A look around Koramba Farm

The evenings in the mess hall at Koramba Cotton Farm continue to be a lively and cheerful place with the crew glad to be over another hot 10 hour day. The latest ritual seems to be that they all come into the kitchen as soon as they arrive home to see what’s for dinner.

Last night they were plotting ways to keep us here for more than the six weeks and they thought that simply stealing the wheels to the Aussie Wide would be the most effective way.

Don’t want to harp on about it too much but the appreciation for the meals and the few little extras we put on for them is overwhelming.
Every one of these people has an interesting story, such as Roni who is from Finland. He’s been over here for just a few weeks to visit his father and decided to work his way around Australia. We’d never seen Roni smile nor heard him talk till Kerrie sat down beside him in the mess room and he really opened up. Since then he has been smiling and talking all the time. He has a motor bike which he will disappear on for a couple of days at a time and cover massive distances before returning to the farm.

We decided to drive out to Trefusis which was once a farm in its own right but was taken over by Koramba. Trefusis has a few of the 16 houses on the property where some of the farm’s managers and permanent employees live.
It is only accessible by way of a narrow black soil road that runs along the top of a series of irrigation channels.

 

The canal system is ingenious

The canal system is ingenious

 

Access around the farm is via the tops of the irrigation chanels

Access around the farm is via the tops of the irrigation chanels

 

These channels are fascinating and they are monument to the incredible ingenuity and resourcefulness of the farms owners.

Cotton requires masses of water, much more than conventional crops like wheat and so to provide this colossal volume of water thousands of acres of the farm have been dug out by excavators and dozers and the dirt scarped to form the sides of man made lakes. They are designed to capture water from run off, directly from rain and from pumping. There are 4 of them which hold a staggering 25,000 megalitres of water which will irrigate 2/3 of the annual cotton production of approximately 45000 bales. The price per bale last year was $1000.00!

25,000 megalitres of water in 4 man made lakes

25,000 megalitres of water in 4 man made lakes!

 

Everything about the irrigation system on the farm is big, like the huge pumps that move the water around and the diesel engines that drive them.

Huge deisel pumps to move the water around

Huge deisel pumps to move the water around

Water is pumped from these lakes into channels which a designed with lasers so they transport the water all round the many thousands of acres planted with cotton.

Pumping into irrigation channels

Pumping into irrigation channels

As the pumps work huge whirlpools of swirling water are caused as the hundreds of thousands of litres of life giving water disappear through sluice gates on its way to the precious cotton. At the moment huge volumes of water are being pumped from two of the dams into the other two. This is because of evaporation. Water in a half full dam will evaporate faster that the water from a full dam so the water from the four partially full dams will be pumped making two full ones that will considerably slow evaporation.

Man, there have been geniuses at work here.

Even the empty channels are fascinating because in these you can see the work that’s gone in to their construction and the depth of them.

 

Huge volumes of water pour through sluice gates causing whirlpools

Huge volumes of water pour through sluice gates causing whirlpools

Massive pipes carry the water under roads, and through the sluice gates to be fed to smaller channels where plastic pipes are used to direct the water to the rows of cotton plants which are planted on top of “mini channels”. This is where the large volumes of water end up, soaking the roots of the cotton plants. The channels are designed to not only introduce water to the plants but to get rid of it quickly as the cotton will die with too much soaking.

 

Irrigated water ends up theses furrows between the rows of cotton. Roots are watered but not allowed to soak.

Irrigated water ends up theses furrows between the rows of cotton. Roots are watered but not allowed to soak

 

An empty canal with is underground pipe system

An empty canal with is underground pipe system

 

The cotton is currently in its final stage before it will be harvested in what will be a frenzy of activity that will involve many workers and the powering up of many millions of dollars worth of complex machinery.

The cotton bushes are higher than a human and are full of green pods that are now beginning to explode open revealing four tufts of pure white, super soft cotton. Each cotton ball has a seed inside which will be removed at the Gin. Once the plant has opened all its pods to release its snowy cotton balls it will die and this is when the harvesters will come through the paddocks. We have been invied to sit in these to watch the harvest first hand.

A sea of cotton as far as the eye can see and still less than 1/4 of the farm

A sea of cotton as far as the eye can see and still less than 1/4 of the farm

The cotton plants are as tall as us

The cotton plants are as tall as us

The pods are starting to crack opening to release the cotton

The pods are starting to crack opening to release the cotton

Countless millions of these pods are now releasing the cotton balls ready to harvest

Countless millions of these pods are now releasing the cotton balls ready to harvest

 

The yard is where the millions of dollars in machinery sits silent in waiting for its own function to be performed at the correct time.

There are nine headers which will soon be chomping through thousands of acres of white paddocks separating the cotton balls from the now dead bushes. Each of these headers is worth about $500,000 to buy.

The Cotton Pickers ready to go

The Cotton Pickers ready to go

There are nine cotton Module Builders which are about 9 meters long, 4 meters high and 3 meters wide. It works similarly to a garbage truck. When loading the cotton from the cotton picker into the module builder it will be distributed as evenly as possible. After loading the cotton into the module builder, a hydraulic compactor moves up and down along the length of the machine. This process is repeated every time that a cotton picker is unloaded into the module builder until a module is built up and discharged through the tailgate of the machine after which it will be transported to the Gin for processing.

The Module Builders getting close to working again

The Module Builders getting close to working again

A Module Builder up close

A Module Builder up close

A module of cotton before transportation to the Gin for processing

A module of cotton before transportation to the Gin for processing

In addition the farm has two new Pickers which don’t require module builders, they do the lot themselves dramatically reducung labour costs and increasing efficiency.

Koramba Cotton Farm has its own gin.

The Gin - Soon this yard will be full of cotton modules waiting to be processed.

The Gin – Soon this yard will be full of cotton modules waiting to be processed.

It processes about 130,000 bales of cotton per season of with about 45,000 bales from Koramba itself. It is a massive building that we have not yet seen inside but we hope to see how it works during the up and coming harvest.

The cotton is then transported by truck to the markets around the world and every truck passes over Koramba’s own weighbridge where precise weights are recorded.

 

Hundreds of trucks will soon pass over this weighbridge

Hundreds of trucks will soon pass over this weighbridge

The Gin is about 4 km from the camp and as we made our way back we passed two Red Belly Black snakes which is a sobering thought since the little caravan park where the Aussie Wide sits is next to a paddock which probably has ore tan its share of critters.

The rather deadly Red Belly Black snake crossing in front of us - Quite a few in these parts

The rather deadly Red Belly Black snake crossing in front of us – Quite a few in these parts

This place gets just get more interesting every day.