Wednesday 12 July 2017

The Ultimate Add-On for Cost Efficient Irrigation

Growsmart Precision VRI with FieldNET is the ultimate add-on for easy and cost efficient irrigation, Maniototo sheep and beef farmer Hamish Mackenzie says.

“It’s simple, easy to use and gives you heaps of flexibility. I can sort and upload a watering plan and set it going at the push of a button,” Hamish says.

Hamish Mackenzie uses Growsmart Precision VRI to apply the right amount of water, in the right place at the right time at Kyeburn Station
At Kyeburn Station, an extensive 3300ha sheep and beef property, 260ha of flats are irrigated. Half the area is watered by a 570 meter Zimmatic centre-pivot. It was installed with Growsmart Precision VRI in 2015 and in November 2016 was upgraded with FieldNET, a remote communication tool making it possible to control Growsmart Precision VRI from any internet-capable device. The limited cell phone coverage means Hamish is not set up for complete remote control but FieldNET has given him greater flexibility over irrigation. And he says the new updated system is far superior to its predecessor.

“I do all of my irrigation plans on the home computer. If we had reliable cell phone coverage I’d be able to send them remotely to the pivot but because we don’t I put them on a memory stick which I then plug into the pivot panel of the irrigator. It’s really simple and straightforward.”

The touchscreen panel allows farmers to easily make changes to irrigation plans out in the field.
This season the pivot watered 37ha of Relish red clover-based pasture; 28ha of lucerne; 12ha of barley; 17ha of swedes; and 7ha fodder beet. The patchwork of different crops, each with different watering requirements throughout the season could have made irrigation planning and management a headache. But the combination of Growsmart VRI and FieldNET made it surprisingly straightforward.

“You can add in as many different fields as needed, and alter the watering rates on each or keep them out of the rotation as required. That’s the beauty of VRI and FieldNET, it’s so easy to alter things.”
Installation of FieldNET was about $1,000 on top of the Growsmart VRI but he reckons he’s easily recouped the cost – and saved water. Efficient use of water is a number one priority given the region’s 500mm annual rainfall and extended summer dry periods.  Water is taken from the Kyeburn River, from a main race which Hamish shares with four farms. He has a 52l/s allocation but over the last year the combination of Growsmart Precision VRI and FieldNET has reduced pivot water use to about 43l/s.

“I’ve been able to cut back the percentage flow through the pivot in summer and we’ve been able to use the extra if needed for k-line irrigation. Also we’ve saved money because we’re not having to pump as much water and we don’t need as much pressure.”

Irrigation development at Kyeburn Station started after completion of tenure review in 2009.
“We surrendered 4700ha of hill country to the Crown in 2009 so we had to intensify what we were doing.”

The goal was to maintain the same number of stock units by ramping up production on flat country. They purchased some neighbouring land that was irrigated, and added another 100ha pivot. There is now 260ha under irrigation, of that 180ha is covered by two Zimmatic pivots, one of which has Growsmart Precision VRI and FieldNET.

“I will sometime in the future retro fit the older Zimmatic pivot with Growsmart Precision VRI as well. I think it’s really important given the push by regional councils to encourage farmers to use less water and become smarter with how they irrigate.”

Lindsay NZ