Im­prov­ing ir­ri­ga­tion ef­fi­ciency

Northern Outlook - - FRONT PAGE - FARM­ING

Waimakariri Ir­ri­ga­tion Lim­ited (WIL) share­hold­ers are ben­e­fit­ing from cut­ting edge tech­nol­ogy to make ir­ri­ga­tion de­ci­sions backed up by hard data, thanks to a part­ner­ship with ir­ri­ga­tion soft­ware provider Re­gen.

Eight months into the project, over 90 per cent of WIL share­hold­ers lo­cated on the south side of the Eyre River have flow me­ters and soil mois­ture mon­i­tors in­stalled, along with ac­cess to weather sta­tion data and ir­ri­ga­tion sched­ul­ing rec­om­men­da­tions.

The project, which is the only one of its kind in New Zealand, aims to en­sure that all farm­ers within the WIL scheme will be op­er­at­ing at Good Man­age­ment Prac­tice (GMP) by 2020.

Re­gen CEO Bridgit Hawkins said feed­back from farm­ers had been pos­i­tive as they are able to gain an over­all snap­shot of what is hap­pen­ing on their farms, while mak­ing ir­ri­ga­tion de­ci­sions that are backed up by hard data.

‘‘We are able to cre­ate daily, weekly and monthly re­ports which pro­vide farm­ers with an ex­cel­lent in­sight into what is hap­pen­ing on the ground.

‘‘This data is used to pro­vide daily rec­om­men­da­tions on whether to ir­ri­gate, while also pro­vid­ing a broader long-term view of what is hap­pen­ing on farm and equip­ping farm­ers with the tools to reach GMP.’’

WIL gen­eral man­ager Brent Wal­ton said ir­ri­ga­tion tech­nol­ogy was the best way for the ir­ri­ga­tion scheme to meet their GMP goal and to re­new their con­sent.

‘‘We see tech­nol­ogy as the key to con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment for ir­ri­ga­tion schemes. The data be­ing gath­ered by Re­gen al­lows us to demon­strate that each ir­ri­ga­tion event is jus­ti­fied and pro­vides us with the facts for our share­hold­ers and reg­u­la­tors.

‘‘By pro­vid­ing our farm­ers with the lat­est in­for­ma­tion on a daily ba­sis we can em­power them to make the best de­ci­sions for their farms and the en­vi­ron­ment.’’ Stage two of the project, due to be com­pleted by Oc­to­ber 2018, will fo­cus on WIL share­hold­ers on the north side of the Eyre River.

Once stage two is com­plete, Re­gen and WIL are plan­ning to hold farmer-led fo­cus groups to al­low farm­ers to pro­vide feed­back and gain tips from their peer group.

‘‘It’s a re­ally im­por­tant part of the process and en­ables farm­ers to share their knowl­edge in an in­for­mal set­ting.

‘‘We’re plan­ning a se­ries of farm visits which will al­low share­hold­ers to en­gage with each other and share prac­ti­cal tips on us­ing tech­nol­ogy to achieve the best re­sults from both an en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic point of view.’’

Wal­ton said while farm­ers were be­ing asked to do a lot within a short time-frame, in­vest­ing in tech­nol­ogy was the best way to reach GMP.

‘‘So far, we’ve had pos­i­tive feed­back from our farm­ers. Ul­ti­mately, we will im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment through less nu­tri­ent loss and farm­ers will save money on ir­ri­ga­tion dur­ing the shoul­der sea­sons.

‘‘Hav­ing cer­tainty around when to ir­ri­gate will al­low us to con­tinue to im­prove ir­ri­ga­tion ef­fi­ciency, while ac­cel­er­at­ing our progress to­wards reach­ing GMP by 2020.’’

SUP­PLIED

Re­gen ceo Bridgit Hawkins.

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