IA announces annual award recipients

The Irrigation Association (IA) kicked off Smart Irrigation Month by announcing the recipients of its annual awards. These awards honor those who have made significant contributions to the irrigation industry, and each recipient recognized this year is a true changemaker who has made unique and meaningful accomplishments toward furthering the industry and promoting efficient irrigation.

Industry Achievement Award

The Industry Achievement Award was established in 1966 and honors an individual whose career demonstrates outstanding contributions to the advancement of the irrigation industry and its products and programs. This year, the IA is recognizing two deserving individuals with the Industry Achievement Award:

Brent Q. Mecham, CID, CLWM, CIC, CLIA, CAIS, is a recipient of the 2020 Industry Achievement Award. Mecham has been part of the irrigation industry for more than 45 years and is considered one of the most respected resources on landscape irrigation in the United States. He recently retired as the IA’s industry development director, a position he held since 2007. Mecham was a major part of the success of the certification and education programs, taught irrigation courses for over 20 years, and has been extensively involved in the standard and codes process for irrigation equipment and practices.

Lynda Wightman is a recipient of the 2020 Industry Achievement Award. Wightman retired from Hunter Industries after 35 years with the company. She was the 13th employee hired at Hunter and spent her career focused on elevating the industry through volunteer leadership and education. Wightman served on the boards of numerous landscape organizations. She leaves behind a strong legacy of impacting the industry through volunteerism and a dedication and commitment to irrigation education.

Innovator Award

The IA’s Innovator Award honors individuals who have made significant, tangible contributions to the irrigation industry within the past five years.

Stephen W. Smith, PhD, FASIC, CAIS, CLIA, is 2020’s Innovator Award recipient. Smith is being recognized for his work toward the creation and development of the Irrigation Innovation Consortium located in Fort Collins, Colorado. The IIC represents years of work and dedication by Smith to secure the monetary support and public and private participation to see this project from the initial concept to what it is today. Smith’s work paved the way for this collaborative project focused on accelerating the development and adoption of water-efficient irrigation technologies and practices.

Excellence in Education Award

The Excellence in Education Award recognizes an outstanding educator who is actively teaching or has formerly taught irrigation, water management and/or water conservation.

The 2020 Excellence in Education Award recipient is Isaya Kisekka, Ph.D., of the University of California, Davis. He is currently an associate professor of agricultural water management and irrigation engineering and associate irrigation engineer. Kisekka was instrumental in reviving the irrigation curriculum at UC Davis. He co-led the creation of three new irrigation courses and the modification of one old course. This effort resulted in creation of an irrigation and water management minor available to students from different majors.

Vanguard Award

The Vanguard Award honors an innovative irrigation project executed by a team of individuals, companies, organizations or other group entities.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service Sensor-Based VRI SCADA Management project has been named the recipient of the 2020 Vanguard Award. Through partnerships, this project utilized the patented Irrigation Scheduling Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system and sensing systems to provide a decision support system that could produce the time varying prescription maps needed by variable rate irrigation center pivot control panels. The partners in this project include the USDA-ARS Soil and Water Management Research Unit in Bushland, Texas (project lead); Beltsville, Texas, ARS team; Acclima Inc.; Dynamax Inc.; and Valley Irrigation.