Water and irrigation: a talking point in agricultural (and industrial) circles around the world, and more so in Africa, where water is more valuable than gold. It is amid this very real threat of scarcity that irrigation companies are challenged daily.
AgriOrbit recently spoke to Etienne Erasmus, managing director of Netafim South Africa, to learn how this company succeeds in remaining the preferred supplier in their market segment for the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“I need to give a little background on Netafim South Africa, as we are not and have never been an average manufacturer and wholesale supplier of irrigation material,” Etienne explains. “Netafim’s roots are found on a farm in Israel’s Negev desert where it was a struggle to farm amid the dry, sandy desert conditions.
“When the concept of drip irrigation was born in 1964, Netafim was its pioneer. Drip irrigation was the solution that made farming in desert conditions easier. It also made Netafim the biggest drip irrigation company in the world today.”
South Africa’s journey
Netafim South Africa was established in 1992 in Kraaifontein. This facility is one of 17 factories operated across the globe. From here, Netafim South Africa supplies and services irrigation dealers and farmers as far afield as Angola, Zambia and Mozambique.
Over the years, the company has continuously increased its knowledge and through the hard work of 200 agronomists and 600 product experts, designers, irrigation engineers and technicians, this knowledge is shared with dealers and farmers across 110 countries.
“Since 1992, Netafim South Africa has grown at a steady pace. With a team of more than 30 experts in the field and an office and factory operated by 80 people today, the confidence our farmers and irrigation dealers have in the quality of our products and people, must be sustained responsibly.”
“Each year we supply dripper pipes for more than 30 000ha, not only in South Africa, which constitutes our main market, but also to neighbouring countries,” says Etienne. “These hectares include vineyards, citrus, vegetables, berries, nuts, sugarcane, and olives.
“The only way we can ensure that growers buy our products, is to guarantee continuous quality and to have the best technical people available to support farmers.”
There is no magic Netafim formula – only continuous innovation, hard work and ongoing building of trust in their products, people and concepts.
Doing more with less
Netafim South Africa has a major role to play in the SADC region and it can play an important role in capacity building, saving water and energy, and ensuring food security.
“What really drives our business is helping growers get more out of their scarce resources. The more we can produce per hectare using less water, the more we can contribute to the global challenge of feeding more people while using less land, water and electricity.
“Opportunities await us in the emerging farmer market and in neighbouring countries. This is where the capabilities of Netafim South Africa should be understood and applied on a mass scale.”
Netafim has irrigation projects across the world. However, one project South Africans should take note of is the Ramthal irrigation project in India. Here, Netafim is responsible for 11 700ha of drip irrigation supplying 6 700 farmers in 22 villages, all fully automated.
“This was an end-to-end turnkey project, from the water source to the root zone, and included capacity building, agronomic support and operational maintenance. Although it might be wishful thinking, it would be beneficial if government and private companies could partner to run a similar project in South Africa.”
The way forward
Time is running out. Sixty per cent more food will have to be produced by 2050 than what is produced today. This will have to be accomplished with 25% less water and 20% less land per person.
“This is an impossible task if the current way of working and thinking is kept up. We must work smarter and be a lot more open-minded when it comes to the testing of new out-of-the-box ideas. Netafim South Africa is ready to explore new ways to unlock the full potential of agriculture in Southern Africa,” he concludes.
For more information on Netafim South Africa’s products and services, phone 021 987 0477 or visit www.netafim.co.za.