Enhancing irrigation with partners in power
Good irrigation means greener pastures and higher yielding crops in the drier months. Great irrigation achieves that using the least amount of water and power as possible. The best irrigation is supported by a power company that knows your system, farm and electricity usage inside and out.
That’s the message from South Canterbury farmers and Meridian Energy customers, Michelle and Leighton Pye. The couple own and operate Pye Group – a family business spanning dairying, vegetables, cropping, grazing, contracting and transport.
For Leighton and Michelle, the relationship with their Meridian Agribusiness Territory Manager, Jamie Robinson, has helped them get the best out of their power. Having direct access to a dedicated manager is one of the main reasons they chose Meridian – and continue to, 15 years on.
“That is so important for us. With Meridian you have someone who knows who you are, knows your business, knows your account, knows what you’re talking about… you don’t have to re-tell your story. It makes life simple,” says Michelle.
The Pyes also value being able to pay their entire group’s Meridian bills through Farmlands. This includes power accounts for dairy, grazing and cropping farms.
“We’ve found that is hard to replicate elsewhere with other suppliers,” says Michelle.
“Farmlands aren’t there to make money, they’re there to help and benefit their members. We find that Meridian have the same philosophy – they’re there to help us. That’s the reason we’ve had such a longstanding relationship. Our relationship with Jamie is great. He’s approachable, has great industry knowledge, and wants what’s best for us.”
Fit for farm
For an operation of such scale, you can imagine the effect irrigation has on the power bills.
“Most of our sites are irrigated, so it’s our biggest user of energy by far, up around 90 percent,” says Michelle.
The Pyes have found that sustainability initiatives help them be smarter with irrigation. The Group is constantly learning and improving their practices and has recently employed an environmental manager.
“Until lately we’ve been about compliance, and we want to move more towards enhancement – we’re getting more deliberate about it,” she says.
“Being more sustainable benefits the environment, which we think is really important. Anything we can do to save on water and irrigation for example, helps us save power, which benefits the bottom line too.”
As water is Pye Group’s biggest use of power, moisture probes, bucket tests and telemetry have all helped improve water and power efficiency.
“We’re constantly monitoring it so we’re only irrigating when we need to – and we can actually get more growth that way,” says Leighton.
Jamie commends the couple for keeping a close eye on their on-farm power use.
“These guys have an in-depth knowledge of how much power everything uses, and the capacity of each of their sites… they’re really switched on,” says Jamie.
“Irrigating wisely makes a massive difference to farmers’ power consumption. We can help streamline that even further by making sure our customers are on a fit-for-purpose power plan that suits their irrigation volume and regularity.”
Jamie’s regular account audits also ensure the Pyes’ electricity plans work for their farms’ specific needs.
“It’s horses for courses. I look at which sites should be on seasonal or year-round rates, and consider meter configurations too, ensuring they’re on the money and Pye Group is only paying what they need to,” says Jamie.
“Lots of farmers have no idea what they’re looking at when they get the power bill, but we can help sit down with them so they’re aware of what they’re paying for.”
And it goes further than that, Jamie says. Paying a farm visit is so much more effective than a phone call or email, and it means Meridian and the customer has a better lay of the land.
“For example, Leighton and I spent a day in the car going around all the sites coding and labelling each meter – so we’re exactly sure which pump is which and how much it’s using.”
Dairy sheds are also prime candidates for energy-saving initiatives, he says.
“There’s heaps we can help with. We can benchmark sheds against national averages and trends, identify why some sites might be using more than others and work out how to bring that down. Our dairy-specific plans have fixed-rate options that can be tailored to each farm’s needs – so we can make it work for each farmer.”
Michelle and Leighton say they couldn’t recommend Meridian highly enough.
“We’re yet to come across another power company with dedicated agri managers that will understand your business as well as Meridian does. It’s not all about price, it’s about relationships too. And Meridian is a hands-down winner on both.”