Ranch Systems Remote Device Uses EMS PRO Control from Murphy by Enovation Controls

Viticulture is the science surrounding the growing of grapes used to make wine.  In the counties north of San Francisco, California, it’s big business. This is the home of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, where some of the finest wines in the world are produced. 

Yolo County, in the Sacramento Valley bordering Napa, also has many acres under wine cultivation.  While the grapes there are of excellent quality, the varying types of soil and valley locations translate into growing conditions that require a lot of expertise and hard work. Temperatures can range from a frosty 27 degrees in the winter to summer highs of over 100 degrees. The area averages only 12 to 16 inches of water a year.

Typically one wine grape crop, ready by end of November, is harvested.  The growing season is long and the need for an abundant supply of water is critical from May through October when the predominantly sandy soil allows the water to percolate through.  Therefore, without an extensive system of reservoirs and canals maintained by the county, nothing could be grown here.

Located near tiny Esparto, California, the Rolling Hills Vineyard has 178 acres of grape arbors on a ranch owned by the Mondavi family and managed by Shannon Ranches, Inc., a respected name in vineyard management and development. The grape arbor has been cultivated for the past 25 years. More water is needed to produce yields comparable to other North Coast wine-producing areas because it is in a valley.

Shannon Ranches shares water from a Yolo County District Water Gate with RH Phillips, a 1,700 acre ranch owned by Constellation Brands, the leading premium wine producer in the world.  The water is delivered via an underground pipeline to the Phillips vineyard six miles away.  There are two pumping stations along an irrigation canal that supply Rolling Hills and the Constellation site.

Making sure that everything runs smoothly and the annual yield is met is the job entrusted to Eugenio Figueroa, Vineyard Manager, Shannon Ranches, Inc.  He has worked in the vineyards for past 12 years; with Shannon Ranches for four years and previously with Constellation Wines.  As the Manager of Operations, Eugenio supervises 25 workers year round, but that number can grow to 120 depending on the particular season.

“It’s extremely important that we get all the water that’s allowed to us,” he says.  “We order the water we need in feet per second and the county supplies it.   However, the water level in the canals changes as other users take what they require.  The county maintains a reservoir that gets the water from Lake County, about 80 miles north of us, and then distributes it by irrigation canals throughout our county.  Most of our pumping stations use electric motor driven pumps that incorporate variable speed drives, but we are not on the grid at this site so we rely on John Deere engine/pumping systems that use a diesel engine driving a 2500 gallon-per-minute pump.  We actually have four diesel engine pumping stations I’m responsible for.”

Water Supply, Volume Posed Problems

Keeping track of the diesel-engine pump sets has always been problematic and labor intensive, according to Figueroa.  Twice a day and sometimes even more, he or an employee would have to jump in a pickup truck to visit each pumping site to make sure they were running and supplying the water when needed.

He was very familiar with engine controls made by Tulsa-based Enovation Controls because nearly all of the engine/pump sets in the area, which are packaged with either John Deere or Caterpillar engines, use Murphy products.  “We’ve been using Murphy control systems for the past four years, ever since we’ve been at this location,” he says.

“When I learned that a new, automated control system had been developed by Ranch Systems, located in nearby Novato, I decided to check it out.  At the request of Ranch Systems, we became a test site for their new control that uses an EMS PRO control device recently introduced by Murphy.  The automated control system was installed in mid-summer, 2011.

“We needed something that would increase the speed of the pump when the level went down to make sure we could get all the water allotted.  Now I can monitor the pump’s performance from my smart phone and from PCs at home and in my office on site.  Without automated controls, there were times when a pump wouldn’t run fast enough to get all the water we wanted or would even run dry when the water was gone.  The new control system can stop and start the engine, vary the speed and smooth out the peaks and valleys of the water levels in the canal.  In the past, if an engine shuts down overnight and our worker doesn’t arrive until morning, we’ve lost a half a day’s pumping and can’t get the water back.

“Normally, I would start and end my day at an engine/pumping site.  Now, using the EMS PRO and the advanced Ranch System controller, I can actually check the water level in the canal and monitor engine performance through my cell phone.  In addition, the system will send me an alert if the engine and pump parameters are exceeded.  Or if the engine shuts down for any reason, the system will send a text message to our operating base by cell phone.

“The Ranch System monitor with the EMS PRO helps us maintain engine and pump uptime because we are instantly aware of anything that could cause a breakdown.  This beta test is going well and I would like to install the system on at least one more pump that pulls water out of the ground in another vineyard. The entire system is reasonably priced and I feel will pay for itself through labor savings because we won’t have to send a worker in a truck several times a day to check on things.  And, because the control system has built-in safety features like not letting the pump run dry or the engine low on oil, we will save on repair costs as well.  We’ve had interest in this device from Constellation and other vineyards and I have been recommending it to them.”

Ranch Systems has Unique Grasp on Market’s Needs

Ranch Systems, LLC, was started in 2005 by Jacob Christfort, following a long career in Silicon Valley running the wireless group for Oracle.  It’s also important to note that he grew up on a farm in his native Denmark and also has owned a ranch with grape arbors and cattle for the past decade in Mendocino County.

“Our goal is to bring automation to agriculture so that ranches and farms can successfully use the automated tools that are helping industry, manufacturing and other professional businesses,” Jacob says.  “We also monitor soil moisture and the irrigation status of the plants, or the ‘climate’ below ground.  We can track salinity as well.  We can tell growers when, where and how long to irrigate.  Our system can turn an unlimited number of remote irrigation valves on and off by remote control.”

Ranch Systems currently has 10 employees and has grown its sales by about 50% each year.  Christfort says his aim is to stay relatively small for profitability and rely on a number of partners, like Murphy, to help offer a complete package to the end user.  The firm’s added value is in the design and the software areas, and it markets complete systems.  “Nearly all of the engine/pump units in this area are either John Deere or Caterpillar, and most use Murphy controls.”

“We reached out to Murphy because we perceive them to be the leader in engine controls, they’ve been around the longest and we wanted to work with them,” Christfort says.  “According to Eugenio, the system we developed offers users a fast payback period and, more importantly, peace of mind.”

Flexible, customizable, easy-to-use controller fits spectrum of applications

Introduced by Murphy 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.  It can be used as a stand-alone control or part of a SCADA system.

If a need exists for engine troubleshooting, the EMS PRO can display all vital engine and equipment information including diagnostic codes while separate LEDs indicate alarm (amber) and shutdown (red) status.  The controller will also store 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, engine throttling to demand, service reminders and TSC1 messaging.

The EMS PRO controller is ideal for use with a remote modem that has a Modbus RTU available at the RS232 port.  The dedicated, microprocessor-based, single-engine controller features field-adjustable operating parameters that can be changed without the need for a laptop computer.

Murphy, established in 1939, is an ISO 9001-registered manufacturer committed to providing innovative products and services for comprehensive equipment management and control solutions.