The North Otago Irrigation Company’s (NOIC) ground-breaking Audited Self-Management System has taken out the prestigious 2012 IrrigationNZ Innovation Award at its biennial conference in Timaru last night.
NOIC’s entry featured a comprehensive programme of environmental management which has been developed over the last six years.
“Environmental stewardship is part of everything we do,” said NOIC chairman Leigh Hamilton.
“It starts with our culture and values, and is a central part of all our day to day operations, and has been so since the very start of the company. Environmental sustainability is not just something that happens on its own. The company has invested significant time, money and effort into developing environmentally sound farm plans and improving environmental performance right across our scheme.
Hamilton said it was great to be recognised for its achievements and that it would continue to encourage improvement in this vital area of its business.
“We would like to thank the Otago Regional Council and farm planning consultant Ian Brown for their on-going support. We should also recognise the commitment of our shareholders to environmental improvement. We would like to acknowledge and thank Aqualinc for their sponsorship of this award,” he added.
The company planned to use the $2,500 prize money to help fund an environmental project within the local community such as a biodiversity and water quality enhancement project in the Waiareka Valley, working with local farmers and Iwi.
“Modern agriculture and irrigation needs to strike a balance economic and environmental considerations and that’s what we are all about,” he said.
The NOIC’s Audited Self-Management System fought off some stiff competition to win the award, heading off fellow finalists Ravensdown’s On Farm Mixing System and Sustainable Water’s HERBI.
Sponsored by Aqualinc, the award was first introduced in 2010 and aims to celebrate, encourage and promote innovation and the positive benefits being realised in communities with, and as a result of, irrigation. It was prompted by a need to highlight the good news about irrigation and to acknowledge irrigators striving to be efficient and caring for the environment.
This year’s entries fell into a number of different categories, from the use of new technology capitalising on new modern IT technology to the operation of irrigation schemes under audited self-management designed to reflect community concerns of reducing the environmental footprints of irrigated agriculture, and those that were engineering in nature.
The judging panel of Terry Heiler, Andy MacFarlane, Magdy Mohssen and Tonny de Vries were looking for proven impacts and the potential for significant impact on the future, and that’s where NOIC’s Audited Self-Management system won out over the other two finalists, said co-judge Terry Heiler.
“In terms of impact, it’s enormous. It’s quickly moving us in the right direction. As we move forwards Environmental Farm Plans (EFPs) will be required more and more. NOIC’s leading the way and the irrigation company, people running it and the farmers themselves deserve a lot of credit.”
The 2010 INZ Innovation in Irrigation Award went to Stu Bradbury of Feilding-based Precision Irrigation for its variable rate control irrigation system for centre pivot and linear move irrigators that gives total control of where water is applied beneath the irrigator – technology that will be a way of the future in irrigation as farmers and the industry move to ensure optimal water management nationwide.
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