One of the principles that govern how we do business at Cherry Irrigation is a mandate we have set ourselves to continually seek out and embrace technological advances in agriculture. Naturally, our focus is on irrigation and fertigation innovations. The reason is simple and logical: the better informed, trained and up to date our collective team is on tools, equipment and smart systems that benefit our clients over the long term, the better we serve them.

Managing director Charles Cherry explains: “We strive to help our clients maximise their crop yields and keep their businesses economically and environmentally sustainable, especially when we operate in water-scarce areas, and we are always on the lookout for effective ways to achieve the best outcomes.”

Enter NetBeat™. Dubbed “the first irrigation system with a brain”, this efficient and affordable smart computing irrigation and fertigation management system was created by Netafim in Israel. NetBeat™ works very simply: It has a portable main control unit that communicates with sensors in the field, thereby monitoring and managing all field activities to ensure optimal growth of crops through effective water and fertigation management. The system is unique in that it uses cloud-based technology and integrates your field data with climactic and environmental third-party research and crop modelling to generate real time, 7-day irrigation and fertigation management plans for your crops.

All soil, weather, crop, environmental and hydraulic conditions are monitored, and sensors generate a full picture of the crops and environmental conditions on your farm. Plans are continuously adapted as conditions change. The platform tracks the plant’s developmental stage, based on crop physiology models, it then recalibrates itself according to actual and forecasted environmental data.

“It is this dynamic crop modelling that sets the system apart – the recommendations are very accurate, as they are based on 50 years of agricultural and hydraulic knowledge, collected and collated by the Netafim research team,” says Cherry.  “NetBeat™ allows us to work with farmers to leverage this data in conjunction with the data the field sensors provide. In that way, we’re able to maximise a farm’s potential while simultaneously lowering water usage.”

The entire system can also be managed from a smartphone.  This allows for remote access and is simple, intuitive and user-friendly. It utilises one easy-to-use dashboard (that slightly resembles an Outlook calendar) with all the data you need in a smart and simple interface. It also offers system alerts from your field sensors that activate according to thresholds you set.

Software updates and maintenance to the NetBeat™ system can be done over the air, using wifi, bluetooth, cellular and LoRa radio frequencies. The control unit is also comprised of military-grade hardware. Remote field terminal unit transmitters are open units for any input (sensors) or any output (valves, pumps, doing) with a range of up to 10 km. They provide up to 3 years of activation on one battery, making the system very durable, effective and reliable.

“Netafim South Africa has now launched NetBeat™ locally and we believe it is going to revolutionise how South African and SADC farmers do business,” Cherry says. “The best news is that the computing system is scalable to the size of your farm, making it suitable and accessible to small-scale concerns, including small holdings, along with medium and large-scale corporate farming. NetBeat™ has a solution to fit the needs, budget and skills of all farmers. It is also modular, so you can upgrade as you grow.”

“Cherry Irrigation is proud to have been selected as one of Netafim’s key partners in the SADC region. This is thanks to a long-standing relationship we have with the company, having used their earlier-model automation products for many years. Netafim has partnered with Cherry Irrigation precisely because we are able to offer our clients the support and consulting services required to maximise and leverage the full potential of NetBeat™ thanks to our own expertise, field knowledge and training.”

“Our team has been trained to install the system and partner with clients to ensure maximum return on investment. We will work with you to ensure higher crop yields, reduce risks and lower irrigation costs long term. With innovations such as NetBeat™ and a dedicated support team the future for local farming looks both bright (and smart)!” Cherry concluded.

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