On-farm efficiencies pave the way to success


GMID irrigators have the potential to produce twice as much food with half the water, says irrigation systems developer John Padman.

GMID irrigators have the potential to produce twice as much food with half the water, says Strathmerton-based irrigation systems developer John Padman.
The former dairy farmer, perhaps best known until now for his Padman Stops - a watertight rubber flap that is set in a concrete structure to make it easier to automate gravity flow water - is currently testing and refining his fast-watering process for surface-flood irrigators.
The process involves irrigating faster than the water can soak below the root zone.  As a result, less water is used and labour and energy costs are also minimized.
Mr Padman has built a pump with a flow meter that is used in trials to measure the effect of fast watering. These trials have consistently found that the faster the watering, the less water is used.
Mr Padman's innovation won the 2008 national regional and rural category of the Savewater Award, which recognises outstanding water savings achieved by the manufacturing, primary production and retail/wholesale sectors in regional and rural areas.
"Modernising the irrigation system is important but so is improving on-farm efficiency and I think we need to keep pushing that message and ensuring there is support for farmers who want to become more efficient," he said.
He said traditional watering methods were only about 50 to 60 per cent efficient but on-farm trials of fast-watering had proved to be up to 90 per cent efficient.
"We've done a number of trials and tests and hosted field days that show the effects of different flow rates," Mr Padman said.
"Traditionally it's taken six to eight hours to water a bay but fast watering gets it back to between half an hour and two hours."
He said farmers recognised that if they looked at ways to use water more efficiently and "hung in there" there were huge opportunities to expand their operations.
"Already farmers are getting four times more tonnes of crop per megalitre than they were a decade ago," he said.
"Were really heading towards what seemed an unobtainable goal a few years ago of getting twice the feed for half the water.
"If the funding is there for more research and investment in on-farm efficiencies and processes, we could end up being the irrigation showcase of the world."


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