By Pamenus Tuso
Free range chicken (road runners) breeders in rural areas are set to benefit from automatic solar powered incubators recently designed and manufactured by a local company.
The solar powered machines which were introduced by a Harare based company, Victors Chickens in February this year, enables smallholder farmers to be 10 times more productive in breeding chicks when compared to other traditional ways of hatching chicks.
The company’s managing director, Anesu Kwaramba, said they decided to design the solar-powered incubators as a way of empowering smallholder farmers to generate income as well as create food security for themselves.
“In coming up with this machine, we are trying to empower every person to have something to do in life. We have a machine for every class of people ranging from the lowest paid worker and big commercial farmers as well.
“We are targeting this solar-powered machine for rural farmers,” said Kwaramba in an interview.
The machines have already been successfully introduced in Zimbabwe’s rural Mwenezi, Muzarabani and Mutasa districts.
“We are receiving overwhelming response from the farmers since the introduction of the machines.
A lot of farmers in rural areas cannot venture into commercial road runners production business because they do not have electricity,” said Kwaramba.
The solar incubators use a solar battery without the need for an inverter. The smallest machine which costs RTGS$400 has capacity to accommodate 180 eggs while the largest solar incubator can accommodate 288 eggs.
“The machine’s efficiency is the same as (that of) any other machine which uses electricity,” said Kwaramba.
After connecting to the battery, the machine runs for 21 days.
During the day, the machine will be using energy from the sun directly while also charging the battery. At night, the machine automatically switches to drawing its energy from the charged battery.
According to Kwaramba an average 200kw battery can last for at least 36 hours running continuously in the event of the absence of sunlight.
“We recommend that users of these machines should at least have two batteries in case there is no sunshine. When the process of hatching starts it has to go on for 21 days uninterrupted.”
During the incubation period the eggs are manually tilted.
“Nature requires that the eggs be tilted at a certain angle every three to four hours. The incubators have got a 90 to 96 hatch rate. This high hatch rate means that the farmer will have more chicks which he or she can sell,” said Kwaramba.
The company is also training rural farmers on the care of the eggs before they are taken to the hatchery.