Silence is golden in the modern garden

Silence is golden in the modern garden

Ten years after adopting quiet battery-operated landscaping and lawncare equipment the pioneering Hill Top Trading in Johannesburg has grown into a large and thriving enterprise employing more than 250 people and maintaining the gardens of more than 60 residential and corporate office parks.

Amidst rising fuel prices and tougher competition in an over-traded market segment the company has grown beyond owner Richard Potter’s wildest expectations and demand for its services shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. Thanks to his magical foresight and adopting vastly different strategies to the norm the company has changed the game and left it to others to play catchup.

Among the many innovations, the company has introduced two milestone strategies that have rocketed the company to success and allowed it to take full advantage of two of the biggest trends shaping the world at present. The first and foremost strategy to switch to an all-battery fleet has played an outsized role in its success of the business and allowed it to capitalise on the trend of people moving to home offices.

Richard explains, “Before the Covid-19 pandemic we made good inroads in office parks where our quiet electric tools allow us to use battery-operated mowers, blowers and edge-trimmers without causing a disturbance to office workers. When the pandemic struck people moved their offices home and noise levels in residential complexes also became an issue and gave us a huge advantage when quoting for new business. With the inherently low-maintenance requirement of battery-powered equipment and no fuel bills our pricing also reflects these savings making our offering still more attractive.”

The second strategy that sets it apart is equally ingenious and involves storing the equipment on site rather than transporting machines to and from sites using trucks and trailers as is the norm among its peers. While the initial outlay for equipment is higher, Richard’s model is a logistical masterpiece. It eliminates the need for far more costly vehicles, trailers and fuel, while allowing him to redeploy driver positions to dedicated landscaping and garden work allowing for reduced wage bills. Storage of battery-operated equipment also eliminates the need to store fuel which is both hazardous and requires ample space for tanks and fuel transfer equipment. The model simply works best with battery-operated equipment.

Lionell Adams of Smith Power Equipment, supplier of Ego Power+ cordless equipment in South Africa, says the battery-operated equipment is becoming increasingly popular for use in estates, office parks and education facilities among users who prefer quieter operation of the equipment. Advanced battery technology means the equipment can be matched to the right battery for the required runtime which enables it to easily compete with fuelled models without the fuel bill which quickly adds up.

The Ego Power+ range consist of mowers from 46cm cutting width push mowers to large zero-turn ride-ons for larger areas and fields. Hedge trimmers, brush cutters, chainsaws and blowers among others are available and use the manufacturers own patented 56V ARC Lithium batteries. All equipment is commercial grade and is designed with tough commercial use in mind making use of the best available motors, batteries, chargers and materials available to give them the longest useful life possible.

General manager for Smith Power Equipment, Mark Chittenden, says the combination of the right equipment in the right applications to suit individual customers’ needs is critical in the success of a business. In the case of Hill Top Trading we have the right equipment to meet Richard’s ambitious needs and are extremely fortunate to be working with such an innovative company that is expanding its operations ever further.



Pictured above: Igus has developed maintenance-free polymer-hybrid spherical bearings that need no lubrication

The constant need for relubrication of metallic bearing points on rod ends industrial applications is a time consuming and expensive exercise and poses a real contamination risk.

As a result, global polymer manufacturer, igus, has developed maintenance-free polymer-hybrid spherical bearings which are a more cost-effective and safer alternative able to withstand higher loads and constant repetitive movements without the need for lubrication.

The new model features a robust combination of a stainless-steel or zinc die cast housing, a self-lubricating polymer inner ring and a stainless-steel spherical ball. This design allows for applications with higher loads to transition seamlessly to this advanced tribo-technology. Rod ends are critical in everything from manufacturing, to processing, food and many other industries where they are pivotal in the operation of industry machinery, from filling plants to meat-processing and packaging systems, where they transmit dynamic forces through various movements.

