Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Irrigation NZ Conference Summary

The Irrigation NZ Conference was held in Oamaru from the 5th to 7th of April. There was a huge range of speakers and presentations all relating to different aspects of the industry. Some of the important and recurring topics are summarised below.

Irrigation has benefits to communities and the environment.

The pre-conference tour took a bus load of delegates on a tiki-tour through the Waitaki valley to see first hand the irrigation schemes that draw water from the mighty river. It is readily apparent that irrigation water has benefits to farmers and community.  An example being a storage pond which is held in a trust to allow the public to use it for recreational use. A great example of the community and irrigators coming together to prosper together.

MGI Intake off the Waitaki River.
Also highlighted on the trip was how irrigation can have benefits to the environment.  The frequent droughts experienced by the Waitaki Valley prior to irrigation meant that rabbits and dust storms were free to wreak havoc on the area. Now, with irrigation, soil is no longer lost in howling Nor’Westers and improved soil structure has resulted in reduced sediment loadings in water ways. This draws some similar parallels to Keith Cameron’s talk at the PAANZ Conference (see: http://www.h2grow.nz/2016/03/inaugural-paanz-conference-summary.html)

The future is a scary place…

Synthetic meat and massive urban greenhouse skyscrapers are set to be realities in the future. The value and limited supply of the world’s natural resources was something that really hit home in Julian Cribb’s talk and it gave serious weight to the fact that efficient irrigation and water use is extremely important.
Another guest speaker, Peter Biggs detailed the concept of the volatile, uncertain, complicated and ambiguous world that we live in today. Complexity and uncertainty are two concepts that are a big part of the irrigation scene in New Zealand. How do we keep an eye on the future when such complex issues confront us at home on a daily basis?

Engaging with the public is important for success.

Nicky Hyslop, Chair of INZ made us aware of something we are all possibly guilty of. Not listening when we should. The idea that more often than not we just need to “shut up and listen” when dealing with the public on issues related to irrigation and agriculture and go forward in a dynamic, proactive way. The key message being that we must “engage” with the public rather than lecture them if any change is to be bought about.
Waitaki Irrigators Collective to bring together all irrigators in the Waitaki Valley

Management and measurement to improve efficiency.

The growth of technology in the sector is seeing efficiency gains left, right and centre. From improved efficiency of infrastructure that delivers water to the farm gate to the use of VRI and soil moisture management, irrigators have plenty of scope to lift performance. The level of data that can be easily captured from an irrigation system such as; flow, pressure and energy used is high. Not only can irrigators make use of this data to reduce energy costs but also water use efficiency. Dan Bloomer presented on how simply it is done with 2 dozen buckets to actually measure what water your irrigator is putting on the ground. Ultimately what gets measured gets managed.

This weeks post was bought to you by Nick Evans of Agri Optics. To find out more about Nick or to get in touch with Agri Optics check out our website: http://www.agrioptics.co.nz/meettheteam