Farms are major users of energy. Pumps, tractors, cool storage, harvesting, maintaining crops and livestock facilities all require large amounts of energy.
While wages, exchange rates and commodity prices are set by external factors, direct actions by farmers can help reduce energy expenses as a proportion of the overall farm budget.
Opportunities exist for Australian farmers to better control their energy costs by:
- improving practices and systems
- changing or modifying equipment
- switching to alternative, less expensive energy sources
- purchasing energy more strategically.
Energy is one of the fastest growing costs for cotton growers. Electricity and diesel accounts for up to 50% of grower’s total input costs meaning significant opportunities to improve profitability.
The Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) has developed energy-efficiency information for cotton growing businesses to implement and reduce operating costs.
The following case studies and resources show how cotton businesses are reducing energy use and costs.
Baan Baa – Diesel to gas conversion. Demonstrates how a Baan Baa, NSW, cotton farmer is reducing his energy costs by converting his diesel engines to a hybrid of diesel and gas.
Comet – Integrating alternative energy solutions. A study into the energy use of a Queensland irrigator, including analysis on the farm's centre-pivot, river pump and grain-drying facilities.
Goondiwindi – Pump evaluation. Information on testing individual pumping set-ups to identify the optimum operating point to achieve maximum efficiency.
- energy assessment and management
- reducing farm energy costs
- energy use in cotton
- pumping efficiency
- pumps in the Australian cotton industry
- pump cavitation
- monitoring tractor fuel use
- tractor setup
See the CRDC CottonInfo website for more information on energy management in the cotton industry.
Energy costs account for a significant proportion of dairy farm overheads, in particular milk cooling, milk harvesting and hot water production. Improving energy efficiency in these areas can enhance sustainability and reduce costs.
The Australian Government has funded the development of energy-efficiency information through Dairy Australia for the country’s 1400 dairy farms.
The Dairy Australia website includes information and resources to reduce energy costs and better manage land, water and climate to improve farm production and profitability.
Some of Dairy Australia’s resources include:
- energy saving tips on a range of topics including solar PV, solar irrigation, batteries and bioenergy for dairy farms
- the Saving energy on dairy farms (PDF 3.58 MB) guide featuring energy-efficiency improvements with a low cost, short payback period that can be implemented in most dairies across Australia
- the DairyPod podcast that hosts conversations on how to improve the profitability and sustainability of dairy farms. The podcast features episodes on getting started with saving energy on the farm and considerations when making energy-saving investments.
Energy use in Australian orchards accounts for a large proportion of production costs and is a major financial burden for fruit businesses. For these businesses, energy is their second largest cost after labour.
The Australian Government funded energy audits for 30 orchards and packing sheds in 10 Australian growing regions which led to development of energy-efficiency information. The audits showed that, on average, fruit businesses could save $16,300 per year by making cost effective upgrades with a payback period of 6 years or less.
Apple and Pear Australia Limited (APAL) has developed a range of case studies to illustrate how fruit businesses have saved money by becoming more energy efficient, including:
APAL has also developed a collection of informative energy-efficiency material, including factsheets and a presentation, to help you cut energy use and save money in all areas of your business.
Improved irrigation efficiency can increase grower returns at reduced costs.
Burdekin Bowen Integrated Floodplain Management Advisory Committee has developed the Energy Efficiency Gains for Australian Irrigators website. The site enables irrigators and community organisations to make informed decisions about energy efficiency.
Case studies include:
- pump efficiency
- electricity tariffs
- underground pipes
- irrigation efficiency.
The site also includes:
- factsheets on energy-efficiency gains for Australian irrigators, irrigation energy saving ideas, electricity bills and meter readings, irrigation tariff options and information, and improving irrigation efficiency
- a tariff calculator for irrigators
- an engagement manual
- videos on the case studies, workshops, and topics such as energy savings opportunities and solar options for irrigators
- slides from presentations on topics such as:
- retail tariffs
- updates on electricity prices for irrigators
- energy in pumping
- water and energy assessment tools
- improving surface irrigation to reduce costs
- clean and clever energy
- pump audits
- bore maintenance
- solar and irrigation opportunities.
Business Queensland has developed information on energy efficiency for farmers and irrigators, including how to save money by switching tariffs and adopting more energy efficient practices.
Refrigeration and tank storage account for up to 70% of energy consumption in a winery. By reducing energy use in refrigeration and other high-consumption areas, wineries can greatly improve energy efficiency and save money.
The South Australian Wine Industry Association has developed case studies on how wineries have improved their energy efficiency, as well the Winery Energy Saver Toolkit. This contains information to help identify, prioritise and action energy-efficiency improvements for wine manufacturing.
Energy Southern Queensland (EnergySQ) Queensland Farmers' Federation. Free assessments to help farmers understand and manage on-farm energy consumption. Any farms in the Southern Downs and Goondiwindi Regional Council areas can participate, either individually or in a ‘cluster’ of farms.
Energy Savers Queensland Farmers’ Federation. Free independent electricity audits to assist farmers to reduce their energy costs by supporting the accelerated adoption of improvements in on-farm energy use. Case studies and other information resources are available.
On-Farm Energy Assessments Victorian Government. Free assessments to analyse on-farm energy use (electricity, gas and diesel) and identify opportunities to make energy savings, improve output volumes per energy unit, and convert to renewable energy sources.
AGL Solar and energy efficiency solutions in the agriculture and manufacturing industries.
Clean Energy Finance Corporation Sustainable and energy-efficient farming in applications including refrigeration, pumps and solar.
CottonInfo Sustainability options for cotton farms covering energy, water and natural resource management.
Dairy Australia Energy management including monitoring and tariff structure strategies.
Dairying for Tomorrow Energy assessments at dairy farms across the country.
Ivankovich Farms A WA carrot farm’s significant savings via energy efficiency and reducing process wastes.
Inoplex Victorian farms running combined heat and power generators on biogas from animal waste.
Qld Farmer's Federation Implemented and proposed actions, covering energy management and a range of technologies.
Solar Panel Options Solar installations on farms.
St Ignatius Vineyard and Winery An energy assessment conducted under the Victorian Government’s Agriculture Energy Investment Plan.
Bottled energy: how wineries manage electricity costs (AEMO) Australian Government
Energy management NSW Government
Renewables - For Farmers NSW Government
Energy efficiency for farmers and irrigators Queensland Government
Agricultural case studies Victorian Government
Farms and business - case studies and guides Victorian Government
FarmHub National Farmers’ Federation
Navigating a dynamic energy landscape: A briefing for farms National Farmers Federation and Energy Efficiency Council