Establishing avocado orchards with Reach RS


Allesbeste Farm is located in Tzaneen, Limpopo in South Africa. The farm is owned and managed by the Ernst family which history goes back to 1927. Today Allesbeste implements the best farming techniques and is well-known for producing litchi, bananas, timber and, of course, avocados.

Allesbeste was introduced to Reach RS when the team was developing the workflow for establishing new orchards. Basically, drone mapping with GCPs is used to get exact topography of a proposed orchard site. The drone data is passed through a model which plots out any changes that need to be done to the topography before planting.

For instance, if there are areas that are too steep, it could either propose that soil should be moved from one point to another, or it could propose and map terraces that should be made. These correction points will be geolocated and will then be accurately staked out using Reach RS.

After all the corrections have been done the drone will fly over the site again and the new data will be passed through a model that will plot the tree positions according to specified plant spacings and the topography. Reach RS then will be used again to stake out each tree position.


Edrean Ernst from Allesbeste kindly shared the workflow overview for establishing the new orchard with the help of Reach RS. Check the slideshow below to see how Allesbeste designed and built its new avocado orchard!


  • The project involved a cleared piece of land that was too steep to plant avocados in straight lines so it was decided to build terraces.
  • On the first step an aerial survey with a drone is conducted to produce a digital elevation model. Ground control points are set using Reach RS. DEM is required to develop the plan for earthmoving and minimize erosion and tree row slopes.
  • From the first DEM a water flow model is produces to determine the required slope changes.
  • On the next step earthmoving follows according to the plan with an aerial survey afterwards. If the new DEM is not satisfying, earth moving should be repeated.
  • After the earthmoving is finished, the DEM is used again to develop new waterflow model.
  • It is compared to the earlier waterflow model to see if the desired result was obtained.
  • The next step is terraces and access roads design. It should be done according to DEM, keeping slope in mind.
  • Using GIS (QGIS) software, Allesbeste plans tree rows and access roads.
  • Roads and terrace rows are staked out with Reach RS after they have been designed in GIS software.
  • Points stake out with Reach RS at the avocado orchard site.
  • When the GIS design is transferred to the reality with the help of Reach RS, the construction process begins.
  • Building road and terraces at Allesbeste site.
  • Building road and terraces at Allesbeste site.
  • Building road and terraces at Allesbeste site.
  • Finished terraces prepared for planting.
  • After the terraces were built, the rain hit the area. This image is taken after the rain and it shows how precise planning paid off in terms of the minimal erosion experienced as well as very little pooling of water.
  • After the site is ready, the new DEM is produced using a drone with GCPs. This model is used to draw row lines and plot tree positions. These positions will be then staked out with Reach RS.
  • After drawing the row lines and plotting the tree positions it's also possible to get stats from the GIS software showing how many trees will fit in the orchard.
  • GIS design containing row lines and tree positions is used by the irrigation designers along with elevation data to develop irrigation plan. The irrigation system is then ordered and installed on site.
  • On this photo the irrigation system is already installed and the trees are planted.
  • The new Allesbeste avocado orchard is ready!

We are very happy with the Reach units so far. We have developed most parts of the workflow and finished our first orchard’s development. The Reach units are used to geolocate GCPs. If the topography is deemed too steep, then we will design terrace rows on QGIS. These terrace rows will then be staked out in the real world using Reach again. The earthmoving equipment will then come in to create the terraces. The area is then flown and modeled again. If we are happy with everything then we will proceed to map out the tree positions on the terraces using QGIS. This will then be sent off to the irrigation designer who will provide us with an irrigation plan according to the layout of the orchard rows and the topography. After this, the irrigation system is installed and the trees planted.  — Edrean Ernst, Allesbeste


All photos are courtesy of Allesbeste. Allesbeste Boerdery website:




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