Thuthugani specialises in hands-on management of forestry and agricultural projects in sub-Saharan Africa.

Arbor-care takes to the skies

Arbor-care takes to the skies

Arbor-care has invested in drone technology to assist with its operations. Willem Hattingh, Arbor-care’s Professional Services Manager, has to go through stringent training and clearance processes to achieve his Remote Pilot Licence, including passing a seven day theoretical course and examination and English language proficiency certification, as well as obtaining a radio operator certificate, undertaking a five day practical flight course and examination, and passing a medical examination. Arbor-care had to register the drone plus Willem needed to obtain an operator certificate from CAA (the Civil Aviation Authority). And that’s not all: a radio, fire extinguisher and insurance were also required. Not a simple or speedy process!
The commercial use of drones is becoming increasingly common for various applications, including aerial surveys in the agricultural sector and game surveillance and protection (especially to combat rhino poaching). Drones are quick and manoeuvrable, and can often replace a costly helicopter for aerial photography.
Arbor-care has already made use of a fixed wing drone in Ghana for land-use mapping, reconnaissance of drought damage as well as a detailed survey of fire damage in other areas. Willem says, “One of our applications will be reconnaissance-type work such as determining the extent of any disaster (fire, hail, drought etc) or checking on the quality of work. The second application will be obtaining a detailed aerial survey of the results of any reconnaissance – in a random fly mode – mainly work at a different scale and accuracy. The third application will be a pre-defined flight path to record any attribute of interest in a known area using thermal imaging or normal 3 band photography, with again a multitude of uses e.g. normal land-use mapping. It is a quick and easy way of assessing in-field conditions prior to gathering additional information to assist with planning mechanised operations. We can assess the quality of any activity but mainly planting and weed control as well as the quality of fire break preparation, and in a green field operation the updating of maps to reflect the current land-use status.”
Flight Jul 2016 – sequence of vertical images at predefined flight path at a fixed altitude and 80% overlap – later used to combine into 1 georeferenced image for example land-use planning and mapping.
Arbor-care currently uses a Quadcopter (DJI Phantom4) with four rotors, rather than a fixed wing drone, which is more versatile but has certain disadvantages as well as advantages. The main advantage of the multi-rotor drones are the ease of take-off and landing as no landing strip is required plus the craft can hover to better investigate an area. The main downside is the battery life and time in the air, which is limited to about 20 minutes.
Flight May 2016 – non vertical image of Arbor-care office and portion of the nursery.
DJI Phantom 4 – actual drone and controller with tablet interface to control the aircraft in flight (3 modes).
Flight 2 Jul 2016 – a snapshot of a panoramic video, before levelling off and adjusting the camera to 90 degrees and progressing with the flight (as in the first image).
Sharing forestry knowledge

Sharing forestry knowledge

While on a recent trip exploring forestry opportunities in Angola, the Arbor-care team came across local farmers who had formed a small-scale forestry initiative. Gum and pine plantations were being established, largely for the farmers’ own needs. There was an on-site mill owned by one farmer that he used to produce planks for building.

The Arbor-care team was impressed by how the farmers, with no formal forestry training at all, had established firebreaks and carefully planted and nurtured naturally regenerated seedlings that they had picked growing from within the existing plantations. The farmers were very enthusiastic to learn what Arbor-care had to offer in the way of advice and technical guidance. Deon von Benecke of Arbor-care says, “Sharing knowledge is an important part of adding value where we can in an area such as this.”

Bed to grow seedlings in plastic pots
Tree farmers
Volunteer pine seedlings
Discussion on the need for weed control in eucalyptus
Sharing forestry knowledge

Sharing forestry knowledge

While on a recent trip exploring forestry opportunities in Angola, the Arbor-care team came across local farmers who had formed a small-scale forestry initiative. Gum and pine plantations were being established, largely for the farmers’ own needs. There was an on-site mill owned by one farmer that he used to produce planks for building.

The Arbor-care team was impressed by how the farmers, with no formal forestry training at all, had established firebreaks and carefully planted and nurtured naturally regenerated seedlings that they had picked growing from within the existing plantations. The farmers were very enthusiastic to learn what Arbor-care had to offer in the way of advice and technical guidance. Deon von Benecke of Arbor-care says, “Sharing knowledge is an important part of adding value where we can in an area such as this.”

Bed to grow seedlings in plastic pots
Tree farmers
Volunteer pine seedlings
Discussion on the need for weed control in eucalyptus
Idube Landscaping introduces indigenous greening at Izinga Ridge

Idube Landscaping introduces indigenous greening at Izinga Ridge

Idube Landscaping, part of the Arbor-care group, is busy with the introduction of indigenous plants and trees and the removal of alien vegetation from Izinga Ridge Phase 2A. This six-phase, 2000 unit upmarket residential development by Tongaat-Hulett is situated on the hills above Umhlanga and boasts spectacular views. Three of the phases are already sold in this high demand luxury lifestyle estate, which is set in one of the country’s fastest-growing development areas.

“We have a team of about twenty people clearing alien vegetation as well as restoring a natural wetland as part of our landscaping project,” says Billy Blackbeard of Idube. “Invasive Alien Plants (IAPs) are introduced plants that have the ability to spread rapidly and take over natural vegetation, have a significant negative impact on the environment and are considered a major threat to biodiversity, such as in this wetland.”

The alien species removed include:

Scientific name

Melia azedarach

Cardiospermum grandiflorum

Arundo donax

Schinus terebinthifolia

Tecoma stans

Commonly known as

Syringa

Balloon vine

Spanish reed (“Umhlanga”)

Brazilian Pepper

Yellow Bells

The clearing programme includes first clearing the vegetation, then chipping to dispose of the plant material and spraying to ensure there is no regrowth. The restoration process includes the planting of indigenous plants, grown at the Arbor-care nursery at Lynnfield Park, and the creation of hiking trails using mulch from the chipped plant material. In addition to the introduction of attractive and appropriate indigenous plants, Idube is bringing in large trees including acacias 6-8m in height. Boulders removed from another Tongaat-Hulett building site are also being introduced for effect.

Idube is working on common areas of the state such as the entrances, corners and traffic circles to enhance the look and ambiance of this exclusive estate.

Indigenous plants to be used include Aloes such as Aloe arborescens, Kranz Aloes grown at the Arbor-care nursery at Thornhill farm, Lynnfield Park.

The project requires the propagation of 75,000 ground covers required for this landscape, shown here being grown in the Arbor-care shade house, which require very little water, and other water-wise plants, mainly succulents such as Senecio crassulifolius and Crassula muticarva rubra.

Creation of earthforms including berms on entrance and circles before moving large granite boulders and feature trees.

Trees and boulders arrive at Izinga Ridge

As part of the ongoing development of Izinga Ridge in Umhlanga, 20 large Acacia sieberiana trees arrived from the Cape, to be planted in the Sieberiana Circle intersection. Huge boulders were also delivered. “The granite boulders were transported on ADT giant tip trucks, 11 loads in a single day, rather nerve-racking at times watching a 6-ton boulder come rolling off!” says Idube’s Billy Blackbeard.