Free State farmer and inventor Michris Janse van Rensburg has supplied hand planters to more than 10 000 farmers across Africa to date and intends to become the John Deere of small-scale farmers.
“I have grown my planter product range, which started with a hand maize precision planter, to include a push planter, ox-drawn planter and a tractor-drawn planter, which allows various seeds to be planted using different seedplates,” says the owner of Backsaver Farming Equipment.
As a commercial maize farmer, Janse van Rensburg was hit by a major cut worm outbreak in 2009, which required the replanting of many seeds. With no planter on the market suitable for small-scale farming operations, he endeavoured to develop one.
“It worked so well that many of my neighbours and other farmers also wanted me to make it for them.”
In 2010, he won a patent competition at the Nampo Harvest Day agricultural trade show for his planter and received much publicity as a result.Janse van Rensurg has since gone on to win the competition for his wheel-driven fertiliser applicator and pumpkin planter.
Janse van Rensburg will participate in the upcoming virtual version of Nampo from September 9 to 12 and will be showcasing three new products.
“I started to manufacture the planter part time while undertaking my farming activities. One thing led to the other and today we manufacture about 100 planters a month, depending on the season, at our factory on our farm in Bultfontein. We upscale our facility all the time as demand for our products is constantly growing.”
Although planting is important, Backsaver has found that fertiliser application is exceedingly difficult for small-scale farmers to apply accurately.
For example, only 10 g/m of fertilizer in needed when planting maize. Trying to distribute that by hand for 13 000 m, which represents 1 ha of maize is impossible to do correctly, as some plants may get too much fertilizer and others too little.
“We focused a lot of energy into developing applicators to help farmers become successful. For too long small-scale farmers have applied fertiliser because they know it is important but have done so inaccurately. For example, a phosphate fertiliser must be delivered deeper into the ground to ensure uptake by the plant.
Now fertiliser applicators make up 80% of Janse van Resburg’s business, with Backsaver manufacturing two types of applicators – a wheel-driven applicator and a single-shot applicator.
He says the growing uptake of Backsaver’s fertiliser applicators is potentially owing to there being no similar product on the market and it working so well for farmers.
“Not even the Chinese offer such a product.”
Backsaver’s single-shot fertiliser applicator delivers 5 g per shot and can also apply fertiliser at depth.
“It replaces the old standard method used by many farmers, which entails using a Coke bottle cap (also 5g) to apply fertiliser to crops.”
The company’s larger top-dress fertiliser applicator applies fertiliser in a band and can be set from 8 g/m to 30 g/m.
Janse van Rensburg says this product includes a 7 kg bag and uses gears for calibration and not a person’s walking speed, as with Chinese versions, which is a no-go in Africa.
Backsaver exports to Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and has also supplied farming projects in Uganda in collaboration with the world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev.
“I hope to one day export to all African countries. There are millions of farmers who can benefit from our products to improve food security on the continent,” states Janse van Rensburg.