Over the last several years, I have become very involved with the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). Founded in 1907 and comprised of more than 8,000 professionals from more than 100 countries, ASABE is an educational and scientific organization dedicated to the advancement of this unique engineering profession.
As part of this endeavor, ASABE sponsors the AE50 awards that recognize product innovations in the areas of agricultural, food, and biological systems. This year, the Valley® SoilPro™ 100 earned an AE50 and was the only irrigation-related product to do so.
The SoilPro 100’s beauty is in its simplicity. It is built primarily to provide a low-cost method to help guide irrigation decisions in developing markets. It uses a simple array of components that help the grower understand current field conditions through very simple messages. In an industry that has become obsessed with precision and complexity, it is often easy to overlook some basic tools that help us understand and manage the physical relationships that exist between water, soil, and plants. The SoilPro 100 gets the job done without a lot of bells and whistles and is easy to understand.
My colleague Scott Mauseth, the developer behind Valley SoilPro 100, asked me if I would accept the AE50 award in his place due to a travel conflict. It was a real honor to accept the award on behalf of Valley and Scott before such a prestigious group of professionals. But the real reward for me was being reminded of a couple of things that are easy to lose sight of:
- There are basic, physical relationships that govern the science of irrigation.
- There is always a role for simple solutions that work.
At Valley, we have embraced and incorporated a variety of technology into our products. In fact, I don’t think there is another industry in existence with more applied science in use than there is in agriculture. Telematics, sensors, GPS, GIS, and variable rate technology are just a few innovations that have contributed to the rapid advancement of productivity on the farm. But even as complex as some of the agricultural engineering challenges are today, I really appreciate the fact that ASABE recognizes the value the SoilPro 100 brings to the market in a very simple, effective, and easy-to-use package. After all, there really is beauty in simplicity.