Rundu — A local company Konigstein Capital, which has a 25-year lease agreement to operate at the Mashare irrigation scheme, has installed a smart system at the farm to control centre pivots with a computer or on an iPad without physically being in the field.
According to the firm's managing director, Lourens le Grange, the system has reduced the running cost at the farm in addition to generating increased production.
"Every season we have been ironing out some of our own production problems in terms of equipment and training of our personnel and understanding our equipment," he said during a recent presentation at the farm.
"We have automised our irrigation system in terms of control of the centre pivots and control of the pump station which also enabled us to do energy savings just on the water pumping cost - the whole approach on the farm is to achieve energy saving."
Le Grange informed the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) management during a recent visit that previously, before the automation, when they had a power problem and a pivot went off, workers would have to drive out to go work manually on the pivot and restart it.
The process of going through all the pivots took more than an hour and a half but now it is a thing of the past.
"And just when you are back at home or back in the office it goes off again and you restart the process and now when that happens at this moment it is a shorter process as we now operate it from a computer or iPad to get the pivots up and running," he said. The farm has also installed an auto steer system on three of their tractors and on the hybrid sprayer.
"Which means these machines are guided by a GPS system that enables the tractor driver to follow a direct line through the maize field so that all the planting and all things being done in the field are in direct, straight lines but of course you still need the driver's input in terms of the speed that you are operating and when turning around," Le Grange said.
"Now we do some planting and harvesting even at night - previously we couldn't because you lose vision and couldn't follow a straight line; now the pivot also has automation and optimisation." According to Le Grange, at the moment if one looks at the computer screen in their office, one can see each pivot and whether they are running (watering the field) or not, and if the water is there, at what pressure it is pumping and which direction it is turning. On the computer it can be controlled on where it must stop if technical staff need to do some inspections of the sprinklers as well as to make sure all is correct.
"And to also check if the tyres are okay and the tyre pressure, because sometimes the tyres are flat and the pivot gets stuck which is also a production problem," he said.
The company is also running what is regarded as Namibia's first ever commercial berry plantation.
The GIPF invested N$90 million in the blueberries production project, while another N$27.5 million has been invested in the Mashare irrigation project, which produces a variety of crops, including maize, sorghum, wheat and potatoes, among others. "Blueberries have high international demand and we will export to secured European markets. It will create a lot of economic stimulations locally in the form of earnings but also in job creation.