Bringing Water To the World (The Edge Magazine Feature)

Made using quality, corrosion-resistant aluminium tube from BlueScope Distribution, Upton Engineering’s state-of-the-art centre pivot irrigation systems are in great demand not only across Australia but also around the world – with supply for yet another overseas project, this one for a customer in Saudi Arabia, currently in the pipeline.

Founded in 1944 in Corowa, a NSW town on the Murray River, Upton Engineering is a third- generation, family-owned company that has established itself as one of the most versatile and complete manufacturers of agricultural irrigation in Australia.

That’s not surprising when you consider the company’s deep roots in agriculture and the fact that Upton is a household name in
rural Australia as a result of their pioneering developments – first in heavy duty 2-wheel drive tractors and now in their renowned centre pivot irrigation equipment.

Centre pivot irrigation is a method of overhead sprinkler irrigation consisting of multiple sections of pipe joined together to create long spans, with sprinklers positioned along their length, which are supported by trusses and mounted on wheeled towers. Moving in a circular pattern, they are fed with water piped to the pivot point at the centre of the circle, and can be either fixed systems or can be specifically built as a completely moveable system which can be towed from one site to another using a tractor.

With experience unmatched by any other company, Upton Engineering manufactures fixed and towable centre pivot irrigation systems at their two-hectare industrial site in Corowa, producing machines that can irrigate areas from 10 hectares to 60 hectares in size under one ‘circle’.

Dedicated as they are to producing innovative, quality equipment with a service life and warranty exceeding other brands, it’s not surprising that Upton Engineering rely on quality products from BlueScope Distribution to manufacture their premier systems.

Key among these products is the marine grade, corrosion-resistant aluminium pipe, supplied by BlueScope Distribution since 1999, that Upton use to form the backbone of the main span section that carries water out to the sprinklers.

“Around where we live, underground water sometimes has salt in it which is very corrosive on galvanised steel pipes. That means a shorter life span, a faster depreciating asset and more cost to farmers, so we make equipment from superior corrosion-resistant materials and also engineer tailor-made solutions for specific needs, soil types and water conditions,” Paul Upton, managing director, said.

“The fact that we’ve been very successful in using aluminium on what might be termed slightly salty underground water has made our equipment extremely popular across Australia. We distribute machines basically to every state and even as far away as the north west of Western Australia, on the cattle stations, as the cattle market up there is booming because of the live export out of Broome to Asian markets.

“We’ve also recently been approached by another overseas pivot manufacturer to fabricate and supply pipes for their machines for delivery into Northern Africa,” he continued.
“That particular area they’re moving into has saltier water than they’re used to, and their galvanised pipes aren’t successful in that salty water, and that’s one of the reasons why they’ve approached us to fabricate and supply pipes by the container load to that market.”

Supporting Upton Engineering in delivering their highly durable irrigation systems across Australia and the world is the enduring relationship they have with BlueScope Distribution’s nearby Albury branch – and Market Development Manager, Brian Dowling – who supply the company with essential aluminium and steel components and technical advice.

“The aluminium we provide is mainly tube and plate to make their big irrigation systems, and we do supply steel; basically almost everything but the tyres,” Brian said.

“Paul got into aluminium quite a few years ago because it’s lighter, so the machine doesn’t have to work as hard and obviously it doesn’t corrode. To support Upton Engineering, I actually had our aluminium mill manufacture the dies for them, to the size and thickness they needed, and they’ve been held at the mill ever since, ready to supply product as required.

“Paul knows he can call on us at any time for anything Upton requires, because he knows that we’ve got Upton’s interests at heart,” Brian concluded.

“We feel we have a strong partnership with BlueScope Distribution; they’ve always been exceptional to us,” Paul Upton said. “Whether it’s unique product requirements or technical support I know that if I need anything, Brian and the team will do whatever it takes; they definitely look after us.

“Our business has a strong focus on placing customers’ needs first and developing long lasting relationships with them. From our experience, we know BlueScope Distribution is the same and that makes our partnership a very good fit.”

Upton introduces new Australian designed and manufactured Linear Move Irrigators

Corowa NSW based Upton Irrigation has released a new range of Australian designed and locally manufactured Linear Move Irrigators with extensive features and options that are designed to fulfil a range of applications.

