Automating rain proves worthwhile | Queensland Country Life

A Jaggan dairy has implemented an irrigation energy management opportunity from the energy audit report it received through the Energy Savers Plus Program Extension. Through the program the business received a dairy shed energy audit, carried out by AgVet Energy, as well as an irrigation energy audit, completed by The Energy Guys, both engaged by QDO.

The farm aims to increase its homegrown feed and has been increasing its irrigatable area with implementing sections of solid set irrigation systems.

With more and more sections of solid set irrigation systems to manage the business chose to invest in automation.

eastAUSmilk project officer Jade Chan and I visited the site and conducted a performance test on the irrigation to evaluate the energy savings and outcomes achieved since implementing a recommendation from the energy audit.

Installing an automation system to their solid set irrigation has resulted in labor-saving benefits.

When irrigating manually the irrigations would be run for twice in five-hour intervals (per station) which meant a late-night run into the paddocks to switch over the stations. To apply the 287ML per year there are 16 cycles of the 17 stations per year. With each cycle taking nine nights the business was irrigating 144 nights per year.

Labor required to open and shut valves on the irrigator is estimated to be 15 minutes, costing the business about $2880 per year. The new automation system uses a controller to manage irrigation scheduling with minimal time required to switch over sections.

The automation has also increased the water efficiency of the business as previously there was about a 10 per cent over application of irrigation. The improvements have allowed the irrigation to be applied across three-hour intervals instead of two five-hour intervals, reducing the excessive application of irrigation water, saving 14ML.

Reducing the hours of irrigation also results in a lower energy use, saving the business 4,861kWh annually.

With smaller application rates soil moisture remains at optimum for longer, smaller amounts are applied which reduces excess irrigation water applied and will improve pasture production.

The farm also upgraded the sprinklers on a section of the irrigation to improve their water use efficiency.

The pre-existing sprinklers were replaced with NaanDanJain 5035 sprinklers which improved the irrigation’s distribution of uniformity (Du). The new sprinklers were able to achieve 79.91pc in comparison to the 58.4pc achieved by the old sprinklers. This also increased the average application rate to 9.7mm/hr from 4.4mm/hr. Improving the irrigation efficiency of their solid set will also improve levels of production by increasing effective irrigatable area.

The total expenditure for the business to implement the upgrades was over $47,000. Valuing the increased pasture production at $5000, plus the labor saving of $2880 and $2166 for electricity savings the calculated payback period of this investment is 4.7 years with a return on investment of 21.3pc.

The story Automating irrigation proves worthwhile first appeared on North Queensland Register.

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