Material handling in agriculture faces numerous challenges, from fluctuating seasonal demands to the need for specialised equipment. Farmers often struggles with issues such as supply chain interruptions, and disruptions to productivity and food provision sustainability. In this context, Toyota Material Handling, a division of CFAO Equipment SA that sells forklifts and related solutions, is a crucial partner, offering a range of solutions to address these challenges and enhance overall efficiency in the agricultural sector.
Understanding seasonal demands
One of the primary challenges farmers encounter is meeting the seasonal demands of different crops.
“The peak season for apples and pears usually runs from December until March or April. After March you get into the peak citrus season. Peak season is when the demand to move stock increases compared to the rest of the year, and when customers hire additional machines to accommodate this demand,” says Candice Steer, Western Cape Area Sales Manager at Toyota Material Handling.
By analysing these historical trends within the agricultural sector, Toyota Material Handling ensures that they are adequately stocked with application-specific material handling equipment, and they are able to supply the required additional equipment precisely when the demand peaks during seasons.
Range of lifting and transporting solutions
A comprehensive range of material handling equipment is on offer, from internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric or battery-operated forklifts to assorted warehousing equipment.
“We have recently noticed that in the agricultural sector, specifically in packhouses, there is a limit on available space to expand. Instead, farmers are opting to build higher facilities to increase racking and storage options. This has resulted in a growth in demand for reach trucks and specialised warehouse equipment, such as narrow aisle trucks,” says Claude Pheiffer, Western Cape Regional Sales Manager at Toyota Material Handling.
Ensuring an uninterrupted supply chain
Food provision sustainability is a paramount concern in agriculture, and Toyota Material Handling actively contributes by focusing on the uninterrupted supply chain.
“We make sure that the right equipment is available to farmers so that they can meet their commitments in terms of food provision and delivery. We also ensure that their machines are always operational and that we can supply on demand when additional machines are required on a short-term basis. This enhances their productivity and aligns with sustainable food provision practices,” says Pheiffer.
Tailored solutions and innovations
The range of solutions available from Toyota Material Handling includes innovative accessories, such as the fork vibration system that assists in protecting the condition of fresh produce during transit. Other specialised accessories available to the agriculture sector include bin tippers, an accessory specifically requested by customers to assist with processing produce, and double handler attachments, which are essentially two sets of forks on a forklift and enable operators to handle double the amount of produce on a single forklift. These accessories contribute to greater efficiency in handling produce.
“The flexibility in our offerings extends to tailored financial solutions, short-term rental fleets, and fruit hire fleets. By considering the specific needs of farmers, we can structure deals that cater to diverse crop types and farm sizes,” says Pheiffer.
Toyota Material Handling also actively promotes the shift to the latest technologies for greater efficiencies.
“We offer the Toyota I_Site fleet management system, which enables our customers, with the support of our customer relationship teams, to better manage equipment utilisation and productivity of their fleet. It allows for improved efficiencies and reduces the operating cost of the material handling equipment. This has an overall positive effect on the value chain of the customer,” says Steer.
Farmers have the option of lithium-ion and lead-acid battery-power forklifts as a means of supporting eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable practices in their operations.
“The demand for a cleaner alternative, such as lithium-ion powered forklifts, has increased lately, and not only for their environmental friendliness, but because they facilitate opportunity charging, which is essential in our electricity challenged country,” says Steer.
Toyota Material Handling anticipates a growing concern regarding the stability of the electricity grid for battery-powered forklifts and is therefore proactively exploring solutions such as solar charging. This will align with farmers' green initiatives while addressing the practicalities of maintaining a consistent power supply.
“CFAO Equipment SA aims to minimise environmental impact and drive a beyond compliance mind-set within our operations and across the value chain. We are a reliable partner that offers transparency and quality. Our aim is to keep our customers’ businesses moving,” concludes Pheiffer.