ABGC welcomes new digital meter program to assist in disease fight

The Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) has welcomed a move by Ergon Energy to install remotely-read power meters on North Queensland banana farms.

In direct response to Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4) biosecurity concerns, Ergon will install up to 600 digital meters in the Innisfail/Tully regions, eliminating the need for contract meter readers to enter banana properties.

Innisfail banana grower and ABGC director Jade Buchanan applauded the State Government decision to roll out the digital devices over coming months.

“Since the initial detection of Panama TR4 in the north in 2015, on-farm biosecurity has been the industry’s top priority,” Ms Buchanan said.

“Most northern banana growers now have effective biosecurity procedures in place and the move by Ergon to transition farms over to remotely-read meters assists in strengthening these preventative biosecurity efforts.”

Following Panama TR4 biosecurity concerns, Ergon stopped all entry of contract meter readers onto northern banana farms, opting for an estimated account system.

Ergon will install the new digital devices over coming months in areas where the 3G/4G telecommunication networks exist. There is no cost to banana producers for the meter switch over.

Where the 3G/4G networks are not available, growers will be asked to self-read their meters and provide that information to Ergon.

Ms Buchanan said all eligible growers will receive a letter advising when Ergon will need to access their properties to install the meters, which requires the power to be switched off temporarily while works are completed.

“If growers have not received advice that they will be moved across to remote readers, Ergon advises they should contact them on 13 74 66 during business hours.

“Ergon can then advise whether there is a job in the system, and if not, advise the grower whether they are eligible to have remotely read meters installed or their options to upgrade their current system.”

The roll out of the new system is expected to be completed by December. Ergon crews installing the digital devices will follow strict quarantine measures when accessing properties.