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Solar innovation a relief for drought-stricken farmers


Solar innovation a relief for drought-stricken farmers


A solar water pump system is helping get much needed water to stock on remote hill country farms and has captured international interest from water-stressed countries.

Central Hawke’s Bay electrical and pumping business Isaacs Pumping & Electrical has been developing the technology over the last two years with support from Callaghan Innovation.

Isaacs Electrical directors Gavin Streeter and Shane Heaton were continually being asked by farmers what options were available to reliably get water to stock without electricity, especially in remote hill country properties.

“Solar was the ideal alternative but we needed to ensure we had a motor and pump that farmers could rely on to keep stock troughs full.

“We didn’t need to look too far and we selected a pump with a proven track record and has been servicing farms for over 50 years,” Mr Streeter said.

The Callaghan Innovation funding helped developed the controller or the “brain”, which is a circuit board that optimises the use of solar power and monitors water pressure, run times and faults logs.

“The system is fully automatic, it operates like a standard pumping system and we have just design some clever features to maximise the pumping time and protect the motor,” he said.

The development of the epump has been a mix of international and Hawke’s Bay suppliers providing equipment and componentry.

An Italian company developed the industrial continuous rated motor, Hawke’s Bay engineering firm McLaren Stainless designed and manufactured the outer protective shell and another local firm, some of the Intellectually Protected circuitry.

The epump can pump up to 120 metres of head and up to 20 litres per minute in daylight hours and can withstand the harshest environments. It can fill stock troughs on hillsides up to 120 metres on hill country and unlike other options it can draw both clean and dirty water.

“We’re using the sun’s energy to drive the pump. We can deliver water to parts of the farm where it’s never been seen before.”

Although the epump was primarily developed for farms, Mr Streeter says other uses include hunting and tramping huts. There is also interest from the Pacific Islands as they look to access reliable water sources as as well as international aid projects.

“We have ramped up production due to farmers preparing for El Nino drought conditions while we have interest from a South African company that supports community aid projects.

“We see significant export potential for the epump but presently we have been inundated with farmer interest, which we’re now fulfilling.

Hawke’s Bay farmer Richard Scott is on a property which was one of the first to buy the epump, which he says is a “game changer” for the rural sector.

“I can now get water at all times of the year. With summer expected to be very dry we can access stock water way out on the farm, whereas before we were relying on systems which were proving unreliable. We would get very dry and we couldn’t carry as much stock.”

“The epump automatically pumps water without the need for us to travel out to the remotest part of the farm. We don’t need to worry about water all the time. It has enabled us to lift our stocking rates and be more productive.”

“We’ve also reduced our carbon footprint by using an environmentally friendly solar system.”

ends

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