Inventors drive hi-tech farming

02 July 2019 - 13:58
By XOLILE MTSHAZO
Farmru inventors and entrepreneurs Lufuno Mbau, middle, and Tsedzuluso Netshimbupfe, right, with their village chief Mulatedzi Netshimbupfe.
Image: Supplied Farmru inventors and entrepreneurs Lufuno Mbau, middle, and Tsedzuluso Netshimbupfe, right, with their village chief Mulatedzi Netshimbupfe.

A software developer and entrepreneur has invented an agri-tech system called Farmru, to change the mindset of farmers to smart farming.

Tsedzuluso Netshimbupfe, from the village of Tshimbupfe in Thohoyandou, Limpopo, working with his business partner Lufuno Mbau, said the device was meant to help farmers move away from subsistence farming to commercial farming.

The Tshimbupfe area is dry and food security is a growing concern for villagers. The Farmru system assists by saving water and maintaining optimal soil quality for the production of healthy crops. It monitors the environment and executes tasks using a low-cost micro controller device.

The controller is connected to soil moisture, humidity and light sensors that monitor the environment and trigger automatic irrigation only when it is required, to save water and maintain optimal soil quality.

The system also collects data over time which can be used to determine the ideal conditions for a variety of crops.

"We first mooted the concept three years ago. We've been toying with the idea [with Mbau] until the first prototype was completed last year," Netshimbupfe said.

"Most farmers have limited information when it comes to aspects such as water pH balance, the fertility of the soil and soil types, air and light. All they know is putting fertiliser into the soil and cultivating. Farmru is about to change the old ways of farming."

Netshimbupfe, 25, is a UCT graduate in information systems with a postgraduate diploma in entrepreneurship. His business partner Mbau, 24, is a mechanical engineer at Foskor mine in Phalaborwa.

Netshimbupfe said they were working with the Limpopo department of agriculture and Absa. He said they have earmarked 50-hectare of land in Tshimbupfe village for the Farmru project.

"Farmru is about better farming practices. We are investing in the improvement of rural farming. Farmers must farm with know-how and not intuition. Lack of knowledge could lead to the damage of the very soil they need to farm, the water boreholes and streams," said Netshimbupfe.

Farmru recently won a R900,000 prize at the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards for its innovative intelligent farming solution.

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