Having started operations back in May 2017, Madikwe Berries will soon start its first harvests. Given the sensitive nature of its operations, management considered several tractor brands, but it was Kubota which ticked all the right boxes.
Just over the border between the North West Province and Limpopo, you will find Dwaalboom, which lies east of Madikwe Game Reserve and north of the Pilansberg National Park. Apart from a cemetery, a cement factory and a primary school, something else you will find here is Madikwe Berries, a new development that will soon have 50 acres of blueberries in tunnels. The project commenced on 1 May 2017, and there are already 20 hectares of blueberry rows waiting for the first harvest in August this year.
Blueberries are mainly picked by hand, but some are gathered with large harvesting machines that move slowly along the rows of blueberry plants and gently shake each one so ripe berries fall into a catching frame. This is a delicate and sensitive process that requires proper machinery. Francois Kriel is the project manager here and one of his first tasks was to choose a suitable tractor that could be deployed to work in this sensitive application.
Madikwe Berries’ owners and shareholders initially favoured another tractor brand, but having worked with Kubota tractors before, Kriel knew that the Japanese-made tractor would be the ideal fit for the job at hand. “Through my experience with Kubota, I know that this is the most suitable tractor for this type of project. We then decided on Kubota,” he says.
Madikwe Berries went on to buy four Kubota B2420 tractors in a very good package deal arranged through Brits distributor, Maubra. The fleet will soon be expanded with more Kubota tractors before the harvest season commences.
The Kubota tractors are currently used to drive the plant bags back and forth, pruning waste and general maintenance on the farm, among other duties. During harvesting, they will use specially-designed wagons to transport the berries to warehouses.
One of the major reasons for choosing Kubota tractors is the fact that the rows in the tunnels are 2 m wide and the Kubota tractor’s wheelbase is a mere 1,33m, making it ideal for such space-constrained working spaces. Additionally, the 2,1m turning circle is ideal for working inside tunnels, considering that blueberries are very sensitive crops by their very nature.
Blueberries must be harvested one by one, a picker harvests an average of 15 kg per day. However, they shouldn’t be shaken during transportation or be exposed to smoke. Kubota tractors fit the bill here with their quiet engines that cause very minimum vibrations, while the Tier 3 emission standard means that these engines release minimum amount of fumes and smoke.
When making the purchasing decision, Madikwe Berries also had uptime in mind. Kubota has since made sure that these tractors are well maintained. “Maubra has included a service plan for us as part of the deal for our four tractors. The first service on a new tractor is at 50 hours and 250-hour intervals thereafter. Maubra is just a call away for service or any other technical related issues,” says Kriel.
In preparation for the upcoming harvest season, Kriel has since appointed 12 tractor operators who will work shifts during the busy season. Bearing in mind that these tractors will be working close to people during harvesting, the operators have undergone extensive training to equip them with the necessary skills. “Kubota facilitated the training and all our 12 operators have been thoroughly trained and have been issued with certificates,” concludes Kriel.