Revolutionary hail net guards grapes against the wrath of nature
9 min Read

One thing every farmer appreciates is to have a good relationship with his suppliers. Having a strong relationship means that you can reach them when you are in need, and that you can work together to find solutions for your problems – after all, new ideas mean improved farming for the farmer, and improved products for the company.

On Willem Kruger’s farm close to Marble Hall in the Limpopo province, Knittex has been faithfully serving the WJ Kruger Boerdery with hail nets for almost 30 years. The farm consists of grape, citrus and crop divisions. Thanks to the relationship between the farm and the agricultural net manufacturer, the two can work closely together to find a solution that makes farming more cost-effective.

The rain falls through the hail release gaps in the net and will not touch the grapes.
The long strip of black netting is the opening for the hail release.

“We have hail nets over our grapes in a permanent structure,” Shovanne Nell, Grape Division Manager at WJ Kruger Boerdery, says.

“The nets are already special hail release nets from Knittex, but we wanted to add something else. We approached Jurie, our local Sales Representative from Knittex, to ask them about combining a layer of plastic with the hail net.”

Waterproof agricultural nets with hail release strips

Shovanne has been with WJ Kruger Boerdery for the past nine years. He recalls that in this time they noticed a yearly occurrence: once fruit set begins, a sheet of plastic is placed over the vines to protect the grapes from bursting. Willem noticed that this has some disadvantages such as burning the leaves. The plastic sheets can also not be reused as this affects crop sanitation, leading to potential infections and diseases spreading from one block to another. “That is when Willem had the idea to ask Jurie if it was possible to add a layer of plastic to the net,” he says.

This resulted in a net that has never been used like this before – a true one of its kind product for farmers and their orchards or vineyards:

“We made two changes to the hail net,” Jurie Duvenhage, Area Manager for Knittex, explains. “First, we have a layer of plastic that makes the net completely water resistant. In vineyards, this means that grapes are protected from rain. The second addition was to add a hail release that has been knitted into the net.”

The significance of the hail release (the open spaces in the net) means that hail – as well as rainwater – is guided from the crest of the roof to the trough, where it falls down between the gaps onto the soil.

“This posed a new challenge,” Jurie admits. “It made the net so strong that we were unable to construct it in the usual way that gives it the triangular shape. What we were seeing was almost a flat surface, which of course, did not direct water or hail as intended.”

Jurie explained that this took some ingenuity and creative thinking, but the issue was easily solved. “We ultimately used a cable which is erected under the beams of the net’s structure. By stretching this cable in a particular way and attaching the net to it at crucial points, gave us the results we were looking for.”

The waterproof net that Knittex has placed onto the grapes on Willem’s farm is the Knipol netting that they have been manufacturing for years. “It is the same quality net that we manufacture, only with an added layer of melted plastic,” Jurie says.

The additional layer of plastic made the netting so strong that it would return to a flat shape at first.
By putting up a cable under the wooden structure, the net holds its triangular shape.

Knittex and the farmer work together

Shovanne praised the innovative and collaborative spirit that Knittex embodies. “We are very satisfied with the service we receive from Jurie. Whenever we have a problem, we can call him, and he helps. And if we have any suggestions, he listens to it carefully, finds and tests a solution, and then provide us with feedback,” he concludes.

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