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INCREASE YOUR INCOME – use new technology

March 2019

Marius Greyling, Pula Imvula contributor.
Send an email to mariusg@mcgacc.co.za

To be a farmer today is a very challenging and risk prone way of making a living. To succeed, it is imperative that a sustainable profit must be made over the long term. Note that sustainable does not imply a maximum profit but it reflects on making an optimum profit.

Optimum implying that all resources such as soil, veld and water are used responsibly to be protected for future generations.

Unfortunately, a typical characteristic of our modern-day farming is the so-called cost-price squeeze. Farmers are for the majority price takers, you do not determine the price of your product/s yourself, the market, the free-market of today determines prices. To counter this a farmer must attend to the very basic equation of Profit = Income - Expenditures. Thereby, implying a farmer must increase the income of his business and/or reduce expenditures every year to farm sustainable.

As indicated by the heading of this article a way of increasing income is to use modern technology. There is no doubt by using new technology income can be increased although the new technology comes at a price.

When you experience the word technology, do not always see it as a mechanical object. New technology implies far more. Let’s have a look.

As far as production inputs are concerned, we have already become rather used to new technology. New cultivars of the different crops are developed continuously. Maize as an example – some 20 years ago the average production under very favourable conditions was 2 to 2,5 tons per hectare, today 4,5 to 5 tons per hectares. 

All other inputs such as fertiliser, chemicals, animal feeds and medicine and so forth have all been improved – that is new technology. 

On the physical production side there has been major developments which is also new technology. There is enough proof that the system of ploughing has damaged the inherit characteristics of our soils which lead to the need to apply more and more fertiliser to increase production. Most will be aware by now of revised land preparation methods – reduced tilling, minimum tillage and no-tilling. These land preparation methods have been developed to address the poor soil health in general to reduce the use of fertiliser and other harmful chemicals. Added to this, the use of cover crops is the latest development or then new technology to increase income and reduce expenditures. The above is all part and parcel of conservation farming.

These developments have led to the development of new machinery, such as for instance no-till planters. Planters and other machinery used in the production and harvesting of crops, both cash crops and fodder crops, have been improved to increase their functionality. The addition of electronics like GPS to the machinery and tractors to improve their performance has become known as precision

The face of the livestock industry is also changing with the development of new production machinery to advance production. Automatic feeding systems reduce labour and advances precision when for instance feeding livestock. In the egg-laying industry, machinery is available to collect eggs, and not done manaully anymore.

Computers, iPads and smartphones
Regarding production information numerous so-called apps or then applications are available to be used on computers, iPads or smartphones. This makes it possible for a farmer to for instance identify an insect or disease whilst he/she is in a land. One of the latest apps developed is called Khula, a Zulu word that means to grow. The app is intended to help small farmers whose volume of produce is too small for the formal markets by combining produce from a number of farmers to fill a large order from a customer.

Via the internet any information is available at a minimal cost – as it is said just ‘google’.

Drones are not unknown anymore and are used to observe, to take photos of your farm – of lands, livestock, crops, for security purposes and many more. Thus, more data is provided to be used to improve management.

With reference to the collection of production data, modern technology has been developed to improve the capturing and processing data. Programmes are available that can be used on a computer. One could also develop your own system by using an Excel programme. Remember to manage, to measure is a must.

There is no doubt that the use of new technology increases production and therefore income. However, there are additional costs involved when applying the advanced technology and therefore it is critical to consider your financial position carefully. Start with what you can afford, perhaps a smartphone with internet connection and include other technology as it becomes possible.

Also, be mindful to ensure that your basic management is at a satisfactory level before including new technology. New technology cannot correct any poor management, it can only be a tool to advance your management to a higher level.

Publication: March 2019

Section: Pula/Imvula