25 November 2022

Rubicon Water addresses global water challenges from regional Victoria

Rubicon Water has a vision: to increase global food and fibre production by improving water management from the source to the crops. This is a 60th Australian Export Awards winner case study.

Rubicon Water’s solutions enable governments, water management authorities and farmers to manage their water resources more efficiently. 

‘In the coming decades, many regions around the world are expected to face either absolute or seasonal water scarcity conditions,’ says Bruce Rodgerson, Rubicon Water CEO. 

‘This is driven by increasing competition for water and more variable water availability due to factors such as climate change and population growth. Our solutions significantly improve the distribution efficiency of water in large-scale irrigation networks. This makes more water available to support the future prosperity of irrigated agriculture.’ 

Making more water available 

Rubicon Water was established in 1995. The business originally focused on traditional remote management solutions for irrigation water authorities. 

But it quickly turned its attention to addressing a fundamental industry challenge: how to provide quality, on-demand water supply services to farms while reducing water losses in the supply system. 

Rubicon’s flagship solution, TCC Network Control, autonomously monitors and controls the delivery of water from the point of source down to the farm.By accurately controlling the flow of water in these systems that can stretch thousands of kilometres, distribution efficiencies can improve by as much as 30%. This often equates to enormous volumes of water that can be retained in storage for future farming use or even allocated to the environment.

International expansion as education 

Rubicon started exporting in 2006 with operations in the US. Entry into other markets followed, including China and Europe in 2009, and Latin America and New Zealand in 2012 to 2013. 

‘The key driver for our international expansion is to educate the world about the potential to enhance the efficiency of existing surface irrigation networks. This can be done by modernising complex systems that have been manually operated for centuries,’ says Rodgerson.

‘By 2050, it is predicted that 40% of the world’s population will live in river basins experiencing severe water stress. Approximately 50% of all freshwater is currently diverted via gravity irrigation networks. On average, between 40% to 50% of this water is lost before the water reaches its intended destination. Rubicon’s technology targets these losses.’

Addressing global water challenges from regional Victoria 

Headquartered in Melbourne, Rubicon’s research and development facility includes a large, purpose-built, hydraulic flow testing lab in Shepparton, Victoria. 

From here, it has designed, built and installed more than 35,000 control and measurement devices in 17 countries. To date, Rubicon holds 218 patents that cover 21 jurisdictions. 

‘The initial appeal of having our manufacturing in Shepparton was to be close to our key local clients,’ says Rodgerson. 

‘We’ve retained this location due to the staffing expertise we hold in Shepparton. We also have ease of access to service the Murray-Darling Basin and transport avenues to international markets.’

Rubicon water employee
Dam with water flowing over spillway
Water management equipment being loaded on trucks.

Modernising irrigation regions in India 

In 2019, Rubicon Water was awarded the contract to modernise an irrigation region located in northern Karnataka, India. The project marks a significant breakthrough for Rubicon in the Indian market. It is one of the largest irrigation modernisation projects of its type in the world.

The project aims to address water shortage issues in the region by installing accurate water control devices within the existing large system. The system comprises approximately 3,000 km of manual-operated channels that attempt to service 400,000 hectares of agricultural land.

The project scope includes the installation of more than 4,000 automated flow control gates and interconnected communications infrastructure. These will precisely manage the delivery of water to farmers located along the Narayanpur Left Bank Canal (NLBC) system.

The project is scheduled for completion this year. When complete, water efficiencies within the NLBC system are expected to improve by up to 20%, equating to millions of litres of recovered water. 

Australian Export Awards a chance to share sustainability story 

As the winner of the 2022 Sustainability award, Rubicon entered the Australian Export Awards to tell its story to the world. 

‘We believe our story is a fantastic display of a small-scale Australian technology business that’s grown to deliver positive outcomes in some of the most remote and water-scarce locations around the world,’ says Rodgerson. ‘This award will help us continue sharing our sustainability story.’ 

Rodgerson would ‘absolutely encourage’ other exporters to participate in the awards. ‘Not only does the prospect of winning the award present various strategic avenues, but the in-event networking opportunities and ability to share, learn and absorb from the experiences of different businesses are also invaluable.’ 

Ongoing support from Austrade 

Rodgerson says Austrade has been a ‘tremendous help’ in opening doors for Rubicon to export its water management solutions. 

‘Without the connections, assistance and perseverance of representatives from Austrade, we simply wouldn’t have the global footprint that we do today,’ he says.

‘The most useful service that Austrade has provided Rubicon is the willingness to connect us with key decision-makers in-market. It has also advised on political frameworks, hosted international delegates, and kept us up to date with insights related to our activities.’ 

Rubicon hopes to continue leveraging the services of Austrade to enter new markets and expand its presence in existing ones.