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Our Clients, their stories: The sweet taste of success

06 Feb 2015

Longstanding Netafim client Charl Senekal, owner of Mkuze Estates, certainly gets to savour the sweet taste of success, but also understands the innovative thinking and enthusiasm required to reach ones goals.  As South Africa’s largest private sugar producer, he is a man that is written about often, and has also won the Agricultural Writers’ Association of South Africa’s National Farmer of the Year Award in 2002.

Accordingly to Farmers Weekly his achievements over the past 30 years have made him a 'super farmer' with big ideas and the guts to follow them throughWith 3 500ha irrigated sugar cane in Mkuze and Pongola, his Senekal Suiker Trust produces 360 000t of sugar cane annually.

Why drip irrigation?

Charl has always found drip irrigation, and in particular compensated drippers, to be fascinating and in his opinion any drip irrigation process should be automated.

  • Automation brings about some serious labour-saving implications.  Considering the crop yield for every cubic metre of water applied, drip is considered to be a winner since there is no spillage or evaporation.  Currently Mkuze yields 115 tons per hectare per year, always striving to do better.
  • With new bugs starting to surface in sugar cane farming, some of which cannot be controlled by air, the Senekals also utilise Netafim’s Drip Irrigation System for fertigation purposes, which ensures a precise and accurate delivery mechanism making fertigation the perfect solution for the management of these pests. 

Our Clients, their stories: The sweet taste of success

“We’ve been a client of Netafim for 15 years and we have only received joy from our relationship, good quality products, people and back-up service.  If we phone they respond.  We have no reason to shop around.  The filters especially are world-class.” – Charl Senekal

Ideal solution for a country challenged by available resources

South Africa has a water scarcity problem.

  • The Senekals have saved 25- 30 % on water usage through drip irrigation compared to centre pivot and sprinkler irrigation, since 15-20 % of the water that is applied through pivot irrigation usually runs off or evaporates. 
  • Furthermore, drip irrigation uses much less electricity, which when considering the Eskom status quo, certainly helps once again in contributing to becoming a more eco-friendly and sustainable farm.
  • When Senekal installed a brand new pumping station with high efficiency pumps and motors at Warrick, he started irrigating approximately 500 hectares of sugar cane with less than half a kilowatt of electricity, saving them almost R77k in electricity per month.  Eskom was so impressed with this performance that they brought 150 farmers from throughout South Africa to Warrick to witness the methodology.

The sugar cane crops expanded, but the electricity bill came down.  As Charl Senekal likes to put it:  “There was a lot of methodology in our madness”.

Management of the water on a farm this scale must be difficult?  How is it experienced?

Says Charl: “Drip irrigation has some basic rules involving accurate pump pressure and the correct amount of water coming out of the filters.”  On their farm, one water source is utilised and divided between drip and pivot.

What does the future hold?

Technology is available, and any future irrigation should be high-tech, we will adopt to any new technology that comes out as this keeps us competitive.  We have been farmers for 35 years and keeping up with technology is a mammoth task, but our taste is simple, we want the best for our farm and our cheque book, which will keep us amongst the best.”

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