Sharing and recognising our partner success.
Riaan Smit from InteliGro Trawal, is an Andermatt Madumbi Champion and the recipient of the 2020 Madumbi Green Jersey Award within the InteliGro distribution network.
On my travels to meet with Riaan, it suddenly became clearly apparent as to why no accommodation was available in the town of Trawal, nestled alongside the N7 on route to Springbok. The stunning scenery and drive was overshadowed by Riaan’s huge smile and twinkling eyes, as he welcomed us into his home for a ‘coffee’ and ‘kuier’ with his wife and business partner, Linda.
Between broken English and Afrikaans, a commonality was quickly found – their passion for precision and excellence in sourcing solutions to best suit their customers specific needs. Their largest grower is organically certified and Linda swiftly navigated the tabs on her laptop from EcoCert, to AgriIntel and to Andermatt Madumbi with market related questions and observations.
Riaan and Linda moved to Trawal 7 years ago, taking over the depot after it had been vacant for 6 months. There have subsequently been changes to the boundaries of Riaan’s area, but the bottom line is that during this period the area has grown to be 10 times larger in hectarage as well as turnover. Together they serve a client base of 47 growers from Bulshoekdam to Lutouw Estate and past Koekenaap, roughly a 100 kilometre region. Their ‘Andermatt Madumbi’ product basket consists of 12 different solutions, of which Delfin®, Eco-T® and Eco-Bb® are their biggest sellers.
There is a wide diversity of crops grown in the valley. During the afternoon of our visit, Riaan took us to his largest grower, Stellar Organics and Winery. The valley extends almost out of sight with a growing and extensive range of crops including pumpkins, spanspek, watermelons, table and wine grapes, currants, tomatoes, baby marrow, beans corn and potatoes. With new lands continually being planted, they were experimenting with sweet potatoes, and are constantly looking to ‘grow the crop basket’. Stellar farm is clearly a progressive, proactive organisation. They recognise that markets are looking for a consistent, regular supply of high quality, organically grown fruit and vegetables and are gearing themselves up to service this market.
Riaan admits that when he started his ‘biological journey’ he was sceptical and understandably anxious. ‘Farmers are demanding, they invest a huge amount of time, energy and money into every crop – they are looking for effective solutions that work. With Stellar in particular, I was forced to look at new options. I had to educate myself quickly, and this is where Helgard and the Andermatt Madumbi team have been invaluable.’
‘Introducing biological solutions into existing IPM programs was not as ‘scary’ or ‘difficult’ as I expected. Helgard has been patient and was very thorough with training, both in theory and in practice. Initially he was with me when we first mixed and applied some of the products. Now that I am familiar with the range, I understand how they work and I am confidently including them in more and more of the programs we develop and customise for our growers.’
When asked how he feels about ‘biological control, in general, now?’ Riaan replied, ‘Seeing is believing. We are producing stronger, healthier crops with excellent yields. My farmers and I can visibly see the difference where the Andermatt Madumbi products are being used.’
‘It’s not all easy. You need to plan ahead: understanding the environment and good scouting is essential. There are always new challenges and new conditions that make every farmer’s day interesting. We are still a long way from doing everything perfectly, but I am very proud of the progress we are making, the numbers we are hitting and I get very excited when I think of how this can continue to grow in my region’.
When asked about the ‘challenges’ with biological solutions, Riaan had two key comments:
‘Recommendations on organic crops means that everything needs to be organically certified. EcoCert is our preferred accreditation simply because this is Stellar’s certification body, but different markets require different criteria and these keep changing. It’s hard to keep on top of it all.’
‘There are also more and more biological suppliers with new solutions coming into the market. This is a good thing, but you need to be informed about exactly what is and what is not in each product. Biological solutions are more complicated than the chemical solutions we are typically more familiar and educated on. Inconsistent results with new and different products means that you take ‘one step forward and two steps back’. Building confidence with growers and starting the process over is never good. The Andermatt Madumbi products have a solid reputation for good quality, they are backed with the research and technical support that we need in the field. This makes it easy for me to recommend them confidently.’
Finally, I asked Riaan about his vision is for the future.
‘I am very proud to be awarded this Green Jersey. I set myself a goal to achieve the jersey and I’ve worked hard to learn more about the AMAD solutions and use them effectively with my growers. It feels good to be recognised as a ‘leader’ within the InteliGro group and to be an inspiration to other agents. We all know deep down that change is coming, I think we’ve known for a long time… It feels good to be informed and confident in my (growing) knowledge of biologicals. I’m excited and ready for 2022, it’s going to be another great season.’