Macadamia nuts are here to stay despite the economic turbulences experienced in Zambia. In fact, it is a barrier against local fluctuations. The Chisamba farming community is constantly reinventing themselves to remain strong, and macadamia nuts, focused on the export market, is one of the innovative trends.
Chalimbana Fresh Produce Ltd is a prominent farm in Chisamba. With the help of Agrico, they recently started to follow the macadamia route. Alistair Sansom is the Director of Chalimbaba and he has been acquainted with Agrico since 2006, when he met them locally and was introduced to their quality products.
When he recently planted 30 ha macadamia trees, he consulted Agrico and concluded there was only one irrigation solution – a microjet system from Agrico. He planted 321 trees per hectare, 4 metres apart and 8 metres between the rows. This was a massive project, but Agrico capably rose to the occasion. It was a very successful combined effort.
Chalimbana dug the trenches and Agrico could get down to business. Despite some delays in getting materials from South Africa and through the border posts, it only took them three months to complete the whole project. The water is pumped through the system with two pumps equipped with 18,5 kW motors. They are controlled with dual variable speed drives and with Agrico’s web controller. The pressure is sensed continuously and the pumps react to the pressure requirement according to how many blocks Alistair would like to irrigate at any given time.
All of this happens automatically, but the grower has access via the internet to monitor the system and make adjustments manually. Agrico can also assist remotely to finetune the system or with fault finding, if necessary. At the pump station, the highest pressure is 500 kPa into a 200 mm PVC mother line. The pressure going into the microjets is set at 120 kPa. The 25 mm laterals feeding the microjets are manufactured from high quality Polyethylene Pipe. Each microjet provides 60 ℓ/h of irrigation water to each tree. The microjets have been installed initially with a concave spray plate that limits the throw distance of water to provide very specific irrigation directly onto the root zone of the young tree.
As the tree develops, a different spray plate will be fitted to increase the irrigated area, in accordance with a larger root zone. Agrico’s irrigation system is also able to handle fertiliser. Alistair is very satisfied with what he sees. “Although it is a new plantation, the response of the trees has been excellent so far. Instead of chemicals, I put bacterials through the system for pest control and soil health. The microjets are handling it without any hassle and I do not have to clean it at all. My only duty is to flush the system once a month,” he says.
The nearest Agrico support base is only 80 km away in Lusaka, and so far everything went as slick as can be. “Nothing has gone wrong yet. Agrico reacted promptly and efficiently to all add-on requests and changes requested. They are very professional and a pleasure to work with,” Alistair says.
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