LAND between Lake Boga and Kerang was in trouble around the millennium. Years of irrigation meant salinity was high, while the severe drought caused the water table to fall.
Now it's productive agricultural land, yielding tomatoes, cotton, cereals, Lucerne and organic fruit and vegetables.
The change is the result of years of work from a company which manages the land for profit on behalf of other businesses.
Kilter Rural property and infrastructure manager Brendan Watson said the environmental side of the business was crucial to its overall success.
Mr Watson is responsible for setting up farms for to be profitable and sustainable into the future.
The company manages about 10,500 hectares across northern Victoria, managed on behalf of a third party.
Returns from the business are twofold. Cropping turns a profit on the land, while the country's improved condition means it is worth more in the long run.
Each year the business has laid out more and more country to improve.
The land is thriving now, thanks to a focus on making sure ecosystems are healthy.
"We try to set the farms up so that we've got healthy ecosystems within the properties and then we make the farming operation work around those ecosystems," Mr Watson said.
"We minimise the impact on the environment through our farming operations."
The rehabilitation is an ongoing process. To date the company has planted more than 120,000 trees, and completed pest, plant and animal control programs.
Transforming the land has meant embracing opportunities, Mr Watson said. For instance, the low grade of the land meant it was cheap to buy, but it's needed an investment to improve the soil quality.
A deep rip in the soil, about half a metre deep at intervals, starts the soil rejuvenation and allows salt to penetrate down through the ground profile.
Drainage is critical to the success of the restoration, Mr Watson said. In the event of a big rain event, there needs to be a place for runoff rainfall.
Half of the landscape is returned to an ecological function, creating a buffer area.
And the company uses up to date technology, such as GPS and satellite imagery to monitor the land.
Mr Watson said that a sustainable business model was critical to success farming into the future with the changing climate.
The company focuses strongly on the value of water, he said.
Rather than using water to grow crops, they grow crops to use the water. It means if they can make more money trading the water in any one year, they'll sell it.
"We focus more on annual crops so we can turn them on and off, as opposed to your big horticulture crops, your almonds and so forth," Mr Watson said.
"It's an insatiable water demand that [horticulture crops] have, and they have to have that water every year regardless because they've spent so much money, and if they don't irrigate for a year, they're in trouble.
"Whereas for us we own the water, so we've got the option of either irrigating with he water or trading with that water if that was the more profitable way of approaching it."
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