…7x ROI after installation of new irrigation system
MUTARE – Zimbabwe’s biggest banana producer Matanuska Holdings achieved an estimated 30% in annual water savings following a pre-trial of SWAN Systems’ irrigation recommendations last year.
SWAN based in Perth, Australia is a precision irrigation and fertiliser platform that enables water managers to improve yield while conserving resources.
The Australian firm said 15 banana fields under Matanuska were chosen for the trial, providing a meaningful sample of around 12% of the total area under management.
SWAN indicated that the pretrial highlighted that Matanuska could save up to 2.6 megalitres of water per hectare, annually. This translated to a return on investment of at least seven times.
“Based on these results Matanuska have rolled the system out to the rest of the operation. In addition to this, they have partnered with SWAN Systems to make the system available to other growers in the region,” said SWAN in a report.
Matanuska supplies 50% of Zimbabwe’s commercially traded bananas and exports to South Africa.
Its biggest banana plantations are located in Burma Valley situated in eastern Zimbabwe, which borders with Mozambique.
Burma Valley is a humid, tropical region, with reasonably reliable rainfall averaging 1000 to 1200 mm per yea.
However, the distribution of this rainfall is not even, with the bulk of it falling in the summer between November and March, according to the SWAN report. While the climate on the whole region is ideal for tropical crops like bananas, irrigation is essential during the drier periods.
The irrigation water is pumped from dams and rivers, with infield application using both manually moved under-canopy impact sprinklers and fixed-set micro-sprinklers.
It was further established that electricity for irrigation pumping consumed a significant proportion of the farm production costs.
“To meet these challenges, Matanuska embarked on a trial of SWAN Systems, a precision water and nutrient management platform,” reads the report.
The 15 pre-trial sites were individually configured in SWAN with details such as the field layout, soil moisture holding properties, and irrigation system
specifications. Rainfall as well as other weather data such as temperature, humidity, wind speed and solar radiation were all assessed by SWAN.
Matanuska project development manager Andrew Cowper confirmed the estimated annual water saving of 30% after he compared the volume of water applied weekly based on SWAN recommendations and the water that would normally have been applied in standard management.
“The bulk of the water cost is the power component, and with power costs averaging US$0.26 per kWh the delivered cost of water is about US$104 per megalitre, resulting in a financial saving of $270 per hectare.
“On these savings alone this translates to a return on investment of around 7 times, before factoring in other benefits…,” Cowper was quoted as saying in the report.-Financial Express.