Bearing specialist, Juan-Eric Davidtz, of igus South Africa says the benefits of the new product is developed with the inner ring made of either iglidur J- series of polymers for industrial applications or the food grade iglidur A160, a high-performance plastic compliant with both FDA and EU 10/2011 standards, ensuring top-tier hygiene and safety. The iglidur A160 contains a solid lubricant released in microscopic amounts over time, ensuring low-friction dry operation between the inner ring and the stainless-steel spherical ball.

“Our lubrication-free approach significantly reduces cleaning time, as the absence of grease prevents dirt and dust accumulation. Furthermore, in the food and hygienic industries our high-performance plastic’s blue colour enhances food safety by making residues and mould spores easily detectable during cleaning inspections.

“The new igubal rod ends are designed for durability, even in challenging outdoor conditions. They exhibit higher breaking strength and rigidity compared to traditional plastic rod ends and are resistant to moisture, acids, alkalines and UV rays. With a temperature range of -40°C to +90°C, these bearings are versatile across various applications. Laboratory tests indicate that the abrasion resistance of iglidur A160 is ten times better than that of polyamide, even under fast rotational movements.

“Users can significantly increase the reliability of their systems with a modest investment.” The new rod ends are available in sizes M6, M8, M10, M12, M16, and M20, catering to diverse industrial needs. We think it is set to revolutionise the way we built machines by providing a blend of hygiene, robustness and efficiency in rod end bearings with virtually no need for further maintenance,” concludes Juan-Eric.

Exciting new offerings on the horizon for farmers

Exciting new offerings on the horizon for farmers

Evolving agricultural practices and new methods are reshaping the farming industry and leading equipment suppliers to constantly review and update their offerings to farmers.

At the forefront of these developments is one of the country’s most diverse equipment suppliers, Smith Power Equipment, which offers a wide range of machines from Kubota tractors and implements to feeders, balers, sprayers and even powerful Polaris offroad vehicles and Linhai quads to transport farmers anywhere on their property regardless of terrain.

These vehicles add an exciting edge to the once slow-paced farming scene showing that modern farmers and their managers are more active and adventurous in their farming practices.  These possibilities as well as access to a substantial array of equipment sourced from across the globe is what keeps the company’s newly appointed Managing Director, David Kelder, awake at night strategizing new markets and machines for local farmers to produce better crops and still better financial results.

This is a job that perfectly fits David’s profile. He is known for his ability to shake things up and find opportunities even amongst the fiercest competition. His big-picture strategies are most exciting for the local market as his goal-oriented drive to make his visions realities are most likely to succeed. He has big plans and is busy putting the right processes and procedures into place to make his masterplan a reality.

While he and his experienced management team meticulously study each product in the range and identify current and future opportunities, it is abundantly clear that the range is due for a major boost and the team will lean on the ample resources of Dutch mother company Royal Reesink to source its product desires. This could mean access to far more comprehensive ranges of existing brands for every crop type and new types to cater for new farming practices and opportunities.

This will need an invigorated dealer network throughout the company’s nationwide network and possibly expanding into underserved markets where previous product offerings did not warrant representation. With a strong support backbone uplifting dealers in every corner of the country Smith Power Equipment’s staff are central to the success of the operation and form a central part of the company’s drive to become the preeminent supplier of agricultural equipment in South Africa.

With a host of new and exciting products that will soon hit our shores, the farmers will be the ultimate winners with improved access to resources and expertise.

Focussed leadership

David Kelder hails from the school of hard knocks. Growing up in challenging circumstances in Zimbabwe, he learned to fend for himself from an early age. By the time he entered the formal workplace, he was already accustomed to hard work. His boundless energy and determination quickly set him apart from his peers, gaining the attention of his supervisors and managers.

David began his career in South Africa with a prominent agricultural brand as a spares buyer. Soon after, he was given the opportunity to run the company’s small golf and turf division. This role served as his first proving ground, and his focused approach resulted in a remarkable 160-fold increase in the division’s turnover within just two years. This success propelled him into a territory manager role in the main agricultural business, where he further honed his expertise.

