Bad business decisions usually have bad business outcomes. But on the one occasion that Piket Implemente, a business in the Western Cape, in South-Africa, “read the market wrong’, it turned out not to be so bad after all.
It started in 2010 when this family business – which has been operating since 1933 – decided to do their bit for emerging farmers.
“We decided to build a simple, small scale, economic single-row maize planter for no-till areas, complete with a coulter and tine, a seed and fertiliser boot and a press wheel, as well as seed and fertiliser hopper on top. The difference would be that this planter would be drawn by an ox or oxen,” says Carel van Niekerk, marketer at the organisation.”
The idea was to offer small scale, emerging farmers who wanted to plant a small rag of maize an affordable, single-row planter with which they could prepare the soil, plant the seeds and close the row of seeds as well – all in one go. Everything is propelled forward through a chain attached to the press wheel. Once the design was done, the first ‘oxplanter’ was built and launched in 2010.
“We gave one to the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, as well as a few to organisations in Lesotho, and waited for the orders to come in.”
But nothing happened.
“It seemed that we had read the market wrong all along, as the price of the planter (about ZMK 5300) combined with the price of an ox or two, was simply not affordable for small scale farmers. We only built six when we realised there was no demand.”
What were they to do? The planter was designed, and it worked well.
“We decided to adapt the basic concept in 2012 so that it could be pulled behind a tractor.”
Suddenly, the enquiries started coming in – but from commercial farmers. Most of them wanted to plant a small patch of maize between their other crops, or wanted to replant where a large planter skipped rows.
The problem was that the planter wasn’t heavy enough to be pulled behind a tractor. The plough was then built more robustly to address this. Where the oxplanter weighed about 120 kg, the tractor model now weighed 225 kg.
“The biggest adjustment was to add a parallelogram to make it suitable for uneven ground. The oxplanter didn’t have that problem, as the ox adjusts itself to the terrain it’s walking over, but a tractor moves more rigidly. Without the parallelogram the plough couldn’t keep up with different contours and needed to be ‘unhooked’ from the tractor.”
Once the new design was presented to the farming communities through advertising and demonstrations at farming days, interest shot through the roof. In 2012 they sold about 30 units to commercial farmers, and the amount grew to about 120 units in South Africa by 2014 and about 100 units to neighbouring countries – especially Namibia.
“Interest is still growing,” says Carel.
The most unique feature of the Economy No Till Maize Planter (as it is sold by Piket Implemente) is that when a farmer decides to go a bit bigger, a second or third unit can be bought and bolted onto the first.
“You can attach up to six planters in this manner.”
It’s also much more affordable. A single unit costs R19 999 (excl tax) in South Africa – that is about ZMK15 000. A set of six would therefore cost less than R120 000 (ZMK90 000) – much cheaper than the large, imported planters that does just about the same thing.
“We found that the highest demand is for sets of two or four planters. A set of four would cost about R83 000 (ZMK65 000). When four or more of these planters are attached to one another, we recommend markers to ensure that the planting is done accurately. The two-set unit’s planting speed is about 1 ha/ph with a spacing of about 900 mm,” says Carel.
When looking at the pricing, it is imported to know that when four or more units are attached, it will also need an extra marker, which costs R6 600 (ZMK4 850). The Zambian agent for Piket Implemente, Craig Shiel, reminds us that transport and importation costs will still have to be added to this price, and it can be a considerable cost. It will most certainly be cheaper if various farmers could order together, to cover the cost of one truck from South Africa.
Each unit has its own, small seed and compost bin on top. The seed bin’s capacity is about 16 litres and the compost bin’s is about 56 litres.
“We stick to the single seed hopper concept as one big seed hopper for all the units would make it much heavier than necessary,” he says.
What makes the planter even more unique, is that 100% of it is made in South Africa. None of the parts are imported, which keeps the cost of the unit low.
See detail here: https://goo.gl/gtwd1F
Contact: Craig Shiel – tel. +2609 7878 7969