Upgrading water management systems to improve water efficiency

Case Study

2019 Lion Orchard Pride Landcare Grant

Grant Recipient: Vito Mancini
Farm/Dairy Name: Riverbest Orchard
State/Town: Tharbogang, New South Wales
Project Name: Upgrading water management systems to improve water efficiency 
Grant Amount: $10,000



Since 1999 the Mancini family have grown citrus at Tharbogang in the Riverina area of New South Wales. Operating under the name Riverbest the orchard has been supplying juicing fruit for local processors.

The orchard is set among the southerly slopes of the Macpherson Ranges with loam and sandy loam soils perfect for citrus. The Mancini family use a combination of overhead, microjet and drip irrigation systems to water 18 hectares planted to fruit trees.

Vito Mancini said the sloping land and different irrigation systems make it difficult to maintain ideal soil moisture and instead they regularly under or over water the trees. To overcome this problem, Vito decided to install soil moisture sensors across the orchard.

As a Lion orange grower, in 2019, Vito decided to apply for a Lion Orchard Pride Landcare Grant. He was successful with his application, receiving $10,000 in funding to cover the cost of the sensors.

Project Overview, Purpose and Goals

The installation of remote soil moisture sensors allows Vito to monitor the soil to make sure he’s efficiently using water to maximise fruit productivity and quality.

On top of the productivity improvements, the sensors take out the guess work previously used to water the trees. The benefit of this is Vito only needs to draw on the water that is actually needed meaning the goal was to see both productivity gains and a reduction in his overall water use. He estimated that once installed and calibrated the sensors would allow him to cut water usage by 25 percent.

This water saving and the subsequent reduction in energy used to power the irrigation system would improve the orchard’s bottom line.

“Our average production is 25 tonne per hectare at a cost of $290 per tonne when you factor in water and electricity costs. By reducing our water use by 25 percent, I anticipate this cost will be brought down to $217 per tonne,” Vito said.

Vito said he also expected this will create further environmental benefits by reducing carbon emissions.

“Overall the remote soil moistures will ensure our property is more sustainable as more fruit is produced with less water,” Vito said.

Project Outcomes

Vito said the remote soil moistures were successfully installed across the orchard at sites that give them the most accurate picture.

The equipment that captures this data includes soil moisture sensors, trunk denrometers, fruit denrometers and NDI sensing. Vito said the family weighed up two options, either the purchase of the sensors or leasing the equipment from a service provider.

“We decided to go with the service provider because the interpretation of the data was the most important thing,” Vito said when explaining why he went with the leasing option.

The system of sensors was installed in October 2019 and after a few weeks of calibration they were starting to get some interesting results.

“The data points will, from now on, be the main tool and will be continually evaluated if performance drops below industry standards,” Vito said.

While it is still early days, Vito said they monitor the data on a daily basis and as the data builds they will compare fruit size and water use to the previous year.


Vito said the project had been delayed because the ongoing drought meant there was a high demand for water efficiency services, but he was happy with his choice of service provider.

“Working with service-based providers rather than hardware providers have made equipment selection, positioning and the most important part, interpretation so much easier,” Vito said.

When reflecting on the grant application process Vito said, “It was a very good and straight forward program. Landcare Australia was easy to work with and understood timelines sometimes don’t work out.”

Vito added he was looking forward to continuing the family’s operation and with the technology now installed he expected it will be a more sustainable one.

An installed water sensor monitoring soil moisture in the orchard.

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