Stephan & Seun, a potato farm established near Piketberg in the Western Cape in the 1960s, showcases modern agriculture in trying times. They leverage technology, particularly Agrico’s irrigation solutions, for business success.
The potato farmer is rough, and tough and lives close to the ground. A staple of the earth, if ever there was one, just like the crop he digs out of the soil season after season. But today’s potato farmer is so much more. Stephan & Seun farming is an example of this.
This team is not afraid of the new century. Young, ambitious and technologically driven, Johan Stephan (28) talks about potato cultivation, irrigation, the road with Agrico and what makes a Sandveld potato stand out.
A potato business with deep roots
Stephan & Seun was founded in the 1960s when the Stephan family planted their first potatoes in the Piketberg sand. Their paths crossed in the 1970s with that of Agrico (at that time P Andrag & Seuns). Decades later, Agrico is still Stephan & Seun’s preferred irrigation supplier, with Piketberg branch manager Niël Carstens at the helm.
Throughout the year, mainly Mondial, as well as Lanorma and Siffra potatoes are cultivated on this land.
“We produce potatoes 12 months of the year. This means that at any given month, every production phase will take place, from harvesting to planting to packing and marketing. There is always something going on,” says Stephan.
Potato irrigation: ‘You must have a backup plan’
It is critical to keep your finger on the soil moisture when farming in the Sandveld. The low water holding capacity of the sand requires regular small doses of water. Many farmers believe that the soil profile must be moist to a certain depth before planting. When the plant’s growth rate later increases and the foliage develops, you can be sure that the thirsty plant has been taken care of.
For potatoes, Carstens recommends pivots with a 12mm spray package, which can deposit 12mm of water in 24 hours.
“You’re most likely going to use less than that, but it’s important for us to also take the extremes into account,” explains Carstens. “We want to know how much water is needed if there is a heat wave, and then we want to set up a plan B in case of any problems. Just a day or two of interruption in irrigation at the wrong time can lead to huge loss.”
The farm’s water is pumped from boreholes into dams and then onto 32 Agrico centre pivots. Once here, a new challenge awaits. The notoriously corrosive water of the Sandveld can be extremely damaging to an irrigation system. Therefore, they placed PVC pipes on top of the galvanised pipes of the centre pivots. That way the water does not run through the structure itself, and the system is protected.
How to cut costs in challenging times
It is more critical than ever that farmers prioritise cost savings and ensure that their production cycle performs optimally.
That is why all the centre pivots and pumps on their farms are equipped with Agrico Web Control and VSDs (variable speed drives). The system varies the pressure according to the exact need at any given time and leads to great power savings, especially where there are height differences in the topography.
The management team saw the use of Web Control when power outages were first introduced years ago. Physically checking each centre pivot after each centre pivot was just too demanding, and they sought a remote-controlled solution.
The value of an irrigation team that knows the ropes
Some farmers believe that service is just as important as the quality of the product itself. This is one of the reasons why Stephan & Seun has been working with Agrico all these years.
“As farmers, we have to make sure that we produce profitably amid so many challenges. When it comes to the equipment and complicated technology, we need good support.”
With decades of experience, Stephan feels that just as they specialise in potatoes, Agrico “specialises in irrigation systems”. That is why the relationship works so well.
“Today, Agrico is an advanced company with branches all over the country, and strong central administration and support from Bellville and Lichtenburg. We know that Agrico is present – they spend the time to solve problems and it feels like they understand what farmers are going through and what their unique challenges are.”
Start your farming journey with financing for an Agrico centre-pivot system
Agrico has partnered with Nedbank Commercial Banking to offer you enhanced financing options for your new centre-pivot irrigation systems.
- It is easy to apply.
- You enjoy preferential interest rates.
- You can finance up to 100% of the cost of the centre-pivot irrigation system.
- You can also finance upgrades such as a new control panel or spray packages, as long as they contribute to enhanced sustainability.
- These finance options are available to all Agrico clients. Nedbank does not have to be your main bank.
- Flexible repayment periods.
For further details, fill in Agrico’s contact form and they will get back to you.
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