Economics and Value

You can afford effective frost management!

Frost management is not a low cost activity. If it was we would not have spent 5 years developing the most innovative system in the world to manage the ravages of frost. We have been there and know what it feels like to see all of your hard work ruined, from just a single climatic event.

Frost Cost

It’s interesting that these two words should end with the same three letters. Either way, the end result is the end of a year’s income.

The value of the loss varies with the crop and the variety. Frost protection is about reducing the risk of that loss. In plain terms, the more valuable the crop, the greater the financial effect of a frost loss. For a crop of any value, the frustration and feeling of powerlessness is the same.

The problem is that if you have a severe frost you have less, or no income, so you are unable to do much more than window dressing and cross your fingers hoping that it does not happen again. But it does happen again. Once in this position it is really hard to break the cycle and put yourself back in control of your operation.

You can take charge but you need to get past the crossed fingers. This requires investment and most people need financial support. A case has to be made that you can manage and that your financier will support. This is key to breaking the frost cycle.

Economics and Value Proposition

Critical chunky investments can be spread over several years to minimise the upfront cost and Heat Ranger has an option for all growers, small and large.

To this end we have arranged equipment finance with Rabobank (and others), at an average annual fee of around $48,000 over a five year term per machine. Not a lot in the context of the 10 hectare crop saved at Waipara of $173,000. If you add to this the cost of the LPG used over the two nights of some $1,700, the all up cost for the year is $50,000.

Crop saved = $173,000 – $50,000 = $123,000

This gives you scope to cover the rest of your crop husbandry and harvest costs, or you could reduce your finance costs by paying off the capital within two years. Either way Heat Ranger has put you back in control and means that you have been able to implement an effective risk minimising strategy for your crop. This puts you back into profit and gets you back in control of your own operation.

The other very important consideration is that for most crops, the bulk of the expenditure for the year has already been spent and can never be recovered when wiped out by frost.

Historically the only options have been water, wind or helicopters. Now we have Heat Ranger for field crops such as grapes, black currants and blueberries and we are working on extending that range.

We recommend that you do your own sums, but this is how the numbers stacked up at our test site in Waipara.

Alternatives

Heat Ranger is the only machine that puts real heat into the frost event which you can control. Water is effective but expensive, with capital costs about twice as much as Heat Ranger per hectare protected.

Water does a job but you need 12x more water per hour than you need for irrigation and on heavy soils, you increase the risk of soil borne diseases.

Helicopters need an inversion layer and may handle a -2 degrees C frost but crop lost is typically 20% , and operating costs are around $750 per hectare per night (Heat Ranger is about $100 per hectare per night).

Wind machines need an inversion layer, and may handle a -1 degree C frost, but crop losses can still be as high as 100%.