Alex Makaa is the divisional manager, New Holland, for CMC motors. He spoke to Brian Okinda on the place of farm machinery
Are farmers taking up machines?
The country has made positive milestones in promoting mechanisation, but there are still many opportunities to facilitate it under the food security pillar in the Big Four Agenda.
Conventional farming methods that include use of hoes are slowly being revolutionised by tractors as farmers seek to work with precision, maximise productivity and enhance tilling procedures that promote soil nutrient retention.
An average tractor within the 35-55Hp range complete with tilling, planting, weeding, spraying, harvesting implements and light transport trailers is ideal for small farmers.
Modern farmers, including smallholders, are joining cooperatives to facilitate access to some of the agricultural machinery.
Do you think the move to remove caps on commercial banks’ lending rates will boost farm machinery acquisition?
Removal of caps will create a short-term “double-edged sword” effect subject to the technique in disseminating the information to the target market.
In the long-term, commercial banks will have more appetite to lend funds towards acquisition of farm machinery.
However, agricultural equipment dealers and commercial banks should educate farmers on cash-flow management vs revenues generated and methods of utilising the machinery efficiently.
Besides, the two need to guarantee farmers flexible payment schedules and remove some of the fees levied to enhance accessibility.
A majority of those who have embraced farm machinery largely focus on those required for ploughing and possibly harrowing. Which are the other sectors in which agriculture mechanisation comes handy?
Weather conditions have been changing in recent times, hence there is need to adopt a more efficient tillage, weeding and harvesting equipment.
Minimum tillage and precision farming implements that are attached to the tractors are key parameters at this stage.
Examples of these include subsoilers, rotary cultivators, combination cultivators, inter-row sprayers and mechanised harvesters (grain, root and silage).
Soil management to maximise nutrient and moisture retention from land preparation, planting, weeding and harvesting would secure higher yields for farmers with reasonably priced equipment that operate with non-specialised maintenance programmes.
What farm machineries should a modern farmer, whether small or big, strive to have?
Most farmers think about tractors, but they are of no use without implements. Farmers need to consider various implements (at least four for every tractor unit purchased). This way, one maximises the utilisation of the tractor.
There are dozens of implements to support various applications such as land clearing, initial tillage/breaking hard pan, secondary tillage, seedbed preparation/rotavating, mechanical precision planting, inter-row weeding, mechanised produce harvesting, silage harvesting, baling, produce handling equipment, transportation and storage.
These applications are available for tractors ranging from the 35hp to 90hp that are suitable for the medium-scale farmer.
As land sizes shrink due to subdivision, what is the future of farm machineries like tractors?
Future tractors will be more compact and versatile in various applications. They will be fuel-efficient and environment-friendly. Efficient farming applications will be key, embraced by access to affordable machinery.
It has been said to make farming appeal to the youth, it must be made ‘cool’. Are your machines aiding this aspect for example by incorporating digital technologies?
Modern farming techniques must be aligned to digital technology. For most machines, the product life cycle management digital tool is currently being integrated to the agricultural tractors.
This technology will seek to analyse the running costs of the tractor per acre, in addition to analysing the farm acreage vs inputs and expected harvest. Times when farmers used to estimate inputs and expected harvest are gone.
Investing in the right machinery complete with digital technology is an exciting phenomenon to the current generation.
Guarantee of calculated returns on investment appeals to newer generation of farmers.