.
 “The new Irrigation Innovation Consortium unites top university research talent with industry to promote practical advancements in irrigation technology and water management practices,” said Sally Rockey, executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. “We are optimistic that outcomes from this collaborative effort will help producers grow more food with smart water management and strengthen the resilience of our food supply.”
Initial participants are working to create an expanded platform for other universities, federal agencies, and the private sector to work together on the critical water challenges facing agriculture, municipalities, and industry. The goal is to create an internationally recognized, self-sustaining center of excellence that promotes and enhances water and energy efficiency in irrigation, ultimately creating greater resiliency in food and irrigated landscape systems.
“The [Irrigation Association] thanks FFAR and the university partners for their leadership in the creation of the new Irrigation Innovation Consortium,” said IA’s CEO Deborah M. Hamlin. “We are confident that the research stemming from this collaborative effort will drive new advancements in efficient irrigation and keep the irrigation industry at the forefront of innovation.”
Knowledge gained through the consortium will be made available through publications, workshops and seminars, and appropriate data-sharing mechanisms.
Plans for the consortium began at a FFAR-hosted convening event held at the University of Nebraska’s Daugherty Water for Food Institute Conference in Lincoln. Approximately 25 representatives of private companies participated in the discussion, which helped shape the initial research focus of the Consortium.
Organizations interested in joining the Irrigation Innovation Consortium are invited to contact Stephen Smith, executive director of the Irrigation Innovation Consortium and FFAR advisory council member: swsmith@buenavidafarm.com.
The Irrigation Innovation Consortium was formally launched April 27 at the Water in the West Symposium hosted by Colorado State University.

Original release April 30, K-State Research and Extension

K-State part of $5 million grant to address water scarcity