The new Upton Linear Move irrigators are available as a low profile version giving a crop clearance height of 1.8 metres that will be ideal for recreational turf farms and vegetable growing applications, or a higher clearance version that will be suited to broadacre or row cropping applications with an extended under pipe clearance of 3.2m? metres.

The new irrigators are offered with extensive choices including a hose drag water feed or a self contained and carried pump system that will access a parallel channel feed water supply system. The hose drag version employs the Australian made Crusader lay flat hose. Hose diameters can be from 75 to 150mm

The Upton Linear Moves can also designed to be towable from one watering position to the next or can pivot if required. Designer and builder Paul Upton says he has made extensive use of non-corroding materials including high grade aluminium and stainless steel pipe work. He adds “our first two new Upton Linears are already at work.

“One is working at the All Saints Winery adjacent to the Murray Valley Highway at Wahgunyah. It’s is currently watering the pasture of the area that All Saints use as their polo field and to host their major events including their Day on the Green music events.”

This irrigator is watering an area with dimensions of 126 metres in width by a length of 260 metres or about 3.3 hectares per run, but the machine is then pivoted with water to an adjoining identical area.

The second new Upton Linear Move is being used by a specialist vegetable grower who concentrates on spring onion production at Tocumwal.

“It is watering a field area of 75 metres in width by 410 metres in length and the grower can reverse it back over the same ground as well as towing it to two more adjacent blocks of the same size” Paul Upton says.

The irrigators are designed for low pressure, highly efficient water distribution. Both current machines employ low pressure Nelson Sprinklers that are designed to give a wide throw watering pattern.

Mr Upton says that the design uses industry proven products with as high a local Australian content that it is possible to achieve.

“Irrigators with specialist demands like vegetable growers and turf farms have up until now been forced to purchase US designed and built Linear Moves with pretty much limited flexibility.We have elected to build a Linear that uniquely meets the features our growers want and at an affordable price in $A dollars whereas imported machines priced in $US have always been expensive and with their purchasers often exposed to exchange rate variations” Mr Upton says.

Founded in Corowa in 1944 the family owned third generation Irrigation and engineering company has built and installed hundreds of mobile irrigators all over Australia that are used to water a very diverse range of crops.

Upton have also used their expertise to design and build special purpose irrigators including racecourse irrigators that water most of Australia’s major grass racetracks. These machines have also been exported to many prominent racecourses around the world.

“We believe we have the expertise and skills in building both centre pivot and lateral move irrigators that are unique in meeting the watering needs of all types of irrigation projects.

“For instance, our use of corrosion resistant high grade aluminium and stainless steel pipework in this instance makes our machines ideal for watering with lower grade or recycled water supplies. We simply invite growers to bring their field dimensions to us together with information on their source of water and desired application rates and we will prepare an Australian designed and built irrigation solution to suit” Paul Upton says.

For technical enquiries or requests for further information, please feel free to contact us.

Two of the new Upton Australian designed and built Linear Move Irrigators are already working at Wahgunyah & Tocumwal.This machine is watering the polo and events field pasture adjacent to the All Saints Winery on the Murray Valley Highway at Wahgunyah.

Using non-corrosive pipe work in high grade aluminium and stainless steel, the towable irrigators are available in two field clearance heights of 1.8 and 3.2 metres.Designer and builder Paul Upton says he sees significant applications potential especially in turf farm and specialist vegetable growing for the lower clearance version in particular.

Pierce Irrigation Distributor Australia

Geraldton’s McIntosh & Son Branch Links With Upton Engineering For Upton & Pierce Irrigation Products Throughout The WA Northwest

Recognising that the Pilbara, the Kimberley and north west regions of Western Australia hold significant potential for the development of irrigation under centre pivot or lateral move equipment Upton Engineering the Corowa NSW based manufacturer has appointed the Geraldton based branch of long established agricultural machinery and services group McIntosh & Son as a full line distributor responsible for sales, installation, servicing and with a stock of all consumable parts.

McIntosh’s Geraldton branch manager Brad Forrester says he sought out the appointment from Upton Engineering for their full range of the Australian made Upton aluminium and the US Pierce range of galvanized steel centre pivot and lateral move irrigators.

