Vanguard Award

The Vanguard Award honors an innovative project in the irrigation industry executed by a team of individuals, companies, organizations or other group entities. The team must include at least one individual who is a member of the Irrigation Association. The project must have been completed in the past three years. 

No more than three awards will be given each year. Ideally, a balance of agriculture and landscape projects would be recognized. Self-made and peer nominations are acceptable.

Nominations for 2024 awards are now closed.

2024 awards program exclusively sponsored by

Award Winners


Agriculture category — Netafim USA — Subsurface Drip Irrigation for Dairy Effluent Water Application

This project is an innovative subsurface drip irrigation system, which uses patented blending control technology to mix dairy effluent with freshwater to create a natural fertilizer blend for farmers. The SDI-E makes it economically possible for dairies to manage their manure in ways that boost water quality, conserve water supplies, keep their farms in line with regulatory mandates and protect their bottom line. The companies involved with this project include Netafim USA, De Jager Farms, Sustainable Conservation, Western United Dairies and McRee Farms.


Agriculture category — Agri Services International — Citrus Under Protective Screen Project

The CUPS project involved growing citrus under a protective screen structure in Dundee, Florida, in conjunction with precision irrigation and inputs to yield high-quality disease-free citrus while minimizing the use of water, fertilizer and pesticides. Using this relatively new method to grow citrus required researching, designing and installing a highly technical, automated irrigation and control system to monitor weather and soil conditions and deliver precise amounts of water and nutrients to every tree. The partners in this project include Agri Services International, Dundee Citrus Growers Association and Precision Citrus LLC.


Agriculture category — USDA Agriculture Research Service — Sensor-Based VRI SCADA Management Project

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.


Agriculture category — Lindsay Corporation — Riverview LLP Project

Located near Willcox, Arizona, Riverview LLP’s Coronado Farms operates 196 center pivots over more than 24,000 acres of irrigated farmland. After identifying a primary challenge to ensure the farm’s long-term sustainability through water conservation, Riverview LLP partnered with Lindsay to construct a plan to meet this challenge. The partners in this project included Riverview LLP, a Minnesota-based beef, dairy and crop-production partnership; Lindsay Corporation; Lindsay dealer Whitewater Irrigation; Lindsay’s water engineering division IRZ Engineering Consultants; and Watertronics.


Landscape category — Conserva Irrigation — Target Corporation Sustainability Project

Beginning in 2016, the Target Corporation, headed up by the Target sustainability and outdoor services teams, embarked on a pilot program to test if meaningful water savings could be achieved by unbundling the irrigation services from the overall outdoor commercial maintenance package and placing a “common sense” approach to the irrigated Target properties. After four stages, the project includes more than 320 stores across the United States.

On April 11, 2018, Target announced that more than 36 million gallons of water was saved as a result of this project.

Agriculture category —
Netafim and Gallo Vineyards, Inc. Variable Rate Drip Irrigation Project

Beginning in 2012, Gallo embarked on an initiative to address spatial variability through irrigation system design, data mining and response to data. The resulting concept called variable rate drip irrigation has led to significant improvements in overall production control and reduction in variability.

Since inception, the project has resulted in yields between 10 and 20 percent versus grower standard in the trial period of 2013 through 2015, and water-use efficiency increased 15 to 20 percent. Other partners involved in the project include Bennett and Bennett Irrigation and IBM.


Landscape category — Revitalization of the National Mall

The revitalization included the installation of a new irrigation system that uses 1 million gallons of underground stormwater storage for the eight center tree panels and edge irrigation for the bordering tree panels on both sides of the National Mall. In addition, the project included installation of new curbing, structural soils and a new drainage system.

This project creatively utilized intuitive design, efficient products and industry leading technology. It was created to generate a healthy and water-efficient landscape to be enjoyed by the millions of people who visit this site every year.

IA participant companies that contributed to the success of this project included Irrigation Consulting Inc., Rain Bird Corp., Hunter Industries, The Toro Co., Harrington Corp., Flowtronex, Brightview, Paige Electric, Oldcastle Enclosure Solutions, VAF Filtration Systems, T. Christy Enterprises Inc., Campbell Scientific Inc., Buckner Superior, Sure-Flo Fittings, 3M, Lasco Fittings Inc., and ISCO Industries LLC.

Agriculture category —
Close-Spaced LEPA Installations: Saving Water and Energy and Increasing Yields

Senninger Irrigation Inc. Vice President Mark Healy worked with Leon New from Texas A&M in the 1980s to develop the first low energy precision applicator. Healy has now been working with manufacturers, dealers and growers over the past several years to develop bubbler inserts and bubbler pads to meet specific needs for those LEPA applicators to be used with close drop spacing.

Employing close-spaced LEPA applicators low to the ground saves water and energy by applying the water needed in fewer pivot passes. These systems achieve a more uniform root zone coverage, increase yield using less water, help leach salts and avoid wetting crop canopy.

The collaboration of manufacturers, irrigation dealers and growers included Rick Grimes, owner of Southwest Irrigation in Casa Grande, Arizona; Rod Stillwell, with American Irrigation in Garden City, Kansas; John Maurer, manager of Triple D Ranch in Dyer, Nevada; and Bob Holloway, grower in northwest Kansas.