Precision Irrigation Helps New Zealand Growers Increase Environmental and Financial Sustainability
Jul 15, 2020
For New Zealanders Craige and Roz Mackenzie, a commitment to sustainability is rooted in their family history.
“We both come from farming families. It’s something we’ve been brought up with – be the best we could be with what we have – and we often didn’t have a lot of tools or money,” Craige said. “So, we’ve learned to always look at things to be as efficient as we can be.”
Located near Methven, the Mackenzie’s operation includes Greenvale Pastures and Three Springs Dairies. They milk 940 cows and run their young stock on 320 hectares (790 acres) of fully irrigated pasture and crop farms . They produce wheat, rye grass and several specialty seed crops, such as carrot seed on an additional 200-hectare (494 acre) farm.
“Everybody has their challenges, but the climate is pretty moderate most of the time,” he said. “This allows us to grow a wide variety very high yielding crops and also some specialty crops, too.”
While on a 2008 worldwide study tour, Mackenzie, a prestigious Nuffield Farming Scholar, gained insight into a wide range of technologies and saw the potential to maximize efficiency while improving environmental and financial sustainability. Upon his return, he introduced many of those technologies into his own operation.
“We started with Precision variable rate irrigation (VRI),” he said. “We mapped the farm electromagnetically, so we could understand the soil and productive variability our farms have. That’s what underpins the variable rate irrigation.”
With more control than speed- or sector-based VRI, Zimmatic Precision VRI helps growers, like MacKenzie, precisely apply the right amount of water on every area in their fields. It’s easy to use and works on almost any brand of center pivot or lateral system, allowing growers to:
- Change application depth for different crops, planting dates, terrains or soil types.
- Decrease power consumption.
- Reduce overwatering, runoff and nutrient leaching.
- Save on fertigation and chemigation costs.
- Maximize use of available water through constant flow technology.
Mackenzie said Zimmatic Precision VRI reduces his water use by an average 32 percent and, at certain times of the year, up to 50 percent.
“We look very closely at the zones, because we don’t ever want to hit stress points or let it go over full capacity,” he said. “Once we collect the data from our soil moisture probes, we’re able to put precisely the right amount of water in the right place.”
The Mackenzie’s daughter, Jemma Mulvihill, shares her parents’ passion for sustainability – joining with them in 2010 to found Agri Optics (now Vantage New Zealand), a company that provides a range of precision agriculture products and services.
“We thought it was a good opportunity to work as a family,” Craige said. “Farmers are fairly traditional, so it took a while for people to really see the benefits. You have to be able to show the benefits – a return on investment – and we’re doing that.”
For more information about Zimmatic Precision VRI, talk to your local Zimmatic dealer or visit www.Zimmatic.com. To learn more about Smart Irrigation Month, check out the first blog post in our Smart Irrigation Month series.