RTZ Award for Long-Term Commitment
Micron Sprayers Ltd
Edward Bals, an Austrian who escaped from Hitler's Germany to work in Asia, was struck by the labour involved in carrying large amounts of water up Sri Lankan hilIsides to spray blister blight on the tea bushes. He realised that good coverage of the crop was essential for effective spraying and that this would be most efficiently achieved by producing spray droplets of a uniform size. He founded Micron Sprayers over 30 years ago to make a sprayer which produced only even-sized droplets appropriate to the pest target.
The mist of droplets thrown off by a car wheel from a wet road gave him the idea of using a spinning disc. He designed toothed discs, now the central feature on Micron's hand-held Ulvas (Ultra- Low-Volume Applicators).
These are battery-powered, need only simple tools for maintenance and rely on wind and gravity to carry droplets into the crop. For insecticides and fungicides, they require only one to five litres of solution per hectare, saving time and effort. Traditional sprayers use up to 200 litres per hectare. Ulvas make insect-killing feasible for small farmers with a minimum of insecticide.
Despite many setbacks, Mr Bals had faith in his idea which he believed could increase the crop yields in developing countries. The technique has finally taken off over the last ten years. Almost all cotton-growers in many African countries have taken up the Ulva technique and have doubled their yields. Previously, only half of them would use heavy, conventional knapsack sprayers. The Ulva is also widely used in South-East Asia and has been copied in India and Zimbabwe.
Against weeds, Micron produced another machine, the Herbi, also in widespread use, which reduces the drudgery of hand-weeding. Micron also produces a vehicle-mounted sprayer for locust control, and spray equipment for aircraft and mechanised agriculture.
Over 90 per cent of Micron's output is exported, mainly to Africa and Asia. It has won a Queen's Award for technological innovation.