Pump Control System Provides Frost Protection

Central Florida is blessed with a climate perfect for growing just about anything.There's plenty of sunshine, an abundant water supply and sandy soil. Although winters tend to be mild, there is always the specter of a killer frost that can quickly wipe out an entire crop. Smoke, large fans and even water, which can provide a protective layer of warmth, are some of the weapons in a grower’s frost-fighting arsenal. However, the equipment has to be available when needed even if the local power grid is down.

Windmill Farms Nurseries Inc. is a second-generation agricultural enterprise located near Sebring, FL. Started 40 years ago as a row crop and cattle hobby operation, it moved on to citrus orchards and over the past 15 years it has morphed into a year-around plant nursery. Windmill grows more than 150 varieties of containerized perennial ornamental/landscape plants and ground cover. The nursery annually produces about 5 million plants, in 1 and 3 gallon pots, on 75 acres using irrigated mats. Through innovative techniques, three crops a year are produced and shipped through its own fleet of refrigerated semi trailers to customers throughout Florida and the eastern United States. Windmill has experienced 300% growth over the past six years and expects to grow another 25% in 2012. The medium-sized operation is owned by two brothers, Jason and Eric Cord. Eric is the president and is in charge of sales and business operations; Jason is a vice-president and in charge of outside activities including production and shipping.

Computerized Water Supply System

Windmill Farms recently completed a $300,000 project working with the Southern Florida Water Management District that included digging a recovery pond to capture runoff along with a computerized system that monitors the water in each pot and dispenses it only when needed. "The installation of the new water-management system was actually a five-year process," says Jason Cord. "Like a lot of other businesses, nurseries have turned to automation to smooth production and continue growth. We initially used computers in the propagation of plants.We receive cuttings from around the world and do our own varietals from them. Next, we installed an Argus computer system to greatly increase the ability to monitor and control water usage.It can use variables such as sunlight and temperature to control water flow.  It also is essential during the colder months when frost is a concern."

The Argus system controls two pumps, one electric-motor and one diesel-engine driven, that draw water from the retention pond.  Before the half-acre pond was dug, the nursery used wells to tap groundwater for the individual plots.  “We would have five acres here and seven acres there, each with its own well that had to be monitored, which meant that I would have to be here many hours a day, seven days a week,” Cord says. “We would constantly have to adjust the amount of water needed as the temperature changed or when the sun came up and went down.

“While the automated system will eventually monitor usage from propagation through the growth cycle, perhaps its biggest asset is protection from freezing.  If I lose a crop to frost, my whole spring is shot.  If the pumps go down when its 28 or 30 degrees, I’ll lose a lot of material for shipping.  We’ve had cold snaps as early as November, but being able to pump water to protect the crop in January and February is critical.”

Normally, the electric motor pump supplies all the needs of the nursery.  The diesel unit is also brought on for extreme demand periods.  The Argus system is set to start the diesel-engine unit to ramp up all the pumps to 30 psi whenever the temperature dips to 36 degrees.  The water will “ice-in” the plants, keeping a layer of warmth from a pocket of air that forms between the leaf and the ice surrounding it.

Diesel Pump Relies on FW Murphy EMS PRO Controller

The electric pump has a variable-speed drive that enables it to deliver from five gallons to 320 gallons per minute.  On the diesel unit, which can pump up to 400 gallons a minute, an EMS PRO controller from FW Murphy also functions as a variable speed drive and can hold the pressure to whatever’s needed.  Besides pump speed, the EMS PRO controls engine start/stop and RPM, plus monitors the unit’s overall performance including coolant temperature, oil pressure, and more.  It’s linked by hardwire to the control office but can be controlled and monitored by cell, satellite, and RF devices.

The FW Murphy EMS PRO controller was recommended by Stan Carlan, General Manager of MasPower in Sebring.  A division of Mastry Engine Center based in St. Petersburg, MasPower packages engine-driven pumps, generators and other products for marine, industrial and commercial customers and has 140 authorized dealers throughout the southeastern United States and the Caribbean.

“Stan recommended that we use the EMS PRO to complement our Argus system and we went with his advice,” Cord says.  “It’s an economical alternative to standard engine/pump control devices yet it brings a level of automation that’s working out well for us.  For Windmill Nurseries, it’s all about water management.  The Murphy product makes efficient watering easier and it takes out the chance for human error, which can have drastic consequences.  There’s also a labor factor: I don’t have to send someone out to make sure the engine is running, the speed of the pump and engine RPM are in synch, or that everything connected with the engine is running properly.  Every day I get more comfortable with it; there’s definitely a ‘peace-of-mind’ factor as well in that with the EMS PRO there’s a lot less to worry about.

“To be honest, I was a bit ‘iffy’ with using it in the beginning.  But it does reduce the chances for an error, and for this reason alone I recommend it especially along with the Argus system.”   

‘All-in-one’ Engine Controller

FW Murphy introduced the EMS PRO in 2010.  The compact EMS PRO engine 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. 

According to Carlan, “I recommend the EMS PRO because it can save a huge amount of labor time plus monitor the health of the equipment.  It keeps a tab on engine oil pressure, proper RPM, helps reduces fuel use and can improve uptime.  Users receive an alert if the engine shuts down and the control can also send a text message. 

“The new EMS PRO is really 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 manual starts and throttling.  They can select from many start/stop and throttling options via a back-lit operator interface that’s easily readable, day or night.  Finally, it can adapt to a wide range of applications so recommending it is really a ‘no-brainer’ for us.”

The EMS PRO controller is designed for use with a remote modem or in a SCADA system that has a Modbus RTU available at the RS232 port.  The dedicated, micro-processor-based, single-engine controller features field-adjustable operating parameters that can be changed without the need for a laptop computer.  The controller handles auto-start and time-stamping through a simple clock set-up.  If there’s 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 will also store the last 10 shutdowns with date and time stamp information.  It 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, engine throttling to demand, service reminders and TSC1 messaging. 

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.

Typical applications include gas compressors, off-highway and construction equipment, standby generator controls, irrigation and water pumping.  Murphy is also an approved supplier to major OEMs including Caterpillar, John Deere, and Cummins.

Click here to read the article in Pumps & Systems, August 2012 issue.