Houston’s Farm grows salad leaves, mesclun, spinach, and rocket. One of the largest prepared salad producers in Australia, they supply Woolworths and Coles supermarkets nationwide and grow most of their crop on their Tasmanian farms.
Salad leaves are a profitable but exacting crop to grow. Supermarkets demand good looking, fresh leaves with a decent shelf life, while customers want vitality and flavour. Irrigation plays a key role in delivering high quality, delicious leaves that command a premium price.
In 2018, Houston’s Farm established a new growing site in Forcett in Southeast Tasmania. The Houston’s team have long been loyal Nelson irrigation users, valuing the reliability and longevity of Nelson sprinklers. So, when it came to irrigating their new fields, there was only one choice.
Irrigation specialist Greg Pregnell, from Nutrien Water Tasmania recalls the lay of the land. “In summer, the prevailing wind can be hot and dry, which is tough for tender salad leaves. In the peak of the summer heat, Houston’s have to water several times a day, so they don’t lose productivity.”
The new Houston’s Farm site had an existing irrigation system, but low-quality sprinklers were causing soil compaction, and erosion. Greg came to Nelson Australia with his irrigation design to get advice on the best products and spacing for the site. The Nelson Australia team are all experienced irrigation experts, and are happy to visit sites, meet with farmers, understand their requirements, and spend time exploring irrigation options to come up with the right mix for the site and user needs.
The Nelson overlap program allows variable data specifications to be assessed such as flow rate, pressure, and spacing options to explore different product configurations and calculate the uniformity of water coverage. The program is unique in its ability to model uniformity in variable outdoor wind conditions.
We recommended Nelson’s R2000WF rotator sprinkler, called the Windfighter for its ability to deliver gentle, uniform irrigation even in windy locations. This uniformity makes the sprinklers popular with producers growing high value vegetable crops. After a successful trial, Nutrien Water Tasmania installed 4,500 Nelson Windfighters on 23 x 800 series valves at 10.5 x 9m spacing.
Greg explains, “It’s an undulating site, so we used Nelson MRDC 50 PSI pressure regulators to make sure all the sprinklers operate at the same pressure. Pressure regulators give even flow and good uniform coverage by getting rid of pressure variations over uneven ground. And the regulators’ drain check stops drizzle when sprinklers start up and shut down, which saves water and prevents erosion.”
The new irrigation system allows Houston’s to control watering remotely, and programme blocks of land to be watered in sequence. They can also alter watering configurations easily, which comes in handy when they rest plots to replenish soil.
Greg describes why Houston’s use Nelson irrigation. “Houston’s knew what they were getting and were happy to pay a premium for Nelson quality, because Nelson sprinklers give the best productivity and bang for buck. They’re solid. They’re reliable. They don’t break or have maintenance issues. They’re easy to put together, and they go very well. Houston’s had a grand opening for their new Forcett Farm site to celebrate their 25th anniversary, so they were very happy.”
“I use Nelson for lots of irrigation projects. I’ve seen plenty of cheap imitations that don’t last. They break down, then you try to buy spare parts and you can’t. But Nelson is the real deal. I visited their factory and saw the attention they put into design and development. Everything is moulded properly. They use quality materials. They do lots of trials and they’re always looking to advance their technology. And working with the Nelson Australia team is the best partnership you can have. They’re great guys, they give good technical support, and their product sells itself. If you can afford quality, then Nelson is the best choice.”