Over the next few years, David worked for various companies in the turf and agricultural sectors, achieving significant success. He even returned to Zimbabwe for a period, where he established a thriving branch and built a large customer base for the agricultural brand with which he had started. He remained there for seven years before moving back to South Africa.

David then worked for an International Company, where he was responsible for expansion into Africa. Within 6 years, where he was overseeing eight African countries from East Africa to West Africa. This experience has given him a keen understanding of overall business practices, not only in sales, but as well as aftersales and finance.

David plans to modernize the well-loved Smith Power Equipment business in line with current practices and to further enhance the overall customer experience.

“I am excited to join Smith Power Equipment, we have some work to do, to ensure that we are regarded as a Major player in the Market where we are represented. Focus will be on overall customer experience, and to ensure that we understand the requirements and come up with the correct solutions for our customers.”

Beer brewers avoid grease contamination

Beer brewers avoid grease contamination

A study by RWTH Aachen University and igus recently quantified the financial and environmental benefits of using lubrication-free polymer bearings over traditional metal bearings.

The study reveals that users can save up to R-million annually in lubricant costs, significantly reducing their environmental impact. High-performance plastic bearings from igus eliminate the need for constant lubrication. Additionally, many working hours can be saved annually on relubrication tasks.

In the case study it was found that switching to polymer bearings across its 160 global sites, Heineken Brasil could save 20 tonnes of lubricant and R100- millions in personnel costs annually. This change would also reduce CO2 emissions by 28,814 kg, equivalent to saving over 12,000 litres of petrol.

According to Ian Hewat of igus South Africa the study is pertinent to local industries as the same principles apply. He said the study emphasises the substantial reduction in CO2 emissions when using polymer bearings. Heineken Brasil alone could cut CO2 equivalents by 180 kg annually at 600 bearing points.

“This highlights the increasing pressure on manufacturers to disclose the carbon footprint of their products. The study offers a scientifically validated assessment of the environmental benefits of igus’s self-lubricating bearings, making a strong case for their adoption across various industries,” says Ian.

Conducted by WBA Werkzeugbau, the study involved expert interviews with companies from sectors including automation technology, construction machinery, agriculture, food, packaging, and bottling. The research was carried out in collaboration with the Laboratory for Machine Tools (WZL) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT) on the RWTH Aachen Campus.

Coffee and macadamias prove to be a great match in the same orchard

Coffee and macadamias prove to be a great match in the same orchard

The Burger family, who farm near White River in Mpumalanga, own some of the oldest macadamia nut orchards in the area. The land below the towering trees is shaded and dark, with only patches of sunlight periodically filtering through.

The cool atmosphere among the trees and the spongy, mulch-dense soil mimic that of a jungle, just perfect for growing coffee.

Macvue is headed by father-and-son team Charles and Carel Burger, who both trained as commercial pilots. While on holiday at the farm during his studies, Carel decided to start experimenting with coffee cultivation.

“We had a coffee tree growing in the yard and I wanted to see if I could produce more trees by planting the beans. When they flourished, I started looking into coffee production on a larger scale.”

Charles explains that since coffee plants do best when planted in shade, it made sense to intercrop it with the macadamias. Coffee that receives minimal sunlight is also of a higher quality.

In addition, the farm does not have open land on which to establish a new crop.

“Coffee can’t tolerate cold and frost. The ideal altitude for production is above 800m, which is where we farm. The heat and humidity of the Lowveld are also well suited to coffee,” he says.

The Burgers planted their first large-scale coffee crop in 2018 under 20-year-old macadamia trees, using spacing of 8m x 5m. A coffee plant was planted on either side of each macadamia tree in the row. Today, the farm has 9 000 coffee trees in production.

