Innovation knows innovation. Sometimes the best way to discover a good new idea is through a new idea. So it is with Rain Bird’s “Intelligent Use of Water Awards,” which is billing itself as an “interactive grant program.” Peer review, shmeer review. Rain Bird, which is an irrigation company, is joining the reality TV and social media age by awarding its $51,000 in grant money according to online votes. “Share the project on your social media sites using the widgets provided and try to get your friends, family, and local community to vote for it,” says Rain Bird on the site. It’s green R&D as popularity contest.
Visitors to the site get one vote each day per project, and like in any good horse race, Rain Bird tracks which projects are in the lead at any moment. At the end of it all, Rain Bird will hand out four $1,500 grants, three $5,000 grants, and three $10,000 grants. The winners will be announced on World Water Day, which is March 22.
So what are some of the projects that are exciting people online? A few of the projects are so vaguely described that it makes it a little difficult to see what criteria people are using to vote. But some of them capture the imagination. I like the sound of a so-called “skydrant,” which captures rain to water trees. A Sicily-based project wants to use new irrigation design software to save 30% of water in growing saffron.
There are some fun projects on the site so far. But the front-runners in each category don’t necessarily look like the most ambitious or innovative to me. Such is the nature of popularity contests. If you’re charismatic and have a social media following, and have a pen-on-napkin water project you’ve always wanted to work on, you might want to hop over to www.iuowawards.com and see if you can scoop up a quick ten grand. So long as you give Rain Bird a bit of viral visibility, they probably won’t mind.