“In fact we have recently completed the installation for grazier Brent Smoothy at Eneabba of four Upton seven tower centre pivots each watering 40 hectares of pasture,

“The irrigators have been supplied by Upton Irrigation to be used as part of a value adding cattle fattening and finishing operation” Brad Forrester says.

Upton Irrigation and the McIntosh & Son Geraldton branch will also be working together for a further installation at Wallal Station north of Port Hedland including two Pierce centre pivots each watering forty seven hectares.

This installation will be completed in coming weeks.

Brad Forrester says that Upton Engineering as a second and third generation family owned company is one of the best known and longest established manufacturers and suppliers of high technology irrigation.

Founded in Corowa in 1944 the Upton record shows towards 600 irrigators installed and managing director Paul Upton says that his company has succeeded from a focus on high design inputs, advanced state of the art manufacturing and an emphasis on customer service.

Brad Forester adds “our Geraldton staff that will specialise in irrigation have recently completed a technical induction course and a visit to the Upton headquarters in Corowa NSW.

“We see significant potential for both Upton and Pierce machines throughout the north west of WA as station property owners in particular see the potential for finishing their stock on irrigated grass pastures.

“There is also significant scope for irrigated crops to take advantage of the available water resources and McIntosh & Son consider irrigated agriculture will be a significant growth opportunity for the future.

“Like Upton’s McIntosh & Son is a long established WA agricultural machinery and services business having recently recorded our sixtieth year of operation.

“We have eight retail stores in WA, another in Queensland with long established relationship with leading brands like New Holland and Geraldton is our most northern branch in WA.

“It is uniquely placed to service the anticipated expansion of centre pivot and lateral move irrigation in the north west of WA”.

McIntosh & Son has appointed Glen Mackin with irrigation sales responsibility throughout the north west while Scott Hughes will head up service, parts and technical support from the Geraldton branch.

Upton Engineering manufactures its own branded range of aluminium centre pivot and is also the Australia stocking distributor for the Pierce range.

With head office in Oregon USA and active around the world the Pierce pivot and lateral move range of irrigators offers galvanized steel or poly lined pipe work making these machine an ideal choice for applications where poorer water quality may be an issue.

For More Information: contact Brad Forrester at McIntosh & Son Geraldton on 0428 215 003 or 089921 5000 or Paul Upton, Upton Engineering Corowa NSW on 02 6033 1844 or 0417 459 180.



Brad Forrester Branch Manager of McIntosh & Son Geraldton WA and his support staff have recently completed a technical and product induction on Upton and Pierce centre pivot and lateral move irrigation products at the Upton Engineering headquarters at Corowa NSW. McIntosh & Son has completed their first installation and commissioning of four Upton centre pivots each watering 40 hectares at Brent Smoothy’s cattle finishing operation at Eneabba. This project is to be followed by two more Pierce centre pivot s to be installed at Wallal Station north of Port Hedland. The McIntosh & Son Geraldton Branch will supply, install and service the Upton and Pierce irrigation ranges throughout the north west of WA.

Flemington goes with the flow from its two new irrigators

Flemington racecourse has just taken delivery of two new Upton Irriturf Racecourse irrigators to be used in preparing the grass track surface for the Spring Racing Carnival and the Emirates Melbourne Cup.

The new irrigator upgrades a machine design released 20 years ago – and still used at a number of local racecourses – and exported to tracks in the USA, UK, South Africa and New Zealand.

The new Upton machines at Flemington have a 30-metre wide folding galvanized steel boom and a 200-metre length of retractable hose and can water a 400-metre section of the track quickly and accurately, employing numerous control and operator features.

Caulfield also has a new irrigator from Upton Engineering, a company based in Corowa, just across the Murray in NSW, and is using it this spring.

The Flemington machines cover the full track width. They have four individual folding galvanized steel boom sections, which can be folded and switched off so that the boom width can be varied to avoid any obstructions or to change the spread of watering. The boom can also be raised or lowered to suit particular circumstances or to avoid distortion caused by the wind.

The flexible hose is 95mm (or three inches) in diameter and is carried on a hydraulically activated wind-up reel. The hose snaps-on to a hydrant inside the running rail at every 200 metres so that the irriturf can water a total track run of 400 metres a time.