Carel Burger started farming coffee between his macadamia nut trees after noticing that the coffee tree in the farmstead‘s garden was flourishing.


Low-cost production
Beans that are not picked up off the ground will germinate and produce more plants. When the Burgers decided to plant coffee on a large scale, they obtained plants from a nearby farmer, Robbie Nel, who was growing coffee.

“He allowed us to go into his orchards and take out the extra trees that were sprouting, because the additional coffee plants actually become weeds. We did this for the first year and thereafter we had our own germinated seeds in the orchards that we could transplant,” recalls Carel.

The extracted seedlings are first placed in a nursery for a year to grow bigger before being transplanted in the orchard. Here, they are given a simple fertiliser to boost growth.

Carel notes that having Nel as an adviser at the start of their foray into coffee production was a great advantage, as there is little information on growing this crop in South Africa.

“There’s no industry organisation in South Africa that focuses on research and development for coffee. Internationally, most growers do this in-house, and coffee farmers are generally quite stingy with sharing information. There’s a fair amount available on the Internet, but not everything works in our environment.”

The Burgers plant the varieties F6, SL28 and SL34 on their farm. The SL varieties produce a higher-quality coffee, but the trees are more prone to disease. The F6 is easy to manage, but produces coffee of a lower quality.

Establishment costs have been kept to a minimum, as seedlings are freely available and intercropping has meant that no soil preparation needs to done.

“You do interfere somewhat with the roots of the macadamia trees when digging holes to plant the coffee, but it’s not a big problem. Because the orchards have drip irrigation, the roots are generally concentrated in a specific area, which we avoid,” Charles notes.

Fertiliser is added in the hole when the coffee seedlings are planted. Some of the seedlings are planted in orchards where the macadamias are planted on ridges, and these coffee trees do particularly well.

It takes three to four years to get a full harvest from the newly planted trees. Yield currently reaches 1t/ha, but orchards in full production should go up to 3t/ha. Trees planted in full shade take longer to produce, but the coffee is of a higher quality, ensuring a higher price.

Another advantage of coffee as an intercrop is that it responds well to the same fertiliser and crop protection programme as the macadamias. The only change is a 10% increase in the nutrition applied to an orchard.

Additional foliar fertiliser applications would help to boost the yield of the coffee trees, admits Carel, but these would come at a considerable increase in labour cost, as each tree needs to be sprayed individually.

“You have to weigh up the increase in income from yield versus the increase in labour costs. Ultimately, the macadamias remain the cash cow, so their needs take precedence.”

Soil moisture is measured by probes, and irrigation is scheduled accordingly, but Carel explains that coffee is not overly thirsty and the irrigation requirement has increased by only around 10% since this crop was added.

“Each plant ends up with about 4ℓ per week. The fact that it’s planted in shade means it doesn’t have a high water requirement. We manage the irrigation by placing two drippers per macadamia tree and only one on the coffee, as the macadamias need more water.”

The coffee is pruned regularly to ensure that the trees don’t exceed 2m. This is both to prevent the coffee from interfering with the macadamias, and also to ease the harvesting process.

Flowering starts in September, coinciding with the macadamias. Although coffee is self-pollinating, its sweet-smelling blooms attract bees into the orchards, where they then pollinate the macadamias, providing an added benefit for the nut production.

Pests that affect coffee are taken care of by the crop protection methods used on the macadamias, which saves on input costs.

The seasons overlap, so the withholding periods to take into account are the same for both crops. The coffee harvest starts around June, just after that of the macadamias.

Phytophthora is a potential threat to the coffee trees and must be managed. Carel notes that keeping the plants healthy is key to reducing their susceptibility to this fungus.

“Globally, stem borer is a big problem for coffee production, especially as it’s not easy to spot. The tree won’t die immediately, but over time the yield will drop and eventually the tree will die. We haven’t yet noticed stem borer in our orchards, but we prune against it by removing all side branches from the trunk up to 0,5m off the ground,” says Carel.

