Equipment typically constitutes 12-15 per cent of the total cost of an irrigation project. According to India Infrastructure Research estimates, the current market size for equipment pertaining to the irrigation sector is approximately Rs 1.12 trillion. Pumps, pipes, valves and meters are the key types of equipment used in irrigation projects. Pumps are designed and matched to the requirements of pumping applications such as drip irrigation and sprinkler irrigation. Recently, energy efficient solar pumps have emerged as a viable option to meet farmers’ irrigation requirements.
Further, three types of meters are used in irrigation – ultrasonic bulk flow meters, automatic meter reading (AMR) devices and hydro meters. Each type has its own set of advantages and challenges. While ultrasonic bulk flow meters use transit time ultrasonic technology for accuracy and ultra-reliable metering, AMR meters are based on ultra-low power, long-range LoRaWAN networks. AMR meters can accurately measure and collect consumption data to generate a bill without manual interference and errors. Meanwhile, hydro meters are a combination of a water meter and a hydraulic valve in a single unit saving both space and installation costs.
In the past couple of years, the introduction of new high-end technology in the irrigation sector has resulted in a higher-value equipment market than had been the case earlier. The market size for irrigation equipment is expected to expand significantly in the next five-six years. Currently, though, the market is experiencing a glut. There is, however, room for expansion given that the availability and higher cost of high-tech equipment, components and spare parts is still a matter of concern for developers and contractors.
Innovations and advancements
Over time, significant advancements have been made in irrigation equipment. The rock pulse system for drilling borewellsutilises ground-breaking sensor technology and gives visibility inside the rock during drilling. The system analyses the efficiency of drilling and suggests adjustments to feed pressure or other drilling settings. The system enables contractors/project developers to quickly adapt to changing rock conditions, increasing productivity and efficiency. Besides, down the hole (DTH) rock tools like hammers transmit intensive impact energy with low energy loss. This results in good rock breakage, high penetration rates and high productivity. Top hammer drilling tools like rods have new thread designs that give straighter holes with less deviation and rigid drill string.
Another key advancement in the construction equipment industry has been the development of hybrid technologies that are environment friendly as well as lower in cost. A case in point is the hybrid excavator, where energy is reused via the hydraulic hybrid swing, which captures the excavator’s upper structure swing brake energy in accumulators and then releases the energy during swing acceleration. Hybrid technologies offer a lot of benefits ranging from lower fuel costs and reduced exhaust emissions to a smaller carbon footprint. Moreover, the construction equipment industry is switching to Euro-IV emission standards rules (2019), as laid down by the government.
Advancements have also been witnessed with respect to survey equipment. Irrigation projects require extensive surveys and earlier this activity required the maximum time in a project. Many of the issues have been addressed through the latest survey equipment such as total stations, digitalised maps from the Survey of India, auto plotter and civil design software. The latest construction equipment with higher capacities for earthwork, and production and placement of concrete is making the work easier and also leading to time savings.
In the area of loaders and excavators, TATA Hitachi has launched the EX super series of excavators that combine advanced technology with low running costs to give a higher return on investment and have a good resale value, and high fuel efficiency and durability. Besides, JCB’s Livelink system remotely manages operations and gives detailed information on the location, service, performance and security of machines through real-time alerts. Sany India’s intelligent dynamic optimisation matching control system determines engine output power as per the external load demand, facilitating optimum control of the excavator’s external load operation system. In addition, the Robex-Smart series of Hyundai India comes with a fuel efficiency kit by which the excavator engine can sense the load on the machine and adjust the engine power, thereby saving fuel by 5-7 per cent.
As far as flow meters and flow sensors are concerned, new developments include turbine-type water flow meters that measure the water flow rate/volume of water that passes through irrigation pipelines. These meters help in providing the required amount of water to the fields and also saves energy by having the pump switch off automatically. Besides, flow sensors – devices that detect and measure water flowing through pipes – are necessary components of efficient irrigation systems. Meanwhile, rotor sensors measure the flow rate with a rotating rotor providing high accuracy and low pressure loss. Hall sensors fitted in flow meters help in detecting leakages in the pipelines, thus saving water that could be diverted to crops.
The market for irrigation equipment is set to expand with a number of upcoming and planned projects at the central and state levels. The irrigation equipment segment will witness further advancements with innovative and cost-effective equipment being designed to enhance irrigation water productivity. India Infrastructure Research tracked a total of 182 announced projects across various states (including interstate projects). These projects involve a total investment of Rs 7 trillion. Based on the assumption that equipment will constitute 15 per cent of the project cost, a total of at least Rs 1 trillion will be spent on equipment. The investment may vary depending on the type of project, level of advancement, location, irrigation area, etc. Madhya Pradesh has the maximum number of announced projects, which will open up opportunities worth approximately Rs 80 billion for equipment providers. Meanwhile, according to industry experts, a total of 4,000–5,000 bulk flow meters are likely to be installed for irrigation projects in the country over the next four to five years. Given the average cost of a bulk flow meter is approximately Rs 1.5 million, the market size of bulk flow meters is projected to reach close to Rs 6 billion-Rs 7.5 billion by 2023-24, thereby offering huge opportunities to equipment manufacturers in the next two to three years.