This post is also available in: Afrikaans
“My dad used to open the valves near the field, climb down in the pumphouse to switch on the pump, then back up to start the pivot, and check if the water is running and everything is working properly. Two hours later he had to do the reverse, switch off the pump, close the valve and go back to the pivot to switch it over to run in the other direction,” says Chris Botha.
Those days are long gone on the Bothas’ farm close to the Martin’s Drift border post on the South African side of the Botswana border. Chris is taking a break from planting onions to talk to ProAgri. Sitting in a shady patch on the green lawn, he shows the colourful diagrams on his cell phone and clicks on the screen to show us the situation of every pivot on the farm.
“It is all in here now,” he explains.
“With Zimmatic’s FieldNET service and Ethernet connections, I am not even dependent on fickle cell phone signals and towers.”
Walking with Zimmatic
Chris is the third generation on the farm. He says as soon as they received an electricity connection from Eskom on the farm way back when, his father bought two Zimmatic pivots. With water drawn directly from the Limpopo river, it makes sense to install the best irrigation system possible.
Through the years they have walked the road with Zimmatic and their local experts from Obaro, receiving the best in technology development and service. Now there are eight pivots running.
Only one of their pivots is not a Zimmatic, but it has a Zimmatic control system. The first two pivots each has six towers covering an area of 45 ha. The newer pivots have four towers covering 15 hectares each, making it more manageable to practice staggered planting. Every circle is divided into quarters with different planting and harvesting times.
Chris plants 70 ha of onions and 40 ha of potatoes in an intensive management process, using biologically friendly methods of production as far as possible. All the nutrients and pest management agents are applied through the pivots, and all the applications can also be controlled from his cell phone.
Flying with technology
Chris is a technology junky. Even before the remote control of pivots became an accepted practice, he rigged his system to switch on and off using radio control; the old walkie-talkies!
“It worked, but it sounded like a police station with all the ‘ding-a-lings’ going off,” he laughs. Using Zimmatic’s FieldNET system is so much better, and you can even use their FieldNet advisor for agronomical advice. The service calculates precision irrigation applications based on soil type, specific crops, and climate information.
Chris says in one field you can have up to four different types of soil, each with its own irrigation needs and with FieldNET’s precise GPS control you can apply exactly the correct volume of water over the correct time period in every section of the circle to make sure the water is available for the plants when and where they need it most.
“Zimmatic keeps on improving their systems; we as farmers, only need to keep up!”
One of the challenges Chris experienced earlier with the use of cell phone connections was that the local cell phone towers would go down in the event a power outage, which happens during Eskom’s periods of load shedding. The backup power on the farm can keep the pumps and pivots running, but then it is back to manual control.
Lindsay Africa, the distributers of Zimmatic equipment in Africa, came up with a tailor-made solution: Ethernet. Ethernet is a way of bringing internet to the farm in the best possible way.
It offers connection in many different forms, including WAN, ADSL, 3G, and satellite. This means solutions that can be tailored to match the requirements of each farm, instead of taking a one size-fits-all approach. On Chris’s farm, all the components are on a Wi-Fi system speaking to one another through the control centre in America by satellite! Reaction time is immediate.
“I am completely dependent on FieldNET. If anything should go wrong with the system, Obaro must bring a new one tomorrow!”
Get the best in irrigation and irrigation control. Contact Tanya Brits at 021-986-8900 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.lindsay.com to find your closest dealer.