Business Rural Spring 2021

14 | Irrigation software developers in hot demand Photos: A Zimmatic irrigator waters a crop of potatoes (top). Lindsay NZ engineering staff at work. A grower and dealer with a Zimmatic irrigator. Kelly Deeks L eader in irrigation technology, Lindsay NZ, is seeking to double its employ of software developers in order to meet global demand for the world renowned Kiwi skill in the development of agricultural technology. Formerly known as Precision Irrigation, where company founders Stu Bradbury and George Rick- etts invented variable rate irrigation (VRI) in 2008, US-owned Lindsay purchased the firm in 2010 to bring VRI to the world. “We can control the amount of water that goes through every sprinkler on an irrigator,” says Lind- say NZ business manager Denis Gavin. “We can turn individual sprinkers on or off, and increase or decrease the amount of water going through depending on the crop and the soil type. It saves about 25% of water and is very good for the environment, reducing leaching because you’re only putting on enough water that is required.” Denis says about 20% of New Zealand’s pivots and lateral irrigators currently have VRI, and this year sales are up 30% on Lindsay NZ’s best year, and double last year’s sales. “There are three main things farmers are looking for with our system – they want to be more ef- ficient, they want to get more production, and they want to reduce their environmental impact. This system can help them with their compliance.” With five software developers at Lindsay NZ, and a huge team providing support from the US, irrigation innovation has continued at a rapid pace. The next product out of the gate was FieldNET, a software package allowing farmers to control their irrigators from their mobile phones, from anywhere in the world. Then FieldNET Advisor, a revolutionary and award-winning scheduling software that tells farmers when, where, and how much to irrigate. “The software knows the hybrid of the crop, it knows the history of the weather on that farm around that irrigator, and we have weather stations bringing in updated weather forecasting every hour. The irrigator works out the water requirements of the crop and sets a new plan every day.” Now under development is the Smart Pivot. “It makes it even smarter than what we just talked about,” Denis says. “This one has sensors on it that look after the ir- rigator. It can tell the farmer when a tyre is wearing out or low on pressure, and it can check the crop for disease or insect damage and alert the farmer if there is a problem. These alerts also go to the farmer’s dealer, so they can be prepared to provide what they need.” Denis says Lindsay NZ is always developing and always innovating, and even the VRI from the early days has been redeveloped to be more farmer friendly, and the FieldNET platform is always grow- ing in order to handle the uptake as it increases. “Sometimes you think we’ve done everything, but there is always more. We are just trying to make irrigation more efficient, more sustainable, better for the environment, and better for the farmer. We’ve won awards for our VRI, and MPI wants to know why more farmers aren’t using our technology. Any farmer that has it can tell you it pays for itself within two years.” More and more new irrigators are being installed with this technology on them, but Lindsay NZ can retro-fit to any brand of irrigator. FieldNET is offered with an array of different monitor, control, analyze, and apply solutions to provide customised irrigation management to suit any farmer’s needs. IRRIGATION » Lindsay NZ “The software knows the hybrid of the crop, it knows the history of the weather on that farm around that irrigator, and we have weather stations bringing in updated weather forecasting every hour.”