The water, at a typical flow rate of 15 litres a second is applied via a choice of sprinklers fitted along each section of the boom, allowing the 400-metre section of the track to receive the equivalent of 9mm of rainfall in two hours.

A long working life with Upton

Upton Engineering has made a long term commitment to building the best irrigation equipment that it possibly can using high design inputs, state of the art manufacturing and a customer service focus, says the company’s chief executive Paul Upton.

Today the business has hundreds of centre pivot and lateral move irrigators to water areas up to 80 hectares.

Mr Upton said irrigator choices on offer also included the Pierce equipment range from America, for which Upton Engineering was the Australian distributor.

However, with the falling Australian dollar and rising US dollar, the purchase cost of a lot of imported irrigation equipment was starting to “significantly” increase.

“The Pierce centre pivot and lateral move range offers galvanised steel and also poly lined pipework, making these machines an appropriate choice for applications where aggressive water quality may be a factor,” Mr Upton said.

“The locally designed and fabricated Upton centre pivot or lateral range is built from marine grade aluminium pipework which overcomes the corrosion issues.

“Our philosophy is to offer machines with a potential working life of 30 years. “We believe the corrosion resistance of marine grade aluminium, together with the stainless steel pipe- work, control boxes and other fitting that we use provides this assurance.” Mr Upton said the company had even upgraded its gasket material from rubber to the more expensive urethane to provide a longer reliable working life.
“This is what our farmer clients tell us they prefer,” he said. Mr Upton said the order book for the Corowa-based production centre was pretty full with irrigators going to clients across Australia including a number that are repeat orders from local farmers and producers.

“A number of Upton centre pivots in the Riverina are in fact farming operations with multiple numbers of our irrigators most with an individual centre pivot coverage of 60ha being quite common.

“A lot of our current orders are in fact additional new centre pivots – and replacements for older rusted machines – for established farming operations.”

Upton Engineering also provides an Australia-wide delivery and erection service for its centre pivot and lateral move irrigators as well as a complete service back up. Mr Upton said the company worked with its clients to design, build and install site specific centre pivot or lateral move irrigation systems.

Driving Engineering Into The Future

It’s great to know the Murray region boasts many experienced professionals and the engineering expertise dating back to 1944 of the Upton’s spans over three generations. Brothers Marc and Paul have helped build Upton Engineering into the business it is today. Specialising in broad acre irrigation and more recently solar tracking devices, this niche business based in Corowa, NSW has tried its hand at more innovative designs!

A battery powered car? Yes, an old 1982 Toyota which has been converted to a green machine, overcoming the problem in hybrid or green conversions which does not compromise on the performance of the car. Paul Upton tells Murray Now, “We wanted to demonstrate that a 30 year old car can be good for another 30 years with this type of technology. We have created a zero emission system, whereby the lithium ion batteries charge from our solar tracking system, not from the power station”.

For Upton Engineering this conversion was more of a demonstration rather than a commercial reality due to the high cost involved. The average cost of such a conversion is between $20K and $25K, and for the average person this may not be affordable. The batteries are the latest technology and are $6,000 on their own. Although once the initial outlay has been made it only costs approximately $2.50 a day to recharge.

The car has a range of about 80km before a recharge is required; which is only limited to the number of batteries that are installed in the vehicle. “We would double the range if we doubled the amount of batteries in the car although that increases the weight and performance of the car. We tried to keep the weight relative to before the conversion, only adding about 20kg.” The car would be a fantastic commuter around town where you could charge the car at the end of each day.

But what really makes this business tick is the ability to provide machinery and equipment which is extremely robust and can withstand the extreme weather conditions, not only in Australia, but around the world. With demand overseas it is evident that there are cheaper imports coming into Australia making it harder to compete, although Upton Engineering believe quality will always prevail.

“We design and build equipment (such as the central pivot irrigators) like a ‘meccano set’ or ‘flat pack’ into containers or onto trucks, which are constructed on site with relative ease. We can pack a 500m long irrigator onto the back of a single tray truck and build it on site. This is a real advantage” Paul adds. At Upton Engineering if a customer enquires with an idea to build machinery, Paul and Marc will do whatever is necessary to make that idea a reality. Well the 1982 Toyota is a perfect example of these creative minds in action!

