When a pump used for agricultural applications fails, it poses a significant risk to the food production cycle, revenue generation and, ultimately, the food supply chain during a time when South Africa is facing food-security pressure.
The local agriculture industry cannot afford to lose crops through a lack of irrigation, says compressor and generator rental company Rand-Air business development manager Henry Fourie.
He explains that obtaining a replacement pump on an ad hoc basis is a huge benefit to the agriculture industry.
Rand-Air has been actively marketing its pumps range from air, power and flow solutions provider Atlas Copco Power Technique as part of its rental offering since the start of this year.
“What makes our pumps well suited to this sector is that they are heavy duty, reliable and robust. Hence, they are also used in the mining and petrochemicals industries, as well as various manufacturing industries, including food and beverage, and some construction projects,” says Fourie.
While the pumps range has been available as part of Rand-Air’s business line since about 2014, it was offered only as a purchase option. The company decided to introduce a rental option in mid-2019 to explore market opportunities.
This was in response to the tight economy, as the use of rentals conserves capital, and because the immediacy of replacement when a pump requires maintenance or repairs avoids unnecessary downtime and ensures that productivity continues uninterruptedly, highlights Fourie.
Rand-Air also offers a longer-term rental option for customers with tight budgets.
“We buy the specific pump required by the customer and rent it to them on a contract basis, taking responsibility for the functioning of the equipment if anything should go wrong,” states Fourie.
Owing to the pandemic, food security is at even greater risk, and no farmer can afford to add to this risk through crop loss, he adds.
“If a farmer’s pump fails, he and/or she is looking at two weeks for it to be repaired, which poses a great risk to crop production. Renting a pump can see the farming operation through this period and, thereby, ensure minimal disruption to the production or harvesting process, depending on where the breakdown occurs.”
With the Covid-19 pandemic coinciding with Rand-Air’s marketing drive for its pumps range at the start of the year, face-to-face customer interaction has, understandably, been limited.
However, the company used social media, and print and online publications to start building market awareness of its new offering. Rand-Air also maintained contact with customers using telephone and virtual meetings.
Fourie says since Level 3 of the lockdown, face-to-face interaction is now taking place again at the customer’s request. The company is also considering taking part in the virtual Nampo show, which will take place from September 9 to 12.
“We are experiencing a growing interest from several parties in the mining and agriculture sectors. The sales pipeline is filling up as the market becomes aware of this additional rental offering from Rand-Air.”
The range includes the Weda electrical, submersible pump, which is power-driven, requiring power at the source, such as a watering dam. This pump comes with low to medium heads. The head is the height above the pump discharge level that a column of fluid will rise to.
Also offered is the PAS/VAR diesel-driven pump variety for when power is not available at the source. This pump is delivered with a tank of diesel.
“Offering good high and low flows, with high heads, the pump allows for easy evacuation of material up an incline. The size and application of where the pump is required will determine the product model. We offer pumps from two-inch to 12-inch and multi-stage pumping is also possible,” states Fourie.
He says the duty cycles and heads of these pumps are designed to run 24/7 without interruption and meet the needs of the undersupplied market for high-head pumps.
The position of the head – the height at which a pump is positioned from where the suction hose enters the water –is important. A high-head pump discharges at a much higher pressure (or head) than the suction pressure, which is needed when transporting material up an incline.
“We can pump material up a 150 m slope, whereas the average pump manages about 100 m,” highlights Fourie.
Meanwhile, Rand-Air also offers diesel-driven generators for which demand fluctuates in the agriculture sector.
Generators are required for the wine and citrus industries during harvest, where the packing houses require uninterrupted, additional power to ensure seamless production. This is especially important during load-shedding to prevent produce from spoiling, says Fourie.
“If they need to expand their supply to run more production or packing lines, for example, we can add a generator to their existing Eskom supply, and the same applies to cold-storage units.
These generators are available for long-term rental and on an ad hoc basis.