This post is also available in: Afrikaans
By Salim Dawood, ProAgri Zambia
Time is money. If you irrigate hundreds of hectares, frequent trips to and from pivots to manually switch them on and off, change their direction or regulate their water application, can take a lot of costly time and effort.
Philip Nicolle and his team at Kakulu Farms located in Kapiri Mposhi, about 200 kilometres from Lusaka, control the irrigation of their wheat, maize and soya beans accurately from the comfort of their office or homes using a mobile phone or laptop. AGRICO, a South African company made it possible for them to achieve this. Kakulu Farms is part of Ellocin Estates Limited that have been operational for the past two years.
AGRICO recently installed Variable Speed Drives (VSDs) with internet control on their pumps. With the Advanced RAIN control panels on their centre pivots, this allows for the precise control of the speed, pressure, and water distribution in their fields. On top of this automatic dam level control is also part of the system.
Using a mobile phone or laptop, Philip or any member of his team can send instructions to any of the 12 centre pivots on the system – commanding them to stop or start, increase- or reduce speed or turn around. These actions can also be pre-programmed. The pumps will then automatically react to the requirements of the irrigation system.
Philip explains that the efficiency of the system enables a farmer to supply a crop with the ideal amount of water at every stage of its growth.
“We have been using this system for three months now and the experience is absolutely fantastic, it is phenomenal.
It is a major breakthrough, it is exciting because it is so easy to manage our irrigation,” Philip explains.
“The whole irrigation system on this farm is now fully automated.”
Farm Workshop Manager, Joseph Phiri, who oversees the operation of the system, explains how the automation helps preserve water and reduce labour.
“From the pumps, water comes into the reservoir which automatically cuts off the supply once it fills up. With that there is no wastage of water or labour for someone to come and switch it off manually,” Phiri explains. From the reservoir, pumps that are fully managed with remote control, feed the pivots.
The duration for a centre pivot to complete a full circle varies from 10 hours, when it is put on full speed, to a week at its slowest speed.
Poor internet connectivity and erratic power supply are, however, challenges they have to deal with.
“It’s hard to enjoy the development and the successful running of our enterprise with interruptions,” Philip says.
Fortunately Agrico thought of these problems as well. The system can continue to run safely, even with interrupted internet coverage. When a power failure occurs, the system can be programmed to start-up again in a safe manner. If you choose to restart manually, being able to do it remotely with the whole system accessible on one user friendly interface, saves a lot of time.
Philip says AGRICO is always available for maintenance and consultation when things go wrong.
“Our team was able to build up this farm in a truly short time, which would have been impossible without Agrico. Their commitment and excitement to be part of the journey has been the most rewarding thing to us,” he says.
Invest in efficient irrigation supported by a helpful and knowledgeable manufacturer. Contact Alfred Andrag on +27-82-824-1214, +27-21-950-4111, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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