Simon Doolin’s Cleveland farm, North Star, located just inside the NSW border, south of Goondiwindi, is a successful enterprise, recognised as 2020 Growth Awards National Winner in the Sustainability category.
Drawing water from the Great Artesian Basin, Simon irrigates his sizeable 6000 hectare holding, growing wheat, cotton, sorghum, corn and barley, and uses two Scania six-cylinder engines.
“We have had the one engine around eight years and it has run for close to 26,000 hours. We rely on it year-round,” Simon says. “My father and brother also run Scania engines on their farms.”
The motor produces 350hp, the output required due to the significant depth from which the water must be pumped to the surface. In line with Simon’s focus on efficiency, the motor also powers a generator which drives his Zimmatic centre pivot, that irrigates circles up to 100 hectares in size.
“The Scania engine has been a success for us,” Simon says. “It just works. We have pushed service intervals to 400-450 hours, and oil consumption is almost zero. When we are irrigating, we’ll run the motors continuously. Reliability is number one. We can’t afford to be without the motor when we need to irrigate,” Simon says.
“Over the journey we haven’t had any problems with the motor, or the ancillaries like the starter or alternator. Reliability has been very good, and Nick Rowe and his team from Country Link have been very responsive if we have had any small issues or questions.
“The servicing schedule and maintenance work has ensured the reliability and optimum performance we have enjoyed. There have been no vibration issues with the motor, the radiators keep the operating temperatures spot on, and we‘re looking at adding telemetry to be able to monitor the motor’s performance from the app on the phone, which is handy when you are running a big farm. The Scania tech allows us to remotely start the motor, but the bore still needs to be physically started,” he says.
“Once the motor and bore are running though, we can adjust the revs and use the telemetry to monitor engine temperature and fuel use via the app, which does provide benefits,” he says. “We also have alarms and exception reporting through the app.
“There is a lot of automation and remote control through phone apps coming to the agricultural industry,” Simon says. “We can measure a lot more remotely, such as water pressure and flow rates, which is very important if you aim to operate a farm as efficiently as possible.
“Mixed farming is now more cost sensitive: labour shortages mean we must rely on technology a lot more, so we can’t afford to have things letting us down. Reliability is paramount,” he says.
“Nick is so good with service. I know if I have a problem with a motor even if it is on Christmas Day, Nick will be here to help me fix it, and he has been. That’s what I need. I need that back up service. It doesn’t matter what gear you have. All machinery will break down at some stage, but you just need someone to fix it. If the problems can be overcome quickly, they don’t become a big problem. If the cotton or crops go without water then you have a big problem,” Simon says.