Attractions Save Water with UgMO Irrigation Solutions
Case Study: Longwood Gardens
Shawn Kister, Director, Grounds
Considered a world premier display garden hosting 1.5 million visitors each year, Longwood Gardens includes more than 9,000 plant species, awe inspiring fountains and more than 175 acres of turfgrass.
An industry leader in research and sustainability, water conservation is included in an extensive list of efforts designed to reduce waste across Longwood facilities, that also includes soils and composting operations, an effluent irrigation program and a paper and plastic recycling initiative.
Partnering for long-term value
Longwood Gardens began working with UgMO in 2011 after Shawn Kister, Director of Grounds was introduced to this new technology by a colleague at Penn State. Kister’s interest was piqued when he learned that the UgMO platform was designed to help automate the irrigation process, by enabling the soil sensors to communicate real-time data to control clocks to optimize irrigation events.
“One of Longwood’s overarching goals is to be innovative and we saw UgMO as having a very innovative approach that would enable us to meet our conservation objectives.”
Kister and his team proved to be true development partners for UgMO, providing valuable feedback on every component of the platform, and helping create an improved system that Longwood could benefit from for the long term. At the same time, UgMO became a partner in implementing the irrigation system for Longwood Garden’s Main Fountain Garden, participating in planning to ensure an optimized design before any construction. This feedback and the experience gained by this early participation helped chart UgMO’s product roadmap and greatly improve the value it delivers to clients today.
Real time data enables smarter watering
Longwood Garden’s primary goal for using UgMO’s solution was to leverage its unique approach, measuring actual soil moisture levels to reduce irrigation time and water consumption. Shawn decided that the team would first evaluate the solution in its turfgrass program.
“We call ourselves an ecological turfgrass program, so I saw the next step in that program as looking at what we could do from a watering perspective,” explained Kister. “The question became, of the 8.3 acres of turfgrass that is irrigated on our property, can we do a better job of irrigation, working to conserve some of the water we utilize on an annual basis. That’s what really intrigued me about the potential of this technology.”
The result was a healthy turfgrass program that realized a 65% reduction in water usage.
As a result of this early success, Longwood Gardens expanded the use of UgMO Technologies over the years to meet the unique irrigation needs of its diverse plants and gardens including the Italian Water Gardenand Rose Garden, as well as Longwood’s historic trees, hanging baskets in the conservatory and the Thousand Bloom Mum that is featured each autumn season. Most recently, Longwood Gardens incorporated UgMO in the Main Fountain Project. The real-time data provided by these sensors has proven extremely useful to Kister and his team.
“When you have an irrigation event or a rain fall, you can access the UgMO website and actually see how the soil reacted. Did it slowly dry down? Did it hold that moisture for a while? It shows you in detail the good and the bad out there in your growing environment. It was a valuable piece of information, another tool in our toolbox to utilize in determining exactly how we can grow our turfgrass better.”
Kister says he and his team review and use that data daily, via the UgMO Knows advanced analytical and operational software package. UgMO Knows enables customers to remotely adjust system configuration and irrigation controller settings as needed. Users can add and modify zone programming, including updating the irrigation schedule and starting or stopping irrigation of any zone on the property.
The remote access has been hugely valuable according to Kister: “Before you’d have to send two people out to check a zone, prescribe and remediate any problems. UgMO Knows provides the information required to monitor the performance of each zone anywhere. The site analytics frees team members from monitoring the clock and empowers a single team member to identify any problems and make the appropriate adjustments or fixes.”
Most importantly, Longwood Gardens has tapped the UgMO platform to meet its original goal of reducing water, with impressive results. For instance, a flow meter at one location that includes 2.8 acres of turf grass, reported that the UgMO platform was able to reduce annual water utilization by more than 55% between 2015 – 2017. That equates to nearly 25,000 gallons of water saved each year in just that one section of the property.
Kister attributes this reduction of water use, in part, to the additional data provided by the UgMO system: “As we become more comfortable with the UgMO platform and what the data is telling us, we’re lowering the percent soil moisture that’s needed to maintain that spot.”
And, while there isn’t the mechanism to measure water savings across all UgMO zones, Kister reports that the team has seen a significant reduction in overall utilization: “The manager of our effluent irrigation plant has reported that he’s seen a huge decrease in the amount of water we’re using in our areas when compared to before implementing UgMO.”
Given these results and an extremely responsive and knowledgeable support team at UgMO, Kister is evaluating ways to expand Longwood’s use of the UgMO’s technology, including adding sensors to some conservatory spaces.
Kister shares that perhaps the best proof of success with this program is that while significantly reducing water utilization, the Longwood Gardens team has seen no negative impact on its turf and landscape.
“Water is not an unlimited resource and we all have to do a better job to conserve it. The UgMO technology allows us to use the least amount of water to meet our needs from a turf and landscape perspective, by giving us the data needed to make that decision. This is part of a broader effort at Longwood to continually look at our ecological and environmental impacts to be better environmental stewards.”