Louirrigate’s micro drip irrigation system, Tree Hog, can reduce farmers’ water use by up to 70% in orchards, and save up to 70% of energy costs, claims Tree Hog designer and Louirrigate owner Louis Loubser, who is a wine and fruit farmer in Robertson, Western Cape.
The Tree Hog system is placed at the base of a sapling, covering its root zones to allow for water to be directly applied to the root system.
“Farmers are also reducing the amount of weed controllers they are spraying, and if they have their soil data, they can start reducing their fertiliser use by up to 30%,” because they are applying nutrients directly and correctly to the tree root zones, Loubser highlights.
Using a micro sprinkler, the Tree Hog irrigates a small section – 500 mm x 600 mm – around the base of the tree and, owing to the cover the Tree Hog provides, this area is not affected by factors such as wind, evaporation and warm soil temperatures, illustrates Loubser. “In normal cases, you can lose between 15% and 30% of water from wind.”
The water is forced downwards and spread in the same manner as in micro drip irrigation, creating an ‘onion form’ that fills up the root zones with water quickly.
Owing to the way the Tree Hog covers and protects the area around the tree, there are fewer weeds in that area, and the soil temperature remains cool and consistent. “We have also discovered that it builds up a buffer zone just beneath the soil, so the normally shallow fine roots are a bit deeper, reducing the risk of fine roots getting damaged in the hot sun,” Loubser adds.
In addition, the trees are less stressed, which increases the amount of photosynthesis during the day and the sugars being stored for vegetative growth.
Currently, nearly 30 000 Tree Hog units have been supplied to the South African market.
“Fruit producers are starting to believe in the product – they start small and then expand their Tree Hog system once they are familiar with the product,” he enthuses.
Loubser says Lourrigate aims to expand the Tree Hogs range and explore international markets, with a focus on Africa.
“Africa is struggling with climate change, and the Tree Hog is a simple way of conserving water and improve efficiencies,” he concludes.