WATER INDEPENDENCE: Smart Berries assistant manager Sally Jolly with the new blueberry crop in Mundubbera. Picture: Sam Turner.
WATER INDEPENDENCE: Smart Berries assistant manager Sally Jolly with the new blueberry crop in Mundubbera. Picture: Sam Turner.

Berry farm’s pipe dream now a reality

VALUABLE water infrastructure has allowed one farm in Mundubbera the flexibility and independence to secure future production.

The team at Smart Berries in Mundubbera have recently constructed a new pipeline from the Burnett River to the farm.

The project has been in the making for six months, and will allow the farm to access its own water supply for its blueberries.

Before the construction of the pipeline, Smart Berries manager Blade McKenzie said the process of attaining water was a “costly process”.

“At the moment we’ve been accessing through Golden Mile (farms), so were using all of their facilities,” Mr McKenzie said at the time.

This year has been a hard one for many fruit operations in the North Burnett due to the drought.

Traditionally Smart Berries received water from the Boyne River, however this supply dried up.

“Normally we would receive half our water from the Burnett and half from the Boyne, but the Boyne’s been empty,” Mr McKenzie said.

“This has only occurred this season as well — we did have the allocation, but since April and May it has disappeared.”

The Smart Berries blueberry farm in Mundubbera. Picture: Sam Turner.
The Smart Berries blueberry farm in Mundubbera. Picture: Sam Turner.

Blueberries can’t go for more than two weeks without water, so the pipeline has come at a great time.

“We’re fortunate, we can get water from both sides of the river at Wuruma and the Burnett, this isn’t the case at our smaller farm in Crow’s Nest,” Mr McKenzie said.

“We have to truck water in every day there.”

There have been many suggestions thrown around by farmers and irrigators about how to combat the dry weather, Mr McKenzie said.

“Some say they need to build another dam, but they’ve been evaporating so quickly,” he said.

“But make no mistake it will get harder out here.”

Just under 60,000 new plants have been planted at Smart Berries, and the new pipeline provides more “flexibility”, according to Smart Berries assistant manager Sally Jolly.

“We’ve got more control now with the introduction of this line,” Ms Jolly said.

“It’ll help us a lot since we haven’t had any rainwater run-off for ages.”

What Ms Jolly is referring to is the earth dam at their farm, which has consistently dropped in capacity in the two years she has worked there.

The depleted earth dam at Smart Berries Farm in Mundubbera. Picture: Sam Turner.
The depleted earth dam at Smart Berries Farm in Mundubbera. Picture: Sam Turner.

“Usually we can get the run-off from heavy rain into our earth dam, but we haven’t had anything substantial enough,” she said.

“We’re pretty much watching this dam go down and down with no rain on the horizon, and it’s been making us nervous.”

Smart Berries had more than 500 pickers this year, but after the new plantings, Ms Jolly predicted they would need anywhere between 600 and 700 labourers.

“That’s a lot of people to feed and accommodate in town, so we’re going to need that water next year to keep everything growing,” she said.



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