UP-AND-COMING firm, Armadillo Agricultural Solutions (AAS), has begun using technology in the harvesting of wool and mohair as part of efforts to modernise and boost productivity in the sector.
Founded by Mahoana Thakali, the Berea-based enterprise has already assisted Mateka Wool and Mohair Growers Association in the same district to install power-operated shearing clippers, renovate and extend the wool shed using durable steel frames.
AAS is also training members of Likalaneng Wool and Mohair Growers Association on the use of electric shears.
In all, there are about 150 wool sheds countrywide, which the firm is open to assisting with the installation of electrical equipment as well as renovating and extending their wool sheds to optimise the shearing process.
The AAS interventions are welcome upgrade on the conventional system where local wool sheds employed a manual system of shedding wool and mohair from their animals using hand-held shears.
Mr Thakali, who is a graduate of the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology and a proud product of its Limkokwing Entrepreneurship Acceleration Platform, recently told the Business Journal that the new technology-driven method was faster and more efficient, increasing wool and mohair quantities harvested as opposed to the manual system which was much slower, labour intensive and lengthened the shearing season.
The Limkokwing University graduate said his initiative was inspired by the realisation that most farmers struggled to obtain agricultural equipment closer to their areas and were forced to travel long distances to neighbouring South Africa resulting in the country losing money to the South African economy.
“I got the idea to start Armadillo Agricultural Solutions after observing that a lot of money was spirited out of the country to procure agricultural equipment,” Mr Thakali said, adding he therefore saw a need to bring the equipment closer to the farmers.
He said his company’s services included designing modern woolsheds, installing electrical equipment in the shed as well as training on the efficient operation of the shearing machinery.
Commenting on his company’s relationship with the Mateka farmers, he said they helped them draw up a business proposal to improve their wool shed and it was subsequently approved for funding by the Smallholder Agricultural Development Project (SADP).
“The proposal included installation of machinery, renovation and extension. Installed equipment includes shearing equipment, pressers, grinders, digital scales, and diesel generator to provide power. We also used steel frames to extend the shed instead of the wooden poles normally used.
“So far, seven people have been trained in the use of the machinery and because of the faster rate of shearing the shearers are generating a better income.
“The handing process also becomes much faster with usage of modern equipment like electric pressers which has increased the output from two bales to up to 20 bales per day. This also means the wool and mohair is shipped for export earlier and therefore the revenue from sales is received earlier by the farmers,” Mr Thakali said.
He revealed that they were finalising an agreement which would see them become the local agent of a Chinese company which supplies agricultural equipment.
A member of Mateka Wool and Mohair Growers Association, Likotsi Monyeke told this publication that the new methods had reduced the shearing time for an animal to three from 15 minutes.
“I like the fact that the new technology has increased the harvest because there is no double cutting of the coat and the clipper can be adjusted to cut very closely to the animal’s skin to produce more,” Mr Monyeke said.
He said the increased productivity would enable them to invest in increasing the sizes of their herds thereby increasing the quantity of wool produced.
Meanwhile, the president of Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association, Mokuinihi Thinyane said while technology had advantages, these had to be balanced with the challenge of potential job losses for manual shearers.
“The electric shearing system is very good given its benefits to our farmers. However, there are likely job losses for manual shearers since shearers who use machinery can share up to 300 animals per day, which would be done by 13 manual shearers.
“So, we have to consider the potential job losses in deciding whether or not to adopt this system,” Mr Thinyane said.