O’Neill Farms’ Center Pivot Irrigation System Relies on Automated Pump Controller

O’Neill Farms, founded in the late 1960’s, cultivates a 6,000 acre spread located just outside of O’Neill, Nebraska that produces an annual harvest of corn and popcorn. Due to the lack of adequate precipitation in the Plains, all of the crops at O’Neill Farms are watered by center pivot irrigation. Normally two wells are used to feed the center pivot’s needs of 700 to 1000 gallons per minute, according to Mike Givens, Farm Manager at O’Neill Farms.

“Central Pivot is overhead irrigation using several segments of pipe joined together and supported by trusses,” he explains. “The system rides on wheeled towers with sprinklers positioned along its length. The machine moves in a circular pattern and is fed with water from the pivot point at the center of the circle.”

The engines, which power the center pivot irrigation equipment, are critical to ensure the crops receive all the water they need in times of limited precipitation. Murphy’s EMS PRO controller was recommended to O’Neill Farms as the controller of choice in center pivot irrigation by Anderson Industrial Engines in Omaha, Nebraska.

“It doesn’t rain here very much, so we can’t count on it,” says Givens. “We actually have our best yields in years when we don’t have a lot of rain because we know how to control our water that is taken from the aquifer. It seems that if we do a lot of pumping and irrigation during the summer our corn and popcorn crops come in better. We can’t control the sun, but we can certainly control our own water through irrigation.”

Water Conservation Concerns Growing

Over the past couple of decades farmers began to realize that the aquifer is not an endless water resource and more wells were being drilled. This forced irrigation equipment manufacturers, engine makers and farmers to come up with smarter solutions to how water was being used.

“More accurate water control, water conservation and figuring out how to ‘get more bang for your buck’ from the wells became issues that were on the front burner,” says Givens.

O’Neill Farms uses four irrigation pumps powered by Ford® V10 natural gas fueled engines, supplied by Anderson Industrial Engines, to meet its irrigation needs. The low revving 105 HP Ford engines are the preferred choice to power the pumps because there are no fuel storage issues and the engines can easily meet emission requirements.

Murphy ‘Controller of Choice’ for Center Pivot

Givens has a high level of familiarity with engine controls and other instrumentation made by Murphy, and he was an early user of Murphy’s EMS PRO engine controller. “Ever since I’ve been around engines, whether gas or diesel powered, they were bound to have a Murphy product on them,” says Givens.

The compact EMS PRO controller is designed and built to meet the demands of any industrial engine-driven equipment application. Rugged and user-friendly, the EMS PRO is easily installed and able to support both mechanical and J1939 electronic engines.

“The pump engines run flat out for days at a time, sometimes going 240 hours non-stop between oil changes,” notes Givens. “There are a number of engine safety devices that must be monitored. When they are checked on-site they aren’t shut down so we have to be able to access the health of the engine, oil life, coolant temperature and level and more. The EMS PRO works ‘clean as a whistle’ and complements the other Murphy gauges, switches and safety devices that already may be on the engine/pump unit.”

O’Neill Farms has one area on the farm where there is a well in the middle of a section that can help out the other four wells when needed. When the other wells cannot supply enough gallons per minute the helper well comes on line.

“The water pressure has to be maintained evenly and this is where the EMS PRO really shines,” he says. “If all five wells are running strong, then the pressure is even and all is well, but if one goes down the remaining ones have to compensate for the pressure loss. This is where the EMS PRO and its ability to function like a variable speed drive quickly become critical. It can sense the difference in pressure and it automatically ramps the other engines up to keep the pressure flow constant without burdening any of the other engines individually.”

“I am very impressed with the EMS PRO and have recommended it to others. The learning curve is short as the control is pretty intuitive and the manual is easy to follow. The EMS PRO is a very good control to meet the demands of center pivot irrigation.”

Flexible Engine Controller Fits Spectrum of Applications

The EMS PRO is an all-in-one engine controller that offers extreme flexibility across multiple engine lines and applications. Users can be quickly and easily trained on the operation of both mechanical and electronic control engines to perform auto or manual starts and throttling.

“The EMS PRO can save a huge amount of labor time plus monitor the health of the equipment,” says Zach Turner, Engineering Manager at Anderson Industrial Engines. “It keeps tabs on engine oil pressure, proper RPM, helps reduce fuel use and can improve uptime. Users receive an alert if the engine shuts down and the controller can also send a text message.”

If there is a need for engine troubleshooting, the EMS PRO can display all vital engine and equipment information, including diagnostic codes, while separate LEDs indicate amber alarm and red shutdown status. The controller stores the last 10 shutdowns with date and time stamp information. The EMS PRO comes standard in a NEMA 4 enclosure with IP66-rated sealing. Built-in functions include an engine run mode without the need for an operator, auto or manual starting, engine throttling to demand, service reminders and TSC1 engine throttle messaging.

About FW Murphy

FW Murphy, established in 1939, is an ISO 9001 registered manufacturer committed to providing innovative products and services for comprehensive equipment management and control solutions. The Murphy product line has evolved from its original world famous Swichgage® to include a broad range of engine and engine driven equipment controls and monitoring systems. Today, Murphy is considered the leader in J1939 instrumentation solutions.

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