Interview: Michael Renehan, CEO of Murray Irrigation

We spoke to Michael ahead of his presentation, “Murray Irrigation: kicking environmental goals with our irrigation network”. He covers the benefits to irrigators and the environment, looking at the journey to modernisation through the biggest asset-renewal project in the area for 50 years of Australia’s largest private environmental and irrigation water-delivery company. Productivity and efficiency are key points of his talk.

Q&A with Michael Renehan, CEO of Murray Irrigation

Topic: “Murray Irrigation: kicking environmental goals with our irrigation network”

Your presentation will highlight Murray Irrigation’s journey to modernisation. It is the biggest asset-renewal project in the area for 50 years, worth more than $200 million. What are a couple of highlights?

Murray Irrigation is Australia’s largest private environmental and irrigation water delivery company. We act as custodian of the 154-kilometre Mulwala Canal – the largest irrigation canal in the southern hemisphere and a critical national asset. Our biggest single customer is the environment, followed by 2,400 landholdings serviced through about 3,000km of gravity-fed earthen channels. Built in the 1930s and ’40s, the infrastructure was relatively untouched until 2013 when the company began its transformation into one of the world’s most advanced water-delivery systems.

My presentation will detail several highlights, including: $206.3 million has been invested into the region; 1,300 regulators have been installed or upgraded; more than 2,100 automatic or remote-controlled outlets have been upgraded – with more to come. The industry-leading Rubicon outlets used can measure within an accuracy of +/- 5%.

How important was your involvement with Round 2 of the Commonwealth’s Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program (PIIOP)?

Any initiative that helps drive efficiency and sustainability is vital in our industry. The PIIOP Round 2 modernises our network, adds to efficiency and reduces system water losses.

It offers benefits to customers, such as:

and it offers benefits to the company, including:

Where do you think irrigation is headed in the next 5 to 10 years, and what will influence and impact it?

Technology will continue to drive innovation and efficiency within the industry. Over the next decade, further improvements and investment in irrigation infrastructure and on-farm technology will be made. Irrigation companies will be operating fully automated systems, where customers have the ability to self service. There will also be a shift in labour and skill sets, as businesses become leaner as technology drives further efficiencies.

What is your longer-term view of the irrigation industry and what will be its greatest challenge?

The irrigation industry will continue to enrich the prosperity of Australian agriculture. Although there will be significant challenges to overcome, such as reduced water allocation and availability, how we do more with less – via efficiency – and the over-capacity of irrigation districts.

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