Water is one of our biggest challenges, declares Jesper Lublinkof of Mubuyu Farms in southern Zambia, 85 km south of Lusaka in the Chikankata District. During the winter months (May to September), wheat is grown on 800 hectares of irrigated land.
In the summer months, the crop is rotated with soya beans. An additional 65 hectares produce Arabica coffee under the name, Munali Coffee.
Jesper’s father, Willem, immigrated from Holland to Zambia in 1968 as a skills development worker. He managed a dairy farm in the Mazabuk area. In 1971, he purchased the first plot of Mubuya Farms.
Willem immediately started working on waterworks such as dams, weirs, and canals. Irrigation was a natural extension of this. In 1979, he was responsible for bringing the first centre pivot into Zambia. At that time, there were reportedly only five pivots in Southern Africa.
“The farmers thought this Dutchman was crazy,” he laughs. “The fields were square or rectangular and I was putting a circle in the centre of it.”
But Willem knew what he was doing. Soon the pivot drew attention. “It was efficient, it used very little electricity to rotate, and was quickly and easily adjusted to apply the correct quantity of water,” says Jesper. “Soon more farmers became interested in irrigating with pivots and sales took off. It has become the most cost-effective way to irrigate.”
Irrigation management with Zimmatic by Lindsay
“On this farm, we have two rivers flowing into the main dam. This dam has a storage capacity of 17 million cubic metres, but it is mostly only 30% full. In a drought, we might receive 340 mm whereas the normal rainfall is 825 mm. Then we can have hardly any inflow. We have a few boreholes, but they yield very little,” Jesper explains.
The oldest pivot had overhead sprinklers with no pressure regulators, so they required 8 bars of pressure to run — a challenge with little water. Now, the required pressure has been reduced to 2,5 bars with the modern technology of low-pressure sprinklers.
“We have used pivots from several manufacturers, but now we stick to Zimmatic. In total, we have eleven centre pivots,” he says. “All are retrofitted with FieldNET pivot controllers from Lindsay. Having all the different pivots on one platform is important in prescription irrigation.
“Zimmatic makes a difference in terms of the quality of the structure. The galvanised pipes are important in extending the pivot’s life. The alignment system, gearboxes, and the pivot supplier’s assistance with acquiring your choice of flotation tyres are all worth mentioning.
Since Jesper started his journey with Zimmatic in 2017, he has only benefitted from it. “Our relationship began when we retrofitted variable-rate irrigation (VRI) to an old Lockwood pivot. It saved water and increased yield.”
On the farm, they also use a company that offers crop consultancy in order to create specialised irrigation schedules. This information is read into the FieldNET application. “With FieldNET, we can make the adjustments with ease,” Jesper claims.
Every drop counts with Zimmatic
Water remains one of the biggest challenges. Especially during a drought, Jesper needs sufficient water to still irrigate the crops. “We need to harvest more water and use it more efficiently if we want to survive the droughts,” Jesper explained.
“If we find more water, we shall increase our number of pivots, but for now, we are focused on maximising efficiency. As a part of that, we are replacing older pivots from the 1980s with newer Zimmatic pivots.
“We have used fertigation and intend to do more biological additions through the pivots,” he mentions.
Jesper believes that the more information a person has about technology, the better he can make a calculated decision. In farming, you need to react in time. “Having Zimmatic staff that visit the farm to understand the operation has been a game changer. I would recommend Zimmatic to any farmer. They offer solutions for new pivots as well as old ones,” he explains. “They can modernise your existing systems to ensure you receive the maximum benefit from the FieldNET platform.”
The innovative young staff are helpful and assist the farmer who is most fearful of technology. “It also helps that the panels and software are very user-friendly and easy to use,” he admits.
With the upgraded pivots, Mubuyu Farms saves water and energy by applying exactly the right quantity of water when the crop needs it the most. This also helps to optimally use fertilisers.