Growing up on irrigated farmland has given Ivan Truscott an appreciation of water.
As a child he loved watching how water could transform a crop and make it grow.
It’s a passion that’s stayed with him into adulthood and one he shares with leading agri-business company Ruralco, which he joined in July this year.
As Ruralco’s newest Irrigation Business Development Manager, Ivan’s job is to be its eyes and ears across NSW.
If he’s not out on the road talking to farmers, business and local governments about their needs, he’s providing support to any of the company’s locally based stores.
Ruralco has plans to double its irrigation business in Australia and a key element of Ivan’s role is to help them build it.
He’s constantly on the lookout for locations that hold strong potential as an irrigation centre.
“Ruralco believes the future is water,” says Ivan.
“We all know it’s a dry continent and water is becoming more expensive, so farmers are spending more on infrastructure because they can see it is money well spent.
“Water will only become harder to come by and droughts will become more severe, so saving water and using it wisely will become paramount.”
Ivan grew up in Zimbabwe where his family produced mostly irrigated crops and beef cattle on their 7500 acres of farmland.
He moved to England to go to university, studying a double business degree – one of them specialising in agricultural business management – and stayed on to work on a pheasant farm owned by an Austrian Count.
After seven years in the UK he was ready to return to Africa so he bought half the family farm off his father and the two men worked it together with the plan that eventually he’d buy his father out.
In 2001 however political turmoil in Zimbabwe saw Ivan, his wife Marion and their two sons Liam and Euan, then aged 3 and 1, forced to give up the farm he’d grown up on.
They’d been planning to try to make a new life in England until an Aussie farmer in Central Western NSW heard about their situation and offered to sponsor them to come and work for him.
Prepared to give it a try, Australia captured their hearts and they spent the next four years working the Trangie cotton farm, and growing winter crops of wheat and canola.
Ivan then took a job on an investment farm in Narromine, also in the Central West of NSW. Purchased by three farmers as a superannuation retirement plan, they needed someone to manage it.
This farm used a lot of spray irrigation to produce cotton and winter crops.
His passion for overhead irrigation led him to join an irrigation company where he spent eight years, first as customer service manager and making his way up to business manager.
Ivan says he is driven to help grow the irrigation industry in Australia because he believes so deeply in what it has to offer.
“When I came to Australia I saw a lot of flood irrigation, which to me seemed an excessive use of water for such a dry continent,” says Ivan.
“I felt there were much better ways of making water go further.
“Labour can be at a premium in Australia but overhead irrigation doesn’t have to be very labour intensive, so I feel really passionate about the use of irrigation.”
Ivan says some farmers can be wary of overhead irrigation due to problems 20 years ago when systems were being imported from Europe and America. But times have changed.
“Back then they weren’t designed for Australian conditions and just couldn’t deliver the volumes of water Australian farmers needed so the results weren’t what they had been expecting,” he says.
“Things have changed significantly since then and the increase in yields from irrigation can be massive.
“Once, if you had 1.2 bales of cotton per megalitre you could go to the pub and tell everyone, but I have sold machines to people who are talking about getting two bales per megalitre which is a massive saving.
“Water is a finite resource. It pays to invest in infrastructure to apply water efficiently.”
The Ruralco Water Group in NSW includes all Total Eden stores, TEAM Irrigation Dubbo and Rutherford, Pivot Irrigation and Pumping Supplies, plus Ruralco Water Brokers.