Interview: Bryan Ward, CEO, Irrigation Australia
We spoke to Bryan Ward about his longer-term view of the irrigation industry, where he thinks it’s heading in the next 5-10 years, including what influences will impact it, where irrigation fits into environmental guardianship, and how he sees the industry hot-topic of energy efficiency impacting irrigation.
What’s your longer-term view of the irrigation industry and what will be its greatest challenge?
Our longer-term view on the irrigation industry is very positive as we respond to increases in agricultural production to feed a growing global population. There will be many challenges ahead including:
- dealing with a scarcity of water during droughts to maintain agricultural production and maintaining acceptable environmental flows,
- using water more efficiently through adopting technology
- the rising cost of energy, and
- training and educating a constantly changing workforce, including understanding and using rapid advancements in technology
Where do you think irrigation is headed in the next 5 to 10 years? What will influence and impact it?
Technology adoption will shape the future of the irrigation industry. It has only been 10 years since smartphones were introduced, and these have made such an incredible difference in all of our lives. Now, new satellite, soil moisture and weather monitoring technologies are just some examples that will define our industry in the next 5 to 10 years. The Australian irrigation industry, and our primary producers, must increase their adoption of technology and training to ensure efficient and low-cost irrigation outcomes are achieved.
What are your views on where irrigation fits into environmental guardianship?
The irrigation industry is represented by thousands of farmers, who despite the often-bad rap they get, are some of our nation’s best environmental custodians and have the most at stake when it comes to protecting our precious soils, water and vegetation. Irrigation Australia has a responsibility to ensure that education on caring for the environment is one of our priorities. Managing nitrogen leachate from intensive farming is vital to ensure the long-term health of our rivers and reefs.
Why do you think the Irrigation Australia International Conference and Exhibition is so successful?
Because it has specific focus on irrigation, the event brings together the full ambit of the irrigation industry from researchers and scientists to manufacturers, retailers, installers, designers and end users. This is the largest irrigation event in the southern hemisphere, and has a proud history and reputation for delivering a quality program across a very diverse industry.
With energy efficiency (storage plus solar) being such an industry hot-topic, how do you see this impacting irrigation?
Rising energy costs threaten the role of agriculture that is producing the food and fibre consumed by all Australians – and consequently, our export income. Australian farmers who have businesses where electrically pumped water is a primary input to agricultural production, face rising costs that cannot be passed on to price-sensitive consumers without affecting consumer demand and the farmer’s profitability. Energy storage technology enabling primary producers to harness and store solar energy is a priority R&D objective for the irrigation industry.