Rubicon Water shows how innovative Australian technology and a consistent market focus can lead to commercial success in India.
Melbourne-based Rubicon Water focuses on improving large-scale, gravity-fed irrigation systems. The company was established in 1995 and offers advanced technology designed to sustainably increase global food and fibre production by improving water use efficiency.
Rubicon’s solutions autonomously control the delivery of irrigation water to farms in irrigation channels, which reduces losses and improves the reliability, flexibility and timeliness of supply. The company also has a range of technologies that improve water use efficiency on-farm.
Australian technical expertise
In early 2019, Rubicon secured a sale worth A$200 million to a subsidiary of the Government of Karnataka (a state in India). It is one of the company’s largest ever contracts.
This project will see Rubicon work in partnership with Medha Servo Drives of Hyderabad to deliver an autonomous control solution which consists of smart software, a radio communications network and 4,300 automated irrigation gates and meters. Installation has already commenced.
In a state where farmers are dependent on irrigation and water efficiency is low, this solution will help farmers optimise their water resources for maximum production. By reducing losses, the solution will increase water availability and enable an additional 142,580 hectares of un-serviced land to be brought into service, along with 37,000 hectares of currently saline land.
The project will also help improve the livelihoods of farmers by providing them with a reliable, near on-demand water supply service, which will enable them to grow more diverse and higher-value crops.
Like Australia, India is investing to improve the efficiency of its irrigation water use. Rubicon has been central to the modernisation of irrigation areas in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin over the last 10 years and its autonomous control solution is the core technology used in the modernisation of the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMID).
The Australian and Victorian Governments are investing A$2 billion to create a more efficient automated water delivery network, improving agricultural productivity and increasing water availability. Prior to modernisation, up to 900 gigalitres of water was lost across the network annually. Water efficiency in the modernised areas is already hitting 90 per cent.
Establishing a presence in India
For its Karnataka contract, Rubicon has established an Indian subsidiary in Bengaluru and formed a joint venture with local company Medha Servo Drives.
Rubicon will provide software developed in its Melbourne head office and equipment from its Australian manufacturing plant in Shepparton, Victoria. Medha will then assemble and install the equipment in India. The local partnership has proven to be an important aspect of Rubicon’s success in India, but the journey to this point required persistence and a long-term view.
Sumith Choy, Rubicon’s General Manager, India, says Austrade has been a consistent supporter in its India journey, starting with its first market visit. Rubicon was part of the Australia Business Week in India (ABWI) 2015 mission, an event Choy found to be ‘well organised, and a great forum to meet a variety of prospective partners and understand the market.’
In addition to CEO briefings and the ABWI mission, Austrade facilitated introductions to State Water Resource departments and helped showcase Rubicon’s capabilities to customers in India.
Looking ahead to the future
India has 18 per cent of the world’s population but only 4 per cent of its fresh water. Of that, more than 80 per cent is used in agriculture. Every drop counts, especially in severely water-stressed regions of the country. Currently, 60 per cent of that water is lost before it can be effectively used for irrigation.
As India starts to tackle issues of productivity and sustainability, it is increasingly looking to international expertise and experience. According to the Global Food Security Index, India was ranked 72nd out of 113 nations for food security in 2019.
India has more than 1.3 billion people, most of whom depend on locally produced crops for their diets. As it transitions to a more open economy with an emphasis on improving living standards and sustainability, there will be opportunities for Australian companies in water management and infrastructure more broadly.
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