Irrigation system and pump set upgrade

June 2015

In 2015, Lee Rothwell and the team at Think Water Northern Rivers were approached by the owners of Fairdale Jersey Stud to provide direction and upgrade solutions for their dairy farm irrigation and pump system. The previous system that had been installed five years earlier was poorly designed leading to poor coverage in paddocks, loss of productivity, and increased operating costs.

Think Water Award Winner of the 2019 Think Water Project of the Year Award

Fairdale Jersey Stud in Coroki in Northern NSW is a Dairy Farm with approximately 450 Jersey cows, owned and operated by Brian and Elizabeth Chappell and Robyn and Steve Mathers.

The project involved supply and install of a 40-ha automated solid set irrigation system and pump set pumping from the Richmond River. The primary objectives for the client when up sizing and installing the new irrigation system were:

  • Increase productivity through increased pasture production
  • Increase consistency of production by managing seasonality issues
  • To improve the efficiency of water use
  • To decrease energy costs through increased pumping efficiency
  • To reduce the labor cost of irrigation
  • To improve the overall reliability of the irrigation and pumping system.

We had confidence in Think Water’s ability to do a good job as they provided honest, accurate, and well-intentioned advice.

The finer details of the project included:

  • Install a new 66kw submersible pump system to supply water from the Richmond River
  • Install a SS discharge manifold and master valve assembly to measure flow and regulate pressure to the mainline and back pressure on the pump
  • Install a Hunter ACC decoder system to provide automatic control for the irrigation system
  • Complete trenching, lay, and backfill for 3.2km of 250, 225, 150, 100, and 80mm PVC pipe and decoder cable.
  • Install a quantity of 16 x 150mm control valve assemblies
  • Trench lay and backfill 21.2 km of poly laterals
  • Supply and install 850 sprinklers on 1800mm risers
  • Sprinklers installed at 25m x 21.5m triangular spacing
  • High Operating pressure was required at four bar
  • An application rate of 5.87mm/hr at 83% DU
  • Project management of various subcontractors (trench and pipe laying, services location, electrical, directional drilling, concrete pumping, surveyor, etc)
  • Coordinating works program so as not to interfere with an operational dairy farm

The proposed dairy farm irrigation and pump system solution was split into three stages at the client’s request. Stage one was the installation of the river pump and the first six stations of the irrigation system. Unfortunately, this coincided with a significant flood event in the region, causing delays and issues with the riverbank erosion and instability. Once weather permitted the system went in and the customer was happy with stage one.

Fairdale Jersey Stud Irrigation and pump system upgrade

Stage two was an extension of the irrigation system with a further seven stations installed. This commenced in February 2019 and was installed on a very tight time frame for completion. Weather events and further issues with riverbank subsidence dogged the project, however the installation and commissioning of the system were completed on time and on budget despite continual interruption to works.

Fairdale Jersey Stud Irrigation and pump system upgrade

Stage three is due for completion in early 2020 which should take the project value to well over $900,000.

Think Water Northern Rivers utilised the Think Project, Project Management System to help manage the job and streamline the installation process. The company also employed a Project Manager to oversee the job and manage the ITP’s and commissioning. This proved to be a great move as one of the sub contractors installing the mainline needed to be held accountable for potentially sub standard works.

From a Safety Management perspective, there was the possibility of severe injury as employees and subcontractors were working on an unstable riverbank. Extra stability precautions were taken to allow work with excavators and chainsaws. High voltage power lines were also taken into consideration for safety purposes.

Pump Installation on Richmond River bank
The Think Water Team installing the pump set on the banks of the Richmond River

A strict OH&S plan was formulated and followed closely with regular updates. This ensured the safety of all stakeholders for the duration of the dairy farm irrigation and pump system project. It also added to the efficiency of work practices as the regular SWMS reviews were an ideal chance to share all activities on-site and helped to coordinate the team effort, leading to NIL injuries or “close calls”.

Fairdale Jersey Stud where happy with the outcome of the project and the service delivered by the Think Water Northern Rivers team.

“Think Water were very easy to deal with during the initial discussions. They asked all the right questions and were very thorough in their approach to getting all the information necessary to put together the design. They seemed to understand our needs and made sure what they were offering would meet our expectations and our budget. There were quite a few challenges in working out what to do down on the riverbank, however, they worked through several alternatives with us until we came up with a solution that would work.

“We had confidence in Think Water’s ability to do a good job as they provided honest, accurate, and well-intentioned advice. We knew that they had our best interest at heart and would be around to support us in years to come.

“Think Water were great project managers. They communicated with us on a regular basis and kept us in the loop. They were very particular in their approach to the installation and delivered a very professional outcome.

“The new system is efficient and reliable. There is less downtime; reduced fixed overheads; a cut back on electrical costs and when it floods, we don’t have to worry about pulling out the pump as it is a submersible. We are more profitable as we can produce more food per hectare and there is potential for a 100% increase in milk production with the irrigation system. The new irrigation system is more than paying for itself not only financially but has also given us back some time to work on more productive pursuits”.

Bryan Chappell, Fairdale Jersey Stud Owner