When Blantyre Farms, a mixed farming and livestock business in the NSW Central West, found itself facing that very old, very Australian conundrum - pushing slurry uphill - the owners turned to the wastewater experts at Hydro Innovations for help.
The point of concern was Blantyre’s piggery, which in early 2020 had a ripe problem.
The farm uses the waste from the piggery to fertilise its fields, but not before it goes through a lengthy process. First, the raw waste is transferred to a covered anerobic lagoon, the size of a football field.
There, the waste breaks down into slurry as it generates methane, which is drawn-off and used to run generators to power the farm.
The broken-down slurry is then pumped to settling evaporation ponds some distance away, where it dries and is ultimately used as fertiliser.
The problem for Blantyre was that the slurry had the consistency of molasses and pumping it to the ponds was no easy feat for standard pumps.
“Ordinary pumps just couldn’t handle the slurry,” says Hydro Innovations’ NSW regional manager Phil Rothheudt.
Blantyre Farms turned to Hydro Innovations, whose specialty is sewage and wastewater handling, to find the solution.
“I love a challenge,” Rothheudt says.
“It’s all I’ve ever done. If I think we can do it, I’m on my way out there to do it.”
A family owned business, Hydro Innovations knows its stuff when it comes to pumping and wastewater.
“What sets us apart is our focused range of wastewater and industrial pumps,” Rothheudt says.
“We know our products, especially the niche products. We don’t spread ourselves too thin with a product range that’s too wide to properly understand. The expertise is there, and the consumer knows that, so when they come to us, they know we’ll find the solution to their problem.
“It’s not easy to get heavy, thick sludge uphill unless you think outside the box.”
Rothheudt’s solution was to use a Ragazzini peristaltic pump model MS3. The operation of this style of pump derives from human “peristalsis” intestinal muscle movements - an alternating contraction and relaxation of muscles around a tube to coax the contents through.
“Peristaltic pumps are usually found in medical situations, and often used to pump blood,” he says.
“They’re also excellent for pumping gentler substances like food, but what sets them apart is that the mechanics of the pump never touch what’s being pumped.”
The substance to be pumped is confined to a tube or hose and pushed along by rollers on a bearing system.
“With the Ragazzini system, there’s no need for lubrication of the hose, which is good when the hose eventually wears out,” Rothheudt says.
“When that happens, the contents will leak out, but in the Ragazzini’s case is easily cleaned; if it’s mixed with lubricant, it can take a long time to clean up a mess like that.”
Hose changes are quick and clean, and also enable the owners to use Ragazzini’s fast leak detection system that alerts owners when a hose needs replacing.
With little in the way of maintenance, the Ragazzini is a winner. It was only when it began the arduous task of pumping the slurry uphill to the settling pond that the real test began.
“The farmers were a bit skeptical, but I knew it would work!” he says.
That was in March 2019; Blantyre has had no issues since.
“The information supplied by Phil to select the correct pump for our application was great, as was the communication for the actual purchase,” says Blantyre Farms maintenance manager Mark Schulz.
“So far we have not had an issue to date with the pump nor information if needed.”
For Phil Rothheudt, the success was no surprise.
“The Ragazzini is a unique pump in our range because of the peristalsis and the no-mess, no-lubricant and ease of hose replacement features,” he says.
“We also had a call from a municipal water treatment plant operator that had been using peristaltic pumps to pump carbon slurry; the existing pumps used an oil to lubricate the hose. When the hoses eventually failed, the leaking carbon would mix with the lubricant and cause trouble for days.”
That operator was sick of having wasted days and down-time to clean up the mess whenever the hoses on his pumps wore out.
Once the pumps were replaced with the Ragazzini MS3, the issues stopped.
In Blantyre Farms’ case, Hydro Innovations’ know-how and experience made all the difference between being up the creek and pumping it to a safe distance.
“Our success is down to expertise and word of mouth,” Rothheudt says.
“We can turn around an enquiry same day and offer a solution; we know the specifics - that’s what matters.”