A one-stop-shop for irrigation needs
Helping South Island farmers grow has been the focus of Ashburton-based company, Plains Irrigators Ltd for more than 20 years.
Specialists in pivot and lateral irrigation, the family run business has earned a trusted reputation for its knowledge, experience and willingness to do things differently.
Forged from humble beginnings, Plains Irrigators is a one-stop-shop for all things to do with irrigation, and a South Island success story.
In 1995 entrepreneurial businessman Graeme Cooper was offered an opportunity to join forces in a partnership for an Australasian dealership for North American manufactured Lindsay Zimmatic Irrigation Systems With a farming and engineering background, the ﬁt was perfect, and Graeme seized the opportunity, predicting an evolution and inevitable drift towards centre pivot irrigation in the coming years.
He was right. Working from a farm just north of Orari, Graeme was effectively a one-man-band – designing, selling, installing, trouble-shooting, modifying and working with clients and suppliers.
With good support from the supplier in Nebraska who regularly sent a technician over to New Zealand to meet clients and aid in the arrival of new technology, Graeme initially used casual workers to assist in the installation when he sold a pivot.
In 1998, Graeme employed Liz Stephens as the ofﬁce administrator focusing on implementing systems and processes.
With business continuing to grow rapidly, Graeme became the sole dealer for New Zealand in 1999, employing nine full time staff. Graeme and Liz became joint shareholders soon after. “I had farmed in Central Otago for 20 years or so before moving to Canterbury,” says Liz.
“I had a background in the use of irrigation, which was wild ﬂooding on dry land so I was very conversant with growing grass in drought conditions.”
A good team, Graeme and Liz have successfully run Plains Irrigators Ltd together for the last 20 years, each working in specialist areas of the business.
The company now employs an experienced team of over 40 staff in three branches, completing many pivot and lateral irrigation projects the length and breadth of the South Island, assisting with some installations in the North Island.
While the main administration and sales ofﬁce plus operations infrastructure is in Ashburton, it is supported with sales and service branches in Timaru and Cromwell.
“We’re a one-stop-shop, supplying pivots, pumps, variable rate irrigation and GPS systems, PVC Mainline, power cable, electrical switchboards and other ancillary equipment,” says Liz. “Our staff have a wide range of skill sets including sales and design, engineering, construction, GPS, electrical and mechanical.
“These are people with a passion for building and ﬁxing things who get a real sense of achievement when the systems are up and running.” Over the years Plains Irrigators has also built strong relationships with its New Zealand suppliers who have played an important role in the business being where it is today.
Liz says that good product delivery and a complete understanding of the technology available, plus maintaining the ongoing service for the life of the machines have been keys to the success of the business. She says the process starts when the farmer calls to discuss the options.
“We collate the information the client gives us like the water source, the consented allocation to the property, soil type, how many hectares they need to irrigate, the crop.
“The design is sent to the suppliers in Nebraska, for their engineers to conﬁ rm the steel, electrical and technical components of the irrigators which are then shipped back to New Zealand and transported to the farm.”
Plains Irrigators was recently awarded a project by AgResearch to upgrade the irrigation system at its Winchmore Research Farm, which draws water from the Ashburton Lyndhurst Irrigation Scheme.
The scheme had retired its border dyke irrigation for the area last year, replacing it with pressurised water pipe.
The tender, which was won by Plains Irrigators Ltd, was for the installation of ﬁve Zimmatic centre pivots and two lateral move irrigators, mainline and ﬁttings, cable and connection to the irrigation scheme. “The Winchmore Project went as planned,” says Liz.
“There were some challenges due to the extreme weather in July /August last year but these were overcome and the installation of the Zimmatic Systems went smoothly, achieving the optimum results as per the brief.”