Low maintenance irrigation expands Big River Instant Turf production

Project upgrade was achieved using four pivots across 77.2 hectares utilising hydraulic drive systems proven in broadacre farming in the US

Terence Coufal (left) from T-L Irrigation and Joe Erceg (right) with one of the four recently installed centre-pivot installations driving increased production

A Victorian turf industry leader, Big River Instant Turf, is expanding its production with low-maintenance irrigation to cater for rising demand for its product from some of the State’s fastest-growing urban areas.

The family-owned company run by Joe Erceg saw the future for clean and green product more than 20 years ago, when he switched from growing broccoli to becoming a leader in the turf industry, now producing more than a million sq metres annually.

“Growth of the natural turf industry is a good thing environmentally, because even the average garden lawn will provide more oxygen than the world’s biggest tree,” says Joe, whose 120-hectare (300 acre) property in Bacchus Marsh is close to major urban expansion occurring in Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong and Warrnambool VIC.

“Real natural turf does a favour to the whole environment, as well as being aesthetically pleasing. We like to say we are bringing back the great Aussie backyard, with healthy lush lawns that are a breath of fresh air for increasing crowded urban environments,” added Joe.

By expanding the business using a low-maintenance, centre-pivot T-Lirrigation system, the project using four pivots covering a total of 77.2ha ( 191-acres), that utilise an easy-to-use hydraulic drive systems.

Joe Erceg and grandson Caleb operate a family business dedicated to making instant lawn for a cleaner and greener environment

One of the benefits of hydraulic systems is they employ technology that is already very familiar to horticulturalists and farmers that can be easier and less hazardous to service.

Hydrostatically powered T-L systems are designed to deliver continuous movement, so gearbox wear is drastically reduced, due to the absence of electrically driven system’s stop-start operation. In addition, water and fertilisers are evenly distributed over the crop.

Joe originally purchased the farm at Bacchus Marsh VIC and set it up to grow broccoli with a fixed sprinkler system. He then decided to convert the farm to grow turf, using the fixed sprays.

After years of irrigating this way and with expansion of the business, he decided it was too hard a job changing over valves, so he researched pivot irrigators and decided to go with a T-L because of their reputation in the turf marketplace.

System configuration

  • Application rate = 8mm per pass, usually overnight.
  • Sprinklers = Nelson S3000 and SR100 boosted end gun
  • Panel = Precision point control (3)
  • Power supply = Isuzu diesel engines with Macquarie Auto start panel
  • Remote telemetry = Agsense Precision link system (pivots can be controlled from Agsense app on the phone or Agsense website)
  • Pivot lengths are 255m, 245m, 350m and 180m

The areas around the pivot circle still use the original fixed sprinkler system and Joe Erceg also added some Nelson Big guns to cover other areas not covered by the new and existing systems.

Big River Instant Turf is ideal for local authority parks, sports grounds, and development projects through to individual homes benefitting from this organically supercharged product

As hydraulics are integral to all farms’ fixed and mobile plant, maintenance doen’t become a more expensive specialist business. So farmers and horticulturalists don’t usually have to call out a specialist electrician or other tradesman each time something needs maintenance.

Big River Turf prides itself on delivering lush turf using microbiological and granular fertiliser.

“The aim of our turf operations is to increase plant yields and promote greater efficiency and sustainability for our clients. And sustainability is a quality which is increasing important to our markets, which range from individual homes right up to major local authorities, sports grounds, and urban developers,” Joe adds.

He also rotates crops on different parts of his farm to enhance soil condition, growing mustard and garlic seed, for example, and bolstering soil condition with natural chicken manure and gypsum.