At Braam de Kock’s farm on the outskirts of Mbombela, Mpumalanga Province, there is a distinct lack of business that is typical of a macadamia nut farm in May. Instead, plumes of dust collect above single rows as the mechanized harvest gets under way. As harvesting macadamia nuts is highly labor-intensive, and Braam de Kock’s Lowveld farm is no exception. That is why De Kock finally opted for mechanization. He found the investment well worth it, although he stated that the process was challenging.
During the harvest season that takes place between March and August each year, many farmers are faced with sourcing and managing hundreds of casual laborers to collect nuts off the orchard floor. For De Kock, this meant 100 workers for his 200ha farm.
As coordinating this many workers was quite time-consuming, De Kock made the decision to mechanize four years ago and, in the process, he managed to cut his labor force by 60%.
“We still need people because the machines don’t get to every single nut. But managing 30 people is far [easier] than 100,” he says. Moreover, many of his permanent workers have been upskilled to operate the machinery, which has brought an added benefit for his staff.