One of the key strategic aims at SA Canegrowers is to increase the use of technology in their members’ sugarcane fields in a bid to increase on-farm efficiencies.
As SA Canegrowers’ field staff in the irrigated north of KwaZulu-Natal get to grips with field mapping technologies, farmers are also looking to the latest in drone technology to assist them in their pesticide and ripener operations.
Staff from Agripoint Drone Services recently displayed their new Agras T30 agriculture drone to Pongola sugarcane farmers. The aim of the demonstration was to give the growers hands-on experience of how the machine operates, its size, speed, and accuracy.
The new Agras T30 is “perfectly equipped” to handle large areas but also to service the unique demand required to manage smaller blocks of sugarcane particularly linked to the application of ripener on sugarcane in the Pongola Valley.
The drone can hold a 30l payload and cover one hectare in about 7 minutes. With a flowrate of 8l-a-second and 16 nozzles the quality of application is unprecedented.
Theuns Theunissen who is the SA Canegrowers’ Regional Manager for Northern Zululand the Elephant Coast said, the more than 30 farmers who attended the field were “fascinated” by the drone’s capabilities.
“Especially the accuracy and efficiency of the machine. The farmers asked many questions and were delighted to learn they had already been approved by millers, RCL as an official ripener application method. This will qualify growers for a ripener subsidy which is paid by the company,” Theunissen said.
The difference between the Agras T30 is that is it bigger than the machines already in service and more capable.
“The larger payload means it can fly for longer before it needs refilling which means it can cover larger area in shorter windows of time”
At the same time, Theunissen said SA Canegrower staff were busy with a project which entailed mapping all the small-scale grower fields in the entire region, including Pongola, Umfolozi and the Makhathini flats.
He said the GIS data staff were also collecting socio-economic data.
“The aim is to build a database which will eventually feed into the organisation’s strategic objectives and decision-making processes regarding new small-scale grower projects and support in the future.
“We believe the project, once complete will also enable us to derive more accurate estimates from the small-scale grower areas in terms of the total area under cane, and the expected yields in a season,” he said.