‘Smart’ farming brings big energy efficiency benefits
19 August 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202020148
FARMERS in South Africa are not only facing the challenges of COVID-19 but also need to cope with power supply limitations, the rising costs of electricity and water consumption, as well as crippling labour, capital equipment investment and maintenance expenses.
That’s according to Carlo Beukes, BMG’s Agricultural Manager, who said the company’s Boer Slim/Smart-Farming agricultural team had been working closely with farmers throughout southern Africa over the lockdown period, assisting them with the selection, installation and operation of new electromechanical systems.
“With the Smart-Farming initiative, we are assisting farmers with cost-efficient solutions to improve crop production output, to enhance efficiencies of every operation by conserving power consumption and to minimise downtime by implementing practical maintenance programmes,” Beukes said.
“It is even more critical now to ensure there are adequate supplies of fresh foods for an anxious and vulnerable population. For this reason, we are also assisting farmers to expand production to include the supply of additional produce.”
In a recent project, the BMG team assisted a local farmer who wanted to accelerate his tobacco drying process and expand crop production but was restricted by power supply limitations.
Beukes said that after the installation of BMG electronic variable speed drives (VSDs), the farmer is able to run 22 tobacco drying containers at once, where previously he could only run and alternate between nine drying containers at any one time.
As a result, he has more than doubled his crop production output. Other positive feedback is there are no more noticeable voltage dips when the process is started up and wear and tear on mechanical components is reduced. Production is also now less labour intensive, which reduces his shift costs.
BMG has also assisted a farmer in the Barkly West area, who was limited by a power supply of only 200 KVA +/- 300 Amps, to significantly reduce the cost of irrigation per hectare.
After the installation of VSDs on all pump sets, the power supply is used more efficiently, resulting in improved crop production and expansion of the farmer’s supply of maize to include pecan nuts.
Beukes said Danfoss VLT AQUA Drive FC 202 VSDs - which offer saving additional energy savings compared with traditional VSD controls – have been designed for water and wastewater applications, including irrigation.
These VSDs have been fitted to all pumps in this installation and are controlled by pressure transducers that are set to match the varying demands of different irrigation requirements. The only peripheral component required was a pressure transducer. Pump controllers and valves were not necessary for flow control in this system.
“A notable feature of Danfoss AQUA Drive FC 202 VSDs includes a soft start/stop facility, which prevents water hammer on starting and stopping the pumps, thus reducing the possibility of burst pipes. Wear and tear on couplings, pumps and pipes is also reduced.”
These VSDs are available from BMG in IP55 enclosures, which do not require dedicated panels. This eliminates the need for additional cooling and ventilation, normally required to extract heat during operation.
With a projected annual power saving of 155 491 kW/hr, BMG expects the farmer to benefit from cost savings of approximately R108 444.00, with a payback time of less than 12 months.