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The program cluing Bundaberg farmers in on saving energy

FARMING SMARTER: Cucumber and blueberry grower Gianni Rosetto.
FARMING SMARTER: Cucumber and blueberry grower Gianni Rosetto. Eliza Goetze

"BEING a farmer, it's like being in a casino,” Gianni Rosetto said.

"Everything we do is a gamble.”

When your business is a gamble, efficiency is vital.

While the right decisions pay off big, Mr Rosetto said, power costs were on the up.

"Every year, the bill is bigger than the year before,” he said.

A recent audit has opened his eyes to new possibilities in energy efficiency.

It was a pilot case study in the Irrigators Energy Savers Program, an initiative funded by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and supported by the Queensland Farmers' Federation and Ergon Energy.

A workshop in Bundaberg on Thursday will aim to bring farmers up to speed on ways to save time, money and energy, from technology to tariffs.

Brad Maltby from renewable energy agency Renpro Solutions conducted an audit of Mr Rosetto's Coonarr property, which he runs with wife Larina.

Mr Maltby devised a plan that could save the Rosettos 39% off their energy bills.

When you're spending $20,000 a year, that's a big saving, Mr Rosetto said.

FARMING SMARTER: Mr Rosetto is contemplating measures to save on energy bills.
FARMING SMARTER: Mr Rosetto is contemplating measures to save on energy bills. Eliza Goetze

"Ten years ago we only paid $10,000,” he said.

"Equipment like our pump system and our high heat cucumber wrapping machine use a lot of power.”

The farm in Bundaberg grows cucumbers in greenhouses over 1.3ha, and the Rosettos pack and store their cucumbers at the farm before distribution.

They also grow blueberries, which they are trying out in a hydroponic setting for the first time this year.

Mr Rosetto said the audit had him considering an upgrade to solar and a variable pump system down the track, once the new blueberries were established.

"If we upgraded to a variable pump system, that could made a big difference.”

FARMING SMARTER: Cucumbers in a greenhouse at the Rosetto farm.
FARMING SMARTER: Cucumbers in a greenhouse at the Rosetto farm. Eliza Goetze

Mr Maltby reported in his case study that the trickle pump upgrade could save $7209 in total pumping costs over 10 years, including the cost of the ugprade, a saving of at least 34% with a payback period of six years.

"Increases in running hours and total consumption from crop diversification and expansion also may improve the calculated return on investment to the target range of four years,” he wrote.

"Implementation of a 5kW solar photovoltaic system to offset some power consumption and costs could result in savings of 39% over a payback period of 7.1 years.”

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers managing director Bree Grima said the group was eager to jump on board with the program as it was a good fit with its Carbon Farming Project, which had run for three years.

"We've had a real interest in emission reductions and it's the economic benefits driving the change,” she said.

"It also means growers are looking to keep farming into the long term, which is great.”

For more case studies visit qff.org.au/energysavers.

The Water Use Efficiency and Energy Workshop for Flowers and Horticulture will run from 12-4pm this Thursday, October 20, at 56 Paynes Rd, Alloway.

Register online or call the Queensland Farmers' Federation on 3837 4720.

Topics:  agriculture bundaberg electricity electricity bills energy farmers irrigation rural weekly



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