What of the future of Upton Engineering? Well there could be demand to renew the life of older vehicles on the horizon around the world. Closer to home Marc is hoping to convert a new (about 5 years old) Ute as the next project, and include the provision for battery monitors and a conventional 15 amp charging dock. Presently there are fast charge stations in the United States, and some car companies are selling cars without motors for conversion purposes.

For more information on the car conversion please contact Marc Upton on 02 60331844 or email

Giant 2WD Australian-built tractor returns home to Upton Engineering at Corowa

LOVERS of Upton ­Engineering tractors are extraordinarily pas­s­ionate about them.

The last one was built 34 years ago and owners are reluctant to sell.

When Corowa manufacturer Upton Engineering was scouting for a heavy-duty tractor for yard work recently, it was able to buy a rare two-wheel-drive with its own name already on the side.

It was an Upton MT-855, one of about eight of this model built in the mid-1970s.

Paul Upton, a third generation Upton, who manages the business with his brother, Marc, said they needed a good tractor to help pull sleds loaded with centre- pivot irrigators from shipping containers.

Their father, Carl, who has retired from the business, ­designed the Upton 2WD tractors in the 1960s and 1970s after the business developed a reputation for retrofitting former US Army World War II tanks as landclearing and water pumping machines for farmers and irrigators along the Murray River.

Upton Engineering was started by Carl’s father, Arthur, in the 1940s.

The supply of second-hand diesel ­engines and heavy differentials from the Grant M3 tanks eventually dried up, and Upton Engineering began building bespoke tractors to order. Only about 30 tractors were built over a 12-year period from the late 1960s.

Most of the Upton tractors were designated “MT”, for med­ium tractor, although when they were built they were the biggest 2WD agricultural tractors in the world.

Paul said because they were only ever built to order with long lead times, the sales volume was never going to compete with the 4WD off-the-shelf tractors delivered by overseas manufacturers.

The MT-855 recently bought by the Uptons was built in 1976 and acquired from a farmer at Minlaton, on the South Australian Yorke Peninsula. The purchase has a story to it.

Paul found the owner and had to convince him they were worthy to buy the much-loved piece of machinery.

The farmer, Scott Hoyle, drove all the way from South Australia with an armful of photo albums of his beloved MT-855 to visit the Uptons at Corowa.

“He left the photo albums with us and said we could have the tractor and he delivered it to us,” Paul said. “Scott told us he knew he needed to sell the tractor but he wanted it to go to the right owner.

“And that was us.”

The MT-855 has a 216kW (290hp) Cummins diesel ­engine and, according to Paul, makes passersby take notice when they fire it up.

It is a cherished addition to the Upton Engineering yard and will be used to move sleds of parts now that Uptons has become the national distributor for Pierce Centre Pivots.

Carl, who retired about 10 years ago, is quietly pleased his old tractor is back “home” but still on the lookout for another, the biggest factory built 2WD tractor in the world.

At 23 tonnes and with 350hp, this is one big tractor and was last seen still at work in South Australia.

Carl would love to know its whereabouts and would possibly be interested in buying it.

While Upton Engineering is busy building everything from racetrack watering systems to fog cannons to damp down dusty digging areas in the mines, you get the feeling Carl would still love to be building tractors, and 2WD ones at that.

“We built tractors in country Australia in Corowa and we took on the world,” he said.

“In the first demonstration we had of the tractors, we pulled three ploughs with 54 discs at five miles an hour.”

He maintains 2WD tractors suit many Australian conditions better than 4WD, which he considers a waste especially in the Riverina.

“You are not driving the extra paraphernalia of a 4WD and people told me there was a 25 per cent saving in fuel using a 2WD doing the same job.”

But he acknowledges the prestige of owning an imported tractor, and the finance deals offered through the major manufacturers, mean Upton tractors can’t compete.

Upton Engineering, which marks its 70th anniversary this year, still makes its own design irrigation equipment and sells imported centre pivot systems for broadacre growers.

A giant yellow MT-855 in the yard will not only be a big help but a constant reminder of the day they took on the big guys.