Thursday, May 19, 2016

May 19th

We started the day off at the Tatura research station. At the research station we learned about the research projects they are working on involving pears, peaches, and the Murray Dairy. The first part of the research center that we visited was the pear orchard. They are working on methods to make pear farming more efficient by training trees to grow a certain way, as well as testing out certain irrigation methods. Mark and Tim are also doing market research in Asian markets to make sure that the product that they are producing has a potential export market. After learning about pears Mark took us to look at the peach research orchard where we learned about how they are growing the trees in a V formation which is more costly to install but produces higher yields and is easier to harvest from.

Ian explains the difference between vase trimmed peach trees and Y trimmed trees.
Here is one of the rows of peach trees that are grown in a Y formation to increase light to all leaves and therefore increase production while reducing labor while picking.
When we were finished with the peaches and pears we moved on to the soil physics lab and talked with Peter Fisher about the current issues with soil erosion and what they are doing to help come up with methods to prevent further erosion. He focused a lot about how necessary the conservation of soil is. For example he told us that the loss of an inch of top soil would take 500-1,000 years for the earth to naturally regenerate. Also for one kilogram of food to be grown, it uses 6 kg of top soil. Australia itself loses $200 million a year in lost productivity through the soil. Peter was also one of the creators of the Australian synchrotrons that acts as the future of soil science using CAT scanning.

A poster in the soil research lab that explains the particle accelerator in Melbourne.
After talking with Peter we went and visited Amy and David and learned about the new irrigation processes that dairy farmers are starting to use. In Australia water is its own commodity. In order for producers to use water they must pay for it. Dairy farmers must either lease water rights or own water rights for their property in order to use the water for irrigation system for their pastures. A lot of these gates used for flood irrigation are fully automated. Sensors are permanently placed in the paddocks to sense the flow of water through the paddocks and relay how much water is needed, and also when the area has received its required water. After David finished explaining the system, we went and surveyed a system used by a local dairy farmer named Nick.

Here is the stream of water flowing into Nick’s water gates from the water supplier.
Here are Nick’s water gates that control the amount of water feeding his massive irrigation system.
Nick is a dairy farmer near Shepparton who has implemented the Rubicon flood irrigation system. The system is quite interesting in its ability to efficiently water the paddocks. These paddocks require a little building by a blade to make sure that they do drain from one side to the other. These paddocks are also orchestrated to drain from one paddock into the next. Next we went back into town to check out a cannery.

Here is one of the many rye grass paddocks that Nick operates with his automated irrigation system.
Nick explaining his irrigation system to the group in the rye field.
The SPC Shepparton Fruit Preserving Company was our next stop where we learned about canning on a much more high tech and industrialized setting. SPC is owned by the Coca-Cola Corporation. At the time of our visit, they were not in the heat of production so it was a bit slow. Although they were still packaging mixed fruit cups, navy beans with tomato sauce, tomato soup, and spaghetti. Their labeling line was very impressive since it can label cans at a rate of 524 cans per minute! It was really cool to see the entire facility to better understand the industrial canning industry.

Halley, Brian, and Kyle

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