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Echuca technology lifts water performance

Automated system saves time and money for a Picola farmer.

LAURA GRIFFIN November 8, 2012 4:01am

Picola farmer Keith Holland,


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An automated fast-flow irrigation system is saving Picola farmer Keith Holland water and time.

The fast-flow WiSA Irrigation system is also improving lucerne growth on 28ha of his property, by getting water on and off the paddock quicker than the old system and eliminating water-logging from irrigation.

About half of Mr Holland’s 400ha farm is under irrigation. He runs 700 prime lamb-breeding ewes and beef cattle and also crops.

He is happy with the automated system and would like to have it installed on more of his property.

‘‘But you’ve got to pick the paddocks [from] which you can get the best productivity gains,’’ Mr Holland said.

The system includes four soil moisture probes that constantly monitor sub-soil moisture levels and temperature. The probes can measure salinity, but the Hollands do not use that function.

The probes take soil moisture readings at 10cm intervals to 1m and temperature readings at 10cm and 20cm.

The system sends the data by wireless to a computer in the home office about 4km away. Mr Holland and wife Jeanette can observe the data and set up the irrigation cycle with a few mouse clicks.

From the home office, the couple can open and close 16 Padman stops. They can set the gates to open or close at certain times and override them if it rains.

Mr Holland said using his old irrigation system, he would water 6ha of lucerne at a flow rate of 9Ml/day. It took 12 hours to complete and used about 4.5Ml of water.

‘‘With my new fast-flow system, I can irrigate 11ha of lucerne at a rate of 15Ml/day and it takes seven hours to complete, using 4.7Ml of water.’’

He had to water every eight days on average with the old system and with the new system he waters every seven days.

‘‘This equates to a water saving of between 30 to 35 per cent,’’ Mr Holland said.

For fast-flow irrigation, Mr Holland laser-levelled the paddocks, upgraded the channel and installed 2m-wide bay outlets. The couple also built a 6Ml recycle dam that captures excess water for re-use.

The automated system means Mr Holland no longer has to drive down to the paddocks to open or close the gates, which saves time and fuel.

It also improves his chances of getting a good night’s sleep and decreases the likelihood of stepping on snakes in the dark.

‘‘I now have complete control of my irrigation system and it can be easily assessed and controlled even when off-farm,’’ he said.

Mr Holland also likes the system’s energy efficiency.

‘‘What I like about the system is that it is all low energy. There are solar panels on top of the field units that charge the battery that runs the hydraulics in the gates.’’

He said installing the more precise irrigation system last year was ‘‘worthwhile’’.

The Hollands received funding under the first round of the on-farm irrigation efficiency program. Mr Holland said they paid between a third and half of the total cost themselves.

The WiSA irrigation system used by the Hollands has been recognised with a highly commended in Goulburn Murray Water’s 2012 Rural Water Innovation Awards, and was a semi-finalist in the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s 2012 Water Efficiency Improvement Award.

WiSA Irrigation is based at Echuca and the Australian owned company has developed automation systems for irrigation control for more than 15 years.

Managing director Graeme Wright said the company’s technology could be applied to all farm types and methods, and was being used on more than 600 farms in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States.

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