The Burgers imported this small coffee roaster from China. It can roast 10kg of beans at a time.


Processing the beans

Charles says that the greatest challenge with coffee production is the market, but the greatest cost is labour to pick the coffee.

“The general rule is that on 1ha of coffee you need 20 to 45 pickers. The way in which we farm means there’s a gradual harvest over a few months, so the workers go through the orchards every week to pick only the fully ripe cherries. This requires less labour (around 15 workers) than in Brazil, for example, where they pick the entire orchard in one go.”

After the coffee has been harvested, the cherries go through a depulper, which removes the outer, fleshy layer around the beans.

There are different methods to follow from here, and Carel is experimenting with two: the honey and the wet method. With the former, the beans are placed on a drying rack in the sun straight after depulping, with much of its wet, sticky-sweet layer still intact.

The wet method, which is the most widely used, entails placing the depulped beans in water to ferment for four days, during which time the slimy layer around the beans falls off. The beans are then placed on drying racks in the sun.

“Each has its pros and cons, but ultimately it depends on what flavour you prefer,” says Carel.

“We tried the honey method last year, but it seems as if the wet method produces better flavour, so we’ll go back to that this year.

“It’s difficult to get a sense of which is better, as it’s not just the drying method that influences the flavour of the coffee, but the climate. You can get different flavours of coffee between two years based on changes in the weather.”

It takes around two weeks in the sun to dry the beans to between 11% to 15%. The beans then go through a dehuller, which removes the thin papery layer around them. They can then be stored in bags for a few months and roasted as needed.

“Part of our value offering is that we provide fresh coffee. As the client orders, we roast,” Carel explains.

Maximising value

The Burgers decided early on to produce coffee for the boutique market rather than sell green beans in bulk to large-scale roasters and packers.

“At 9 000 trees, we’re at our peak. If we wanted to plant more coffee, we would need to buy more land. Producing in bulk makes selling in bulk more feasible. But at the volumes we produce, there’s more value in roasting, packaging and selling directly to the consumer,” says Carel.

The farm has received numerous requests for green beans, but at the price offered for green beans – R120/kg for really good quality – the Burgers would only break even. Compared with the R330/kg they receive for roasted beans, it’s easy to see that more value lies in roasting their own beans.

Carel adds that the cost to have the beans roasted by an external service provider is high, which was why they invested in their own roaster.

“You need economies of scale to justify the price,” he admits, “but we’re getting there.”

The small roaster, which can accommodate 10kg per batch and takes 10 minutes to perform the roast, is sufficient to handle the farm’s entire crop of around 3t.

Carel notes that roasting coffee beans can be a finicky process to perfect. He attended a number of courses on roasting, but mostly learns through experimenting.

“Because we produce our own coffee, we can afford to experiment a bit, so it doesn’t cost the business a lot to learn. All the experiments go to the household to consume, so it fulfils our own coffee needs!”

The roaster is gas-powered, with a small electric motor. The farm is in the process of switching to solar power, which will eliminate any delays caused by load-shedding.

The coffee is packaged on the farm under their Foothills brand, a reference to the farm being situated at the foothills of the Drakensberg, in prime coffee-growing climate.

Most of the coffee is sold in the Lowveld to restaurants and through word of mouth to locals. A small portion is sold online through Takealot, but Carel says that the cost of being on this platform is high and they are using it “more to just get our name out there and test the market”.

“Getting our product into coffee shops is very difficult, as most have a contract with the company that supplies and services their coffee machines. It’s hard to get around this unless you start providing machines as well. We’ve built up a good following of locals who drink only our coffee, and this is the kind of market we want to focus on.”

Carel’s holiday project has proved to be a boon for this macadamia farm, maximising the value extracted from their land.

While the journey is still in its early stages, it could prove to be the foundation for a flourishing coffee industry in South Africa, with the crop being grown side by side with other subtropical crops.

