May 20 – Jeff

Today we had some changes to our previous itinerary, we were supposed to visit Water Dynamics in the morning to learn about the state of the art irrigation systems being used in Australia. However, when we arrived we learned they had cancelled on us. No worries though, our amazing guide Flick was able to set up a meeting with a local farm to fill in our time. This ended up being a great change since this was such a diverse farm, everyone on the trip seemed to have something to relate to rather than just a few of us.

Thurla Farms was our first visit, in place of Water Dynamics. This is a 10,000 acre farm that seemed to produce everything that could be grown in Australia. In addition to the plants they grow they also have a large fish farm.

Our tour guide and Farm Owner Col

Owner and tour guide of Thurla Farms

Out of the 10,000 acres, 300 of them were irrigated wine grapes. Unlike the other vineyards we have visited these had low sprays rather than drip irrigation, Col explained this was to raise the humidity under the canopy and for fertigation. (Beasley, 2013) I originally thought this wasted more water than drip would but by adding the humidity, it is all used.


Wine grape vines watered with low sprays

The farm also had 66,000 almond trees, all of which were irrigated using drip to control evaporation and reduce wasted water. (Beasley, 2013)  There was a total of 3,000 acres of the farm irrigated, much of this was alfalfa and wheat fields which were irrigated using center pivot irrigation like seen in the states. We also visited olives, avocados, almonds, and pumpkins. (Beasley, 2013) They keep their hands in so aspects of the industry to help lessen the burden if something happens to one aspect of their farm.

The coolest part of the visit for me was the fish farm. We first visited large ponds where they grew carp which is sold as a source of fertilizer. He explained about all the strict laws and regulations involved in having these since the European carp have invaded the Murray River and caused massive destruction. The farm’s specialty was growing a native Cod sold for human consumption. They sell 280 tons of fish annually, worldwide. They grow the fish in pods that were designed and built at the farm. These pods are now sold to other fish farms because of the 3% of the mortality rate they are able to achieve, since other farms have up to a 50% rate. The pod system is so successful because it reduces the stresses the fish experience since it allows them to live their whole life under water. They begin selling the fish at 6 months of age, at which point they can weigh up to 50 kilos. (Beasley, 2013)


Fish farm pod system being built for other farms


Part of our group getting a tour of the aquaculture pod system used to grow Murray Cod to sell as fresh fish

After a quick lunch we headed to the Mildura Visitor Information and Booking Centre where we learned about the history of Mildura and the Chaffey Trail. We watched two short videos describing how the Chaffey brothers moved from California in 1887 to implement irrigation practices they had used there. What they did was create the first irrigation colony in Australia and allow this semi-arid desert to become a prosperous farm community with nearly 33,000 irrigated acres. Things were great for a while and William Chaffey chose to move to Australia permanently. This only lasted for a short time though, after a few droughts the river started to drop to a level too low to allow paddle steams to get to the city to pick up the produce. This caused them to learn new methods to preserve fruits, such as drying them, but there was only so much they were able to do. People started to blame the brothers for miss treating the river and blaming them for the issues beginning to arise. This eventually force William Chaffey to move back to the USA. A short time after he moved back, a railroad was installed in Mildura solving the low water level issue since the city could always ship the produce. (Chaffey, 2013)


Jason making friends with an Aboriginal at the Mildura Visitor Information and Booking Centre

In the afternoon we had the pleasure of visiting the Mildura Brewery. The brewery opened in 2004, has 6 permanent beers and multiple seasonal ones. The building itself is the old Astor theatre, which has been refurbished to its original glory. The building alone was worth the visit, the brews and tour was just a bonus. We were given a behind the scenes tour of their facilities. They gave us a quick rundown of how they make their beers and how they used yeast, hops, barley, and malt.(Patrick, 2013) We were able to sample some of the barley and smell the different hops used so when we tried the beers later we were able to tell where the flavors and aromas came from.  After watching how their bottling system at work we were able to sample a few of their beers if we wished. Once being taught the proper tasting technique, we were able to sample a few of the beers, which were quite tasty. (Patrick, 2013)


Behind the scenes tour of the Mildura brewery.


Different types of barley we were able to sample

Mildura Brewery

Mildura Brewery

Overall it was a great day. At Thurla Farms we saw how they use drip irrigation to help conserve water. We also saw many ways how they re-use their waste products to improve their sustainability. At the Chaffey trail we were able to experience the other side of sustainability. Although it did allow people to live in an otherwise inhabitable area it caused many negative effects on the Murray river and at the time it was created water conservation wasn’t a big priority. Although most of our students weren’t focused on sustainability on the brewery tour, the brewery itself was. They used local products when possible and also only sold their beer on a somewhat local market.


Beasley, Col. Thurla Farms, 20 May 2013.

Mildura Visitor Information and Booking Centre, 20 May 2013.

Patrick, Mildura Brewery, 20 May 2013.


4 thoughts on “May 20 – Jeff

  1. aubynpa

    This was a very exciting visit to Thurla farms, we were able to learn about a different type of irrigation as well as see a large scale farm operation. One of the things I found interesting about Thurla farms was that they had very little waste. They are currently experimenting with their extra almond’s and trying to make horse feed out of them. They also use orange rines that they receive from Mildura as a fertilizer for the ground. Col is very innovative in his farming techniques as Jeff explained with his details on the fish farming. This was a great visit that opened up our eyes to different crops and sustainability practices in Australia.

  2. Thurla Farms was an amazing farm and the most diverse I have ever seen. I didn’t know that it was of change of plan but I am glad we got to see this farm. It was my first visit in the progarm and it was great to see how the acquisition of thurla farms with aquaculture. If I get my own farm in the future I would follow their method of irrigation and diversification

  3. I think it’s groovy that the city of Mildura makes it a point to spend time remembering the effects of the Chaffey fellows had on the town. They entered the town and radically altered the type of environment in order to make it more agriculturally productive. It’s important for the town to recognize and meditate on the soil science and evironmental science that the Chaffey family didn’t exactly understand or prepare for the changes that took place. The more often cities like Mildura remember basic ecological principles through past mistakes, the more we – as a society – will learn to respect and care for our planet.

  4. shanersnyder

    I noticed that someone mentioned the reduction of waste and the use of almonds and wanted to expand on what we learned. First, I must explain that this farm has a brick press machine, but for special bricks. The farm grows alfalfa and can make small bricks of condensed alfalfa for horse feed. They are also able to make bricks out of the almond shells that would normally be waste. The shells can be used fertilizer and can easily be stored. They can also be used as a heat or fuel source when burned. This farm was impressive in how the waste of each plant or animal can be used for another. Such efficiency seems like it would be very helpful in reducing expenditure costs and I hope to see more farms using the same methods in Michigan whenever possible.

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