A farm is a business that strives to control costs, improve revenue and maximize profits. Apart from labor and equipment costs, energy costs are the largest barrier to profitability for a farm. The use of machines in farms does constitute a very large percentage of energy use and thus forms a large percentage of the monthly energy bill. To cut down on this cost and ensure profitability the following tips may come in handy:
Keep machinery well maintained.
If the farm uses tractors in its day to day operations then it is important to ensure that the tractor or any other machinery is well maintained. Keep a log about the service dates for all machinery in the farm; from irrigation pumps to tractor implements.
Ensure all moving parts are oiled and well lubricated, change worn out parts promptly, and ensure you only use original spare parts and engage qualified personnel to effect the changes. Ensure tractor and pick up tires are well inflated. For irrigation pumps, seal all leaks and replace worn-out nozzles.
Use appropriate lighting at the farm.
Several studies have shown that the use of compact fluorescent lights can reduce the cost of electric energy by a whopping 70%. Replace all the incandescent bulbs with energy saving fluorescent bulbs to reap huge energy savings; this is especially so for poultry and dairy farmers who consume a lot of energy.
There are currently more advanced High-intensity Discharge lights and high output fluorescent lights that can be used in either cold or hot environments. There is an energy-saving bulb for everyone and it is a sure way of saving energy on the farm.
Improve fuel efficiency
In a farm, fuel consumption will vary due to crop yields, tractor or motor efficiency, soil moisture content etc. This can be done by matching field equipment and implements to the appropriate sized tractor; if excess horsepower is used for a certain task, fuel efficiency is greatly compromised.
It is also important to organize and arrange the trips you take around the farm. There are certain herbicides like 28 UAN solutions that can be mixed with fertilizer during the pre-planting and applied in one trip rather than having two separate trips. Also avoiding the use of certain equipment like a cultivator unless very necessary will save on energy costs. The farm pick up should be used sparingly.
Upgrade motors used in certain equipment
There are some machines which may that some of their parts be replaced or upgraded to more efficient parts. Refrigerators and milking equipment are usually prime candidates; changing the standard vacuum pumps that come with single speed drives with a Variable speed drive on the pump system can drastically lower the power requirements from around 10 CFM to around 2 CFM; this can lower the energy requirements by 50%.
Using a plate cooler instead of just having the compressor reduce the temperature of milk as it passes through the milking system will also reduce the amount of energy expended and ultimately saving energy on the farm.
Develop proper irrigation scheduling methods
Irrigation pumps use a lot of energy; apart from the normal maintenance it is important to avoid instances of overwatering, patchy distribution and inadequate pressure levels to fully irrigate a field. Once irrigation inefficiencies are addressed then the most optimum level of fuel usage by the irrigation system will be achieved; thus saving energy on the farm.
Carry out an Energy Audit
There are several organizations such as EnSave for example, that offer programs that provide detailed, well planned and accurate energy audit services to farmers, and come up with cost effective measures to reduce energy loss and improve efficiency and productivity. It is important to carry out an audit as this will assist a farmer to plan and strive towards implement specific energy saving programs that have been identified.
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