South Africa has taken the initiative in promoting the use of advanced technologies in agriculture by staging a focused, international conference and expo, Africa Agri Tech, at the Sun Arena in Pretoria East, from 18 – 20 February. The theme will be “2020 and Beyond”.The three-day event explores the impact of evolving specific data and technology on the agricultural sector, both locally and globally. This offering of an expo and conference programme has the backing of major sponsors AFGRI, Landbouweekblad, Grobank and Farmer’s Weekly.

Africa Agri Tech aims to bring together the entire agricultural value chain at one event, from producers to policy makers, analysts to investors and agri-processors to distributers. The event aims to explore science and technology and future trends as they impact on the agricultural sector, which is a vital contributor to the South African economy, both in terms of food security for the country and as a source of valuable exports.

A very comprehensive programme has been arranged for the three days of conferencing, on February 18, 19 and 20. Many of the movers and shakers in the world of agriculture will provide important insights into the future of agriculture locally and globally.

The programme kicks off on a high note when Roelf Meyer, one of the main drivers of the national In-Transformation Initiative, will make the much-anticipated announcement of the establishment of the Agriculture Development Agency (AGDA), a public-private organisation. It will have a board consisting of an equal number of representatives from Government and the private sector, working together to achieve the common goal of sustainable and accelerated land reform to the benefit of South Africa and its people.

The agency aims to promote and support access to agricultural land by black/emerging farmers and to support the use of agricultural land and related infrastructure development to promote land reform and food security in the country. This initiative also includes appropriate training.

Ms Gloria Serobe, CEO of WIPCapital, who is one of the leading inspirations and contributors to the creation of AGDA, remarked that “AGDA must have a well-developed social conscience. It must be institutionalised in a manner that will ensure that it is always dedicated to such imperatives.”

Brenda Tlhabane, a renowned young farmer well known in the red meat and as a cattle breeder, has joined Africa Agri Tech as an ambassador and advisor to the event organisers. She is a co-founder of South African Women in AgriBusiness in the Sub Sahara Alliance, focusing on rural women and youth upliftment.

“AAT is a platform where role players from various sectors will have a dialogue, showcase products and services as well as breaking down what the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) means from the agricultural sector’s perspective,” commented Ms Tlhabane.

Chris Burgess, editor of Landbouweekblad, will deliver the keynote address “Technology to make agriculture more efficient, sustainable and profitable.” He will be followed by seven more speakers, including Jack Vera, the head of agricultural affairs at the Netherlands Embassy in South Africa. (The Netherlands is one of the top 10 global destinations for SA agricultural produce). The first day session will conclude with three quickfire sessions, including an important one by Benoit le Roy on the shortage of water in South Africa.

The second day is the Farmers’ Weekly conference with Toby Shapshak, the well-known editor-in-chief of Stuff magazine as master of ceremonies. He will set the tone for a series of 15 addresses by experts in the wide field of technology with an agricultural spin. The speakers include representatives from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Agricultural Research Centre (ARC).

The third day’s conferencing will be staged in conjunction with AFGRI and Grobank and will consist mainly of three panel discussions. The first is titled “Let’s talk economy” and will have well known business commentator and media personality Bruce Whitfield as the facilitator. The second session will be facilitated by another media personality, Jeremy Maggs and will look at the subject “Let’s talk capital and growth.” The third panel discussion will be facilitated by economist Theo Vorster and will consider the subject “The case for equity investment in agriculture.”

Besides the three days of conferencing there will be an exhibition as well as live demonstration theatres, tech try-out zones and presentation rooms for exhibitors and organisation. The fully integrated expo floor will showcase future trends, technologies, and techniques available to the agricultural sector in the 21st century.