A Timaru man who has developed fixed-grid irrigation believes
he has an answer for many irrigation issues on New Zealand
Fixed Grid Irrigation Ltd manager Owen Batt says he believes
his company is the only one in the country providing
completely underground irrigation systems.
Also known as solid set irrigation, the system involved
placing pop-up sprinklers inside a protective aluminium pod,
which added strength so dairy cows could not damage the
sprinklers and allowed tractors and other farm machinery to
drive over it.
The system was completely underground except for when the
sprinklers were running.
Although suitable for most kinds of farming, cropping farmers
would not be able to utilise the system due to working the
ground, and his company was targeting dairy farmers as its
Mr Batt only knew of two farms which had similar systems.
Lower Waitaki Irrigation Company chairman and arable and
dairy farmer Chris Dennison said he thought the system would
have a place in the North Otago region, but uptake would
depend upon the capital costs and economic restraints on
''If it still allows field operations such as mowing and so
on, I think it will have a lot of merit,'' Mr Dennison said.
''I can see it being quite effective. It would have some
uptake I think, working in with other methods [of
Mr Batt said the pipeline for the system would be laid in
rows, with sprinklers laid out in a grid, mapped by GPS.
The company had been running for about 12 months and was
still getting set up, he said.
So far, one demonstration block had been established, near
Timaru, with much praise from the landowner.
A major issue with making fixed-grid irrigation a competitive
irrigation option to centre-pivot irrigation was cost.
''I'm quite aware that at the end of the day to get it up and
running it must be cost-effective and competing against
centre pivots which are certainly the most cost-effective
method of irrigation,'' Mr Batt said.
''It [cost] varies greatly per hectare, the simplest
[irrigation system] is about $7000 per hectare through to
about $12,000 per hectare. Fixed-grid is about $10,000 per
hectare but I want to get the cost down so it is affordable
for farmers. It boils down to how much someone wants to
His fixed-grid system had an 80% d.u (distribution
uniformity) across the spray range from the sprinkler to the
end of its reach, and could also take effluent.
Fixed-grid irrigation could apply any rate of water, as each
sprinkler could be programmed to put out different amounts of
water, depending on the soil moisture required. The
technology used in the system had existed for years, before
his company adapted it, he said.
Federated Farmers Southland dairy chairman Allan Baird said
he did not expect such a system to be picked up by many
Southland farmers, as although not cropping farmers, dairy
farms still needed to cultivate their paddocks.
''I just wonder whether the infrastructure that is in the
ground . . . and about the inability to cultivate or use
those paddocks for winter cropping,'' Mr Baird said.
''There is places where that stuff will work but I have
doubts whether it will be a seamless transition into dairy
farming in Southland.''
While it would have appeal over K-Line for its ability to run
effluent, it would need to be considered carefully, he said.
- by Leith Huffadine