Email Carel at

International Macadamia Symposium Committee Reunites

International Macadamia Symposium Committee Reunites

The IMSC, the dedicated independent organisation championing the global Macadamia industry, recently convened in person for the first time post-COVID at the IMS in Zimbali this September.

New Leadership in Sight

With the departure of Mr. Jolyon Burnet, the former Chairperson, we are thrilled to announce that Mrs. Lizel Pretorius has been nominated as the Acting Chairperson.

Her nomination received resounding support from IMSC members, and we eagerly anticipate her leadership guiding IMSC to new horizons.

Announcing the host of the 10th IMS

On 1 March 2024, IMSC will unveil the winner of the bid to host the 10th IMS.

The winner will be announced by IMSC member organisations.

Global Research Focus

The Global Research Focus event, which took place on the morning of 18th September 2023, was organized by SAMAC’s R&D division, Dr Gerda Fourie (University of Pretoria) and Prof Femi Akinsanmi (Australia).

It was held as part of the IMS 2023 at Zimbali and was aimed at bringing together the diverse group of macadamia experts. With approximately 50 of the top macadamia researchers in attendance, the Global Research Focus fostered a spirit of openness and collaboration among key player countries.

The event offered a dynamic platform which combined problem-solving skills in the form of a round table solution session. Several worldwide macadamia production challenges were addressed. It was truly a pivotal moment for the global macadamia research community, highlighting the importance of working together to advance the industry.

Farm Visits

The IMS 2023 wrapped up with informative farm visits on the afternoon of 21 September 2023, with approximately 250 delegates visiting three macadamia farms on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Delegates rotated between different “stations” on each farm where growers either showcased specific interest points of their operations such as cracking plants or fertigation pump houses, or where demonstrations on aspects of macadamia management took place. Leading technical advisors and researchers gave short presentations on aspects such as orchard rejuvenation, pest and disease scouting, pruning and irrigation.

The farm visits even included a surprise visit by GUSS, IMS 2023 event partner John Deere and GUSS Automations’ autonomous sprayer. The farm visits were hugely successful and enjoyed by all, with the added bonus that everyone walked away with renewed energy to implement what they have learned.

Friendly Competition among Delegates

During our cultural evening at the IMS, spontaneous excitement took over as delegates organised an impromptu swimming race. The late-night event brought immense joy to all participants, showcasing the fun side of our delegation. In a surprising turn of events, Graeme Whyte, our eldest competitor, emerged victorious, illustrating that our delegates are competitive both inside and outside the boardroom.

Interactive Drumming

On 19 September, our delegates enjoyed an interactive drumming workshop with the World renowned Drum Cafe. The workshop, known for reducing stress and promoting feelings of wellbeing and team camaraderie, was the perfect scene-setter to kick off the much-anticipated IMS.

“I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who supported the 9th International Macadamia Symposium, where we proudly represented our beautiful country, South Africa, and the thriving macadamia industry. Your dedication and enthusiasm have played a pivotal role in making this event a resounding success. Together, we continue to elevate the macadamia industry to new heights.

Thank you for your unwavering support.” – Lizel Pretorius, CEO of SAMAC.

VIP Guests

The IMS truly shone with a constellation of local and international talent.

Our conference commenced with an exciting golf day featuring a celebrity four-ball, graced by the presence of Pat Lamby and Bobby van Jaersveld.

Leading the proceedings was the former Miss South Africa and the esteemed host of “Top Billing,” Joanne Strauss.

Our lineup of speakers was equally impressive, featuring Mrs. Chen Yuxiu, the Founder and Chairwoman of YMAC, the vice-chairwoman of CNSA (The Specialised Committee for Nuts and Dried Fruits of China National Food Industry Association), and the chairwoman of Yunnan Macadamia Society

We also had the privilege of hosting Jillian Laing, the CEO of The World Macadamia Organisation.

Credit Original Source:

SAMAC – Macadamias South Africa