A leading broad scale producer of mesclun mixed salad in Australia is opening another chapter in its success story with the introduction of a radio-controlled automated irrigation system at its properties in NW Victoria.
The Mait monitoring and control system – tailored to the salad specialist’s optimised water use and production needs by irrigation specialist Water Dynamics – includes base radio stations feeding extensive remote-controlled systems serving farms in northern Victoria dedicated to production of the assorted small young salad greens increasingly prized by diners demanding the freshest most delicate salad.
“Strictly controlled watering is essential to these delicate vegetables, because it helps determine freshness, taste, and productivity outcomes,” says veteran irrigation specialist David Bell, Sales Manager of Water Dynamics, whose experience extends from Tasmania through SA, Victoria, and NSW to the Northern Territory.
“Mesclun production has grown from being a cottage industry 50 years ago to a major production focus of premium quality baby leaf salad vegetables occupying thousands of hectares nationally. Water and climate are essential to product quality and taste, so producers are optimising production through geographical diversification, on-farm innovative processing techniques (ensuring ultimate freshness) and state-of-the-art farming methods. Large-scale automated irrigation production is a bold process, which requires strong and knowledgeable partnerships of client and irrigation specialists to achieve the required outcome. This is not a one-size-fits-all set of technologies.”
One of the latest radio controlled mesclun irrigation projects handled by David Bell (which cannot be named for client contractual reasons) involved two properties of the same producer. “The radio-controlled system was integral to their quest to maintain quality, freshness, and cost-efficiency, while producing the number of varieties necessary for market appeal, allowing for environmentally sustainable rotation of crops within a very short harvest cycle,” says David Bell.
The crops are grown and maintained according to best farm practices; harvested according to strict selection criteria; checked against quality standards to be accepted or rejected; processed within the timelines of quality assurance processes, and delivered in a timely manner.
Tailored system in partnership
“Automated systems help cut out delay and optimise use of labour in a time of skills shortages,” says David Bell. The Mait system installed in the latest project, jointly involving about 150 hectares of the properties involved, is also a great asset to sustainability, water conservation and productivity – as are automated systems in other areas of both pastoral and livestock farming.
“But no single irrigation solution is right for all areas – is a tailored process, involving a close partnership with the producer and knowledge of their environment. And while no producers and solutions are totally the same, having experience over a wide range of applications is a significant help in finding the best one for particular needs.
“So we worked very closely with the client to develop automation programmes to maximise their objects in their areas, which was incorporated into an irrigation programme attuned exactly to the properties’ needs using Mait monitoring and control technology.”
Mait Industries is a national leader in the design and manufacture of hardware and software for monitoring and control systems for agriculture, turf, and environmental applications. Their horticultural products focus on being efficient with water management, not only saving water, but also applying the correct amount of water at the correct time.
Efficient water management
This precise and automated timing increases crop quality and yield, reduces leaching of fertilisers, reduces crop stress and susceptibility to disease and pests. It is future-focussed to increases the long-term sustainability and profitability of enterprises, while ensuring best use of water as a community resource,” says David Bell. “Conservation and sustainability are important to all types of farming today, not only Mesclun, as drier climatic events, such a the recently declared El Nino, place further pressure on shared resources.
“Famers do a great job with irrigation, often doubling outputs per unit of land compared with rainfed agriculture, thereby allowing for more production intensification and crop diversity. But they too are aware that water is a scarce community resource, so they focus on using it ever-more wisely. This is true whether you are involved in horticulture, viticulture, crop or livestock farming – every farmer and landowner knows we don’t have water to waste, particularly now.”
To provide ideal irrigation coverage for the mesclun project, the system chosen by Water Dynamics and the client in partnership was a Mait iC24R for the remote radio control of 24VAC solenoids. The two-farm system can control 16 solenoids, or 16 pumps, or any combination of them.
Multiple control or monitoring boards as required for changing production needs can be linked via cable where more than sixteen solenoids are required to be controlled or where more sensors are required to be monitored. Radio transmission distances extend up to 8km line-of-sight, or further, where multiple radio sites can act as repeaters.
The system includes 14 radio sites with 6.5m poles for aerials and solar panels. Complementing these are 14 stainless steel control cabinets complete with Aquative actuator valves designed for reliable operation with all types of water.
The installation completed and commissioned by Water Dynamics in partnership with Mait also incorporates two river pump radios for auto starting of pumps, with pressure transducer to monitor pressure.
The entire system, delivered on time and on budget, is now operating with Local service backup and optimisation as required, from Water Dynamics Mildura.
“Our network of full branches in areas of irrigation focus includes a blend of product experts, irrigation designers, and installers. Our staff are very well known in the industry, and some have directly owned and operated their own systems.”
“This strong and unique regional capability means we understand local conditions and challenges, and have the relevant skills to provide the right products and technical advice to keep irrigation systems operating at peak efficiency all year round.”
“Continuity is important in this dynamic business, in which uptime, updates and service are important to irrigation enterprises, to whom smooth continuity of quality production is an ongoing priority. Good irrigation practice is seldom set and forget, but automation can and does achieve outstanding efficiencies attuned to different farming needs.”
For more than 30 years, Water Dynamics has been Irrigating Australia. We provide irrigation and water management solutions to homes and gardens, dairy farms, paddocks, broadacre crops, horticulture crops, and football fields across Australia. As the world’s driest inhabited continent, irrigation in Australia is vital for the sustainability of our water and food supply, our health, and the long-term sustainability of our export market.
Whyte Public Relations
(02) 9901 4306