Climate Smart Agricultural Technology: Adapting amidst a changing continent
If there is one common denominator in Namibia, it must be drought.
Climate change and climate variability has become the norm with irregular rainfall patterns, persistent droughts and rising temperatures and evaporation levels. And all this leads to the undermining of the natural resource-based sectors in the country. Businesses within the water resources, marine resources, agriculture, nature tourism, coastal zones, health and energy sectors will be the most vulnerable to climate change.
So how can climate smart technology help the agricultural sector mitigate the effects of climate change?
Aeroponic fodder production is a climate smart technology that has the proven ability to produce freshly sprouted fodder every day of the year. In layman terms, seed is sprouted in an insulated container for 7 days after which it is ready as a nutritious fresh feed. Within the container the climate is fully controlled to re-create the perfect environment for the seed to grow 24 hours a day. Only seed and water is used and the water consumption is also 96% less than conventional farming methods. So the climate-controlled environment of the container means no influences from the external climate disrupt fodder growth.
This is the quality of sprouted maize produced every day of the year beneficial to all livestock.
If I know today how much fresh fodder I will have available every day for the next year, suddenly it becomes much easier to plan my farming activities and focus on that which will be profitable. I can produce the same quality and quantity of meat in a feedlot every week, or produce the same quality and quantity of milk every day. What about eggs, chicken or swine? Climate smart technology has now given me possibilities that were not previously there because my agricultural business was curbed by the impacts of a rapidly changing climate.
Not only does this climate smart technology allow me to focus on what is profitable, but it also allows me to intensify my farming methods. If I’m a “weekend farmer”, I’d rather focus my attention on 10 hectares which I know generate a profit rather than trying to look after 3000 hectares which is can be an endless money draining pit. Stock losses due to theft and predators add up to quite a big financial loss every year - these are easier to control on a smaller tract of land.
The recurring droughts have had a significant impact on Namibia’s communal farmers with headlines regularly telling the tale of livestock death losses. Imagine if a group of communal farmers or a cooperative were to establish a climate smart communal feedlot which uses aeroponic fodder production. Not only will it save some livestock losses, but communal farmers then have the ability to fatten their animals and deliver to market a high quality end product, right through the year. This group receives market related prices for their animals and become part of the mainstream agricultural economy.
Animals consume the whole sprouted fodder mat, thus no wastage
One farmer in Keetmanshoop who is using Agri GreenGrow’s aeroponic sprouted fodder unit to supplement his cattle through winter, said that “to provide supplement feed to my 80 cattle in the form of Lucerne will cost me N$2,700 per day. Taking into account interest on my capital outlay for the fodder unit, seed cost, electricity charges plus wages, I now provide the same supplement feed to my cattle at a cost of N$478 per day.” And Agri GreenGrow has recently successfully combined a sheep feedlot with aeroponic fodder production to create a climate smart feedlot which operates 365 days a year in Namibia where land is classified as desert, arid and semi-arid in one of the driest countries in the sub-Saharan Africa.
Forward thinking companies and farmers will recognize climate change as a major strategic threat, as well as an opportunity.
Aeroponic fodder production not only mitigates the effects of climate change, but it is also a sustainable solution. Sure there is a capital outlay, but any equipment or machinery bought for a business or farm is a capital expense. The initial investment will ensure that you have security in fodder availability for the next minimum 3650 days. Now that’s a comforting thought.
Namibia has been identified as one of the most vulnerable countries influenced by climate change and global warming due to its extreme aridity and dependence on primary industry, combined with a limited adaptive capacity. As businesses view their operations as important, so should they consider the impact of climate change on their operations and the potential impact on the sustainability thereof. Forward thinking companies and farmers will recognize climate change as a major strategic threat, as well as an opportunity.
For more information on aeroponic fodder production visit Agri GreenGrow’s website www.agrigreengrow.co.za
About the author:
KEITH THOMPSON is part of Agri GreenGrow, a climate smart agricultural company in Namibia. Their focus is on delivering sustainable climate change solutions with the purpose of creating self-sustainability, self-sufficiency and economic empowerment for businesses and people affected by climate change and droughts. Keith is the technical specialist and handles the training and mentoring.