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Case Study: Perry's Berry's Optimises Strawberry Production with Precision Irrigation

Case Study: Perry's Berry's Optimises Strawberry Production with Precision Irrigation

Perry's Berry's started growing strawberries more than 30 years ago. Their commitment to quality and innovation has resulted in gaining a significant share of the strawberry market. They are the only New Zealand strawberry fruit grower to grow their own plants.

Challenge: As Perry's Berry's relocated their operations to a new 30-hectare site in Ardmore, they sought to optimise their irrigation strategy. The new location presented unique challenges: Seeing opportunities to improve their operations, Perry's Berry's engaged Parkland to design, supply and help install their new irrigation system.

  • Dual Water Sources: Two water bores with varying yields required a system that could efficiently manage these diverse flow rates.
  • Integrated Irrigation Needs: Both drip and sprinkler irrigation were needed for different areas of the farm, traditionally requiring manual adjustments at each valve.
  • Maintaining Plant Health: Strawberries are particularly sensitive to water stress and require consistent moisture levels for optimal growth and fruit production.

"The Ardmore site posed a couple of challenges. The water was sourced from two bores with varying yields, plus two different types of irrigation – drip and sprinkler – were to be used. Switching between their different flow rates would require adjustments to be made at each valve,” explained Dave Pearce, Parkland’s Irrigation Manager. 

We needed to find a solution that allowed Perry's Berry's to make irrigation adjustments from a remote location.

Parkland Irrigation's Solution:

Parkland aimed to implement a future-proof irrigation system that delivered efficient water use, remote control capabilities, and improved water management for optimal strawberry production. 

Parkland recommended two irrigation systems that could each be controlled by the same valves, controllers and infrastructure for easier management. This now consists of one system utilising AquaTraxx drip tape and another operating existing TORO AR3 impact sprinklers.

AquaTraxx Drip Tape: This targeted system delivers water directly to the root zone of plants, maximising efficiency and promoting water conservation. This approach minimises water loss due to evaporation and runoff.

TORO AR3 Impact Sprinklers: These high-performance sprinklers provide broader coverage for specific areas, like access roads or paths within the field.

Centralised Control: Both systems utilise the same valves, controllers, and infrastructure, simplifying management and reducing maintenance needs.

The two water bores are interfaced with a new pumping station, using GRUNDFOS Pumps. This allows for the correct water volumes to be distributed to the drip and sprinkler systems from the bores, ensuring the valves are protected from incorrect water pressures.

Remote Monitoring and Control: The IRRInet control system empowers Perrys Berrys with real-time data and remote access. This allows for informed irrigation decisions based on real-time weather conditions, soil moisture sensors (which can be integrated into the system), and plant growth stages. Faster response times to any issues arising in the field are also facilitated.

How it helped Perry's Berry's

The new system’s technological innovation has provided overall peace of mind to Perry's Berry's. The remote access simplifies control, allowing for faster adjustments to changing conditions and a quick response to any problems arising.

With this new system, they will now see: 

  • Uniformity: Consistent water distribution across the entire strawberry field to ensure all plants receive their precise water requirements.
  • Reduced Disease Pressure: Precise irrigation with drip tape minimises waterlogging and leaf wetness, which can contribute to fungal diseases.
  • Fertigation Potential: The chosen system should be compatible with fertigation, allowing for the delivery of nutrients directly to the root zone, improving fertiliser efficiency.

Project Wins at a Glance:

  • Enhanced Efficiency: Remote monitoring and control optimise water usage and minimise waste. Precise application through drip irrigation eliminates overwatering and potential runoff.
  • Improved Crop Management: Real-time data allows for informed irrigation decisions, ensuring optimal growing conditions for strawberries. The system can be programmed to deliver water based on specific needs throughout the growth cycle, promoting strong root development, healthy foliage, and abundant fruit production.
  • Faster Response Times: The ability to monitor and adjust irrigation remotely allows for quicker responses to changing weather patterns or unforeseen events. This is crucial for maintaining consistent moisture levels and preventing stress on strawberry plants.
  • Peace of Mind: Perrys Berrys benefits from knowing their irrigation system operates efficiently, safeguarding plant health and berry quality. The potential for fertigation through the drip tape system also offers the opportunity to optimise nutrient delivery, further enhancing crop health and yield.
  • Potential Water Savings: Improved irrigation coverage ensures all plants receive the precise amount of water needed, potentially leading to water conservation. This aligns with the growing focus on sustainable water management practices in agriculture.
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