Keeping Australia's Food Bowl Full
In a region of Australia known for both its value in domestic food production and its susceptibility to drought, Murray Irrigation relies on Komatsu to help keep the water flowing and crops growing.
Murray Irrigation is the largest privately owned irrigation company in Australia.In a country that is reliant on farmers and their produce, but often starved of rainfall, irrigated land is without doubt a critical part of Australia's economic strength.
Providing irrigation water to over 2,300 farms in southern NSW, Murray Irrigation's area of operation is enormous. Stretching across the state from Mulwala in the east, to Moulamein and Swan Hill in the west, over 748,000 hectares of farmland north of the Murray River is taken in by the irrigation operators.
"Murray Irrigation services a mixture of businesses, from grain production to horticulture. Rice growers are our main customers but we also work with dairy farmers, and a lot of cattle and sheep farmers. The farms we service would be considered part of the Murray food bowl," says Murray Irrigation Fleet Manager Peter O'Toole.
"Irrigation is important because of the low rainfall levels in this part of the world. Despite that it's a very productive area.
"It's an ex-flood plain so the soil is very good, and even with no water in the dams the farmers here are still able to grow things they normally wouldn't be able to. For example, they couldn't grow rice without irrigation, and we have a lot of farmers using irrigation to help grow pasture for their animals."
Murray Irrigation's service is essential to Australia's ability to feed itself, and rice growing stakeholders are among the most efficient users of water per tonne in the world.
"If the area we service was dry land farming, it could not be half as productive as it is," Peter said.
Dedicated to water efficiency, the company is a crucial part of the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program (PIIOP).
"PIIOPP is a government program Murray Irrigation is in partnership with, where we are creating efficiencies in the use of water delivery through our main channels and also on farms. Any water that is saved is actually delivered back to the government to use for environmental purposes.
"It's moving along quite well; the technology we are using is certainly delivering efficiencies and making things a lot simpler.
"Mostly, it is about replacing Dethridge wheels on farms. Dethridge wheels are great big wheels with fins on them that spin around. They have been around since 1907 and are not the most efficient way to measure water flow," Peter said.
"Now, we are moving to a series of systems like slip meters which are very accurate in terms of measuring the water that's delivered, and delivering larger volumes faster, and can be remotely controlled rather than having someone run around and physically monitor them."
Murray Irrigation operates a number of Komatsu excavators that they use primarily to maintain and de-silt the irrigation channel system essential work in providing consistent and fast water flow.
"We operate six two-tonne excavators, two wheel loaders, a 16-tonne excavator, and three twenty-tonne excavators. All of them are Komatsu," said Peter.
"The machinery gets worked hard. During winter, our guys are running the machines six days a week. It can get down to minus two degrees and in the summer its 45 degrees."
In spite of the harsh working conditions, Murray Irrigation has never had any issues with its Komatsu equipment.
"Our equipment servicing is done by Komatsu on a scheduled servicing plan. Komatsu has definitely been the best in the excavators, not only in terms of the finish quality but also in the servicing and sales support," Peter said.
"Compared with arrangements we have had with other operators in the past, Komatsu's service and support is far superior."
In the irrigation business, reliability is depended on by the company and its clients.
"Machine reliability is essential to Murray Irrigation's operations. The Komatsu machines have been extremely reliable and we are very happy with them," Peter said.
"Australians rely on farmers in the districts we service to produce food in the volumes they are used to. Farmers rely on us to keep their properties adequately irrigated and running as efficiently as possible.
"In turn, we rely on Komatsu to ensure our fleet of excavators and loaders are always there when we need them. Komatsu's service and support gives us the confidence we need to keep this region as viable as ever."
Above: Murray Irrigations Komatsu excavator.