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Kentucky Operation Makes the Most of Scarce Water Sources

Established in the 1950’s, Hunt Farms has a history of implementing innovative irrigation practices.

“Natural water sources are scarce in Kentucky, but we had a natural spring on our farm,” said Brandon Hunt, farm manager at Hunt Farms. “My grandpa and my dad were the first to start irrigating in this area. They started with a soft hose travelling gun, and in 1974 we put up our first pivot.”

Today, 12 pivots irrigate more than 2,500 acres of the Hunt’s 10,000-acre owned/leased farmland near Herndon, Kentucky, where they grow corn, wheat, soybeans and tobacco.

In addition to the natural spring, water is pulled from three wells, which Hunt says is an oddity in the area.

“There’s no predictable aquifer under us, so it’s expensive to find the wells,” he said. “We had 2,500 acres that were wide open and highly productive – perfect for irrigation – so I decided to take a chance. We drilled three holes with no success, but then we found water. We drilled the wells in 2013 and 2014.”

As pivots were added to the system, it became increasingly difficult for the original pumping system to carry the load.

“We were old school pumping,” Hunt said. “The system had a diesel motor with a centrifugal pump on the back of it. We had very little control, and we couldn’t run enough water to all of the pivots.”

To solve those problems, the Hunts upgraded to a Watertronics® by Lindsay pumping station.

“When we upgraded to the Watertronics system, we were able to put all our pumping in one spot,” he said. “The system still incorporates three pumps, but they’ve all been moved to one main supply discharge. All I have to do is turn on the valve, and I have the capacity to water where I need it, when I need it.”

The Watertronics system utilizes Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) control technology, which saves energy by providing a “soft start” – gradually increasing the motor speed until it reaches peak operating speeds. 

“We installed the system in 2013, and we have seen a lot of savings – particularly when fuel costs were really high,” Hunt said.

Another benefit of the Watertronics unit is that it can be integrated into FieldNET® by Lindsay, which gives Hunt the ability to remotely monitor and control all of the components in his irrigation system.

“Everything is fully integrated with FieldNET – our pivots, pumps, moisture sensors, weather station – everything is tied to FieldNET,” he said. “It’s phenomenal. I’m not sure how we managed without it, because it really simplifies life. Agriculture has evolved, and we’re doing much more than we used to – but with the same amount of limited time. FieldNET helps me manage my time – and that’s a huge benefit.

In addition to the four-generation family farming operation, the Hunts (Wayne, Steve, Darrin and Brandon) also own and operate Zimmatic dealership Black Prairie Irrigation, a division of H&R Agri-Power.  

“I grew up around irrigation, so I understand the benefits,” Hunt said. “Irrigation has significantly improved yields where we can water. I like to say it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It never quits giving you increased yields and environmental control.”