Long before Australia’s water scarcity challenges of today. Victorian company Rubicon Water was already working on solutions.
Chief executive officer Bruce Rodgerson was part of a team of five back in the 1990s that founded Rubicon Water, now a world leader in innovation solutions. It is this work that culminated in winning the Australian Export Award for Environmental Solutions in 2015 for the company’s flagship solution, Total Channel Control (TCC).
Taking control of water shortages
The premise of TCC is simple. It is a system that automates the operation of irrigation water distribution channels, resulting in less water wastage and improved service to irrigators, which facilitates further on-farm efficiencies.
“TCC is a fully automated end-to-end irrigation channel automation solution used to transform manual channel networks into automated, remotely controlled systems,” Mr Rodgerson explains.
Some of the features of the TCC include:
- Water control gates that manage the flow of water in open channel networks with integrated meters and instrumentation
- Communications technology used to remotely monitor and control gates and meters;
- Management software designed to improve the utilisation of irrigation supply infrastructure
- Breakthroughs in modelling and control of channel dynamics.
“We are the only company in the world that can offer the customer a complete, integrated system,” Mr Rodgerson says.
“With around 70 per cent of the world’s fresh water used for irrigation, and 30 per cent of it lost in transit, improving distribution efficiency recovers substantial amounts of water.”
In some cases, Rubicon can improve distribution efficiency from an average of 70 per cent up to as high as 95 per cent.
Expanding across the globe
Australia is no Robinson Crusoe when it comes to water scarcity. In fact, Australia accounts for less than 1 per cent of the world’s irrigated area, which means Rubicon now has a global focus with offices in the USA, China, Spain, Chile and New Zealand.
Rubicon also has a longstanding research relationship with the University of Melbourne, led by Dean of Engineering, Professor Iven Mareels, which has assisted in the development of the TCC. Prof Mareels was awarded The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) Clunies Ross Award for his work on the IT-based management system underlying TCC.
What future plans does Rubicon have in the pipeline?
The biggest challenges may be yet to come for Rubicon, with plans to expand into the important market of India.
“It is a market where there is substantial water scarcity, population growth and very inefficient irrigation water use,” Mr Rodgerson said. “The challenge then is to feed a bigger population without withdrawing additional water. Our solutions are ideally suited to help them meet the challenge. We are developing a new type of farm service point that is tailored specifically to the Indian market, suited to the needs of the smaller farm sizes that they have there.”
Some of the products under development include:
- A new type of modular farm service point for the US market, which enables water authorities to retrofit water meters to their existing infrastructure.
- Developing a relatively new control technique with a team of four University of Melbourne researchers called Model Predictive Control (MPC), which will be incorporated into the TCC software. This will enhance the ability of the systems to respond optimally to changes in demand while maintaining extremely stable channel levels.
Working with the Victorian Government
Rubicon Water has been able to forge a strong relationship with the Victorian Government. To help facilitate the company’s forward push into India, a strong relationship has been built with the Victorian Government Business Office (VGBO) in Bangalore to help facilitate meetings with government officials, arrange trips to India and provide updates on sales opportunities.
Rubicon was also the recipient of an A$750,000 Industries for Today and Tomorrow grant to help fund factory expansion in Shepparton.