MC Toby Shapshak, well known tech personality,was assisted by CO- MC Pepper, a humanoid sponsored by Nedbank

MC Toby Shapshak, well known tech personality,was assisted by CO- MC Pepper, a humanoid sponsored by Nedbank

Pepper the robot

Impressive line-up of science
and technology speakers addressed delegates on Day 2

Data, data analytics, and cybersecurity were amongst the topics covered during the AAT Tech Conference on Day 2 of Africa Agri Tech 2020. Speakers shared insights for farmers and agribusinesses looking to include the latest technology in their operations.

Anchored by well-known technology personality, Toby Shapshak, publisher of Stuff magazine, attendees enjoyed a taste of some of the technologies that will disrupt the agricultural sector in the near future. Shapshak's co-host, Nedbank's humanoid, also proved popular with delegates.

The importance of connecting and integrating the various role players in the agricultural market was introduced by Peter Leppan, Director: Europe, Proagrica.

“Farmers require the right data at the right time,” explained Leppan. Geodata, much of its data input provided by satellites, is a cost-effective method of monitoring agricultural areas in terms of soil quality and moisture levels and suitability for specific crops.

Security, both farm security and cybersecurity, was addressed from two distinctly different viewpoints. International security provider,

GEW - Hensoldt, presented the importance of integrating a range of security systems to provide effective coverage.

Rudie Raath, the Chief Digital Officer at Datacentrix, on the other hand, covered the subject of cybersecurity which is a growing threat for all companies worldwide that are connected and used data. He illustrated the use of code as an important method to outwit hackers.

The challenge for farmers when looking to include some of the latest technology in their operations is to consider very carefully what they want to achieve and how they can get there at an affordable cost using tested, reliable, and durable equipment.“The farming community is generally conservative and many of the farmers and their farms are not tech-ready,” said Estelle Lubbe representing The Awareness Company. “This means they need assistance, education and training as they enter the new world of agricultural technology. They have to deal with some vendors who over-promise and under-deliver.”

“Most important is that any systems they install must be aggregated and able to work together seamlessly,” concluded Lubbe and co-founder Priaash Ramadeen.

The technology-focused conference supported by Farmer's Weekly attracted presentations from global brands such as Google Cloud from official reseller Dot Modus, Microsoft, Vodacom, and international speakers from both the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States of America.

Peter Leppan, Proagrica

Peter Leppan
Proagrica

Day 2. Rudie Raath, Chief Digital Officer: Datacentrix

Rudie Raath
Datacentrix

3

Priaash Ramadeen & Estelle Lubbe
The Awareness Company

South Africa continues to be a pacesetter in agriculture

Asif Valley, National Technology Officer of Microsoft, shared how technology enables transformation across the agricultural ecosystem. In the past gathering farm data was hampered by the lack of widespread connectivity in farming areas and limited access to power in the fields.

The FarmBeats programme focused on solving these problems using low-cost sensors and drones coupled with machine learning algorithms to assist farmers and agribusinesses to harness the power of IoT, cloud and artificial intelligence. The recently launched Azure FarmBeats business cloud platform enables the aggregation of datasets using machine learning and AI to provide farmers with actionable insights. This allows agribusinesses to focus on their core business rather than having to deal with the heavy lifting of data engineering. It is Microsoft's belief that harnessing the power of data, coupled with the farmer's knowledge and intuition of his farm, can increase farm productivity whilst helping to reduce costs.

Undoubtedly the promised agricultural advances using cloud and data cannot take place without farmers in Southern Africa having widespread access to connectivity to enable the required data flow. Sabelo Mabena, Executive head of Department for Cloud & hosting - Product Development at Vodacom shared  how the use of 4IR technologies can be harnessed to promote sustainable farming. Vodacom's Connected Farmer, a cloud-based web and mobile software solution, equips farmers to make better decisions thereby improving their efficiencies and ensuring they deliver better produce allowing them to consistently improve their yields.

Cloud computing is of particular value to smallholder farmers allowing them to avoid the upfront cost and complexity of owning and maintaining their own IT infrastructure allowing them to pay for what they use when they use it. Farmers can take advantage of the platform's knowledge base to find the latest information on farming practices, agricultural innovations, livestock production management, production programmes, soil preparation and pest and disease identification.

Global tech giant, Google, was represented by official Google Cloud reseller Dot Modus. Data Engineer and pioneer within the DotModus team, Hardus Swanepoel broke down the use of machine learning in agriculture. He demonstrated how Google Cloud us being used to provide farmers and developers with the tools they need to identify and monitor environmental and ecological challenges affecting crops. Hardus provided an overview of the Google Cloud Platform unpacking the four major tools used to process vast quantities of data using machine learning models. These tools - Cloud Storage, Cloud Vision API, Cloud ML and Cloud Composer - when used in conjunction with one another allow engineers to save farmers time and alert them to problems identified by their data that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Climate and Weather came under the spotlight with the presentation by Professor Sue Walker, of the Institute for Soil, Climate and Water at the Agricultural Research Council. She demonstrated environmental monitoring that uses over 500 automatic weather stations countrywide with information available round the clock using smartphone apps. The potential relocation of specific crop growth areas due to climate change was also explored.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is another organisation that has a big focus on assisting the agricultural industry and is deeply involved the latest technological developments. Dr Moses Azong Cho, Research Group Leader, Precision Agriculture at the CSIR highlighted a need to create a dedicated group of scientists to assist in adapting precision farming techniques to suit local conditions and budgets. Current precision farming projects under development at the CSIR are driven using affordable satellite data to produce Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) information.

Dr Santosh Ramchuran, Research Group Leader, Bioprocess Development at the CSIR advocated the use of more bio-based control agents as fertilisers and pesticides to replace existing chemical products. This provides South African companies and organisations an opportunity to develop these products as there appear to be no or few local manufacturers at present.  Dr  Ramchuran announced that the CSIR was involved in developing these products and already had some ready for commercialisation. One of these, in prototype form, had already contributed to an 85.2% increase in wheat crop yield. It is now awaiting proposals from SMMEs to bring this unique product to market.

Scientific presentations related to agriculture and Africa Agri Tech included content from the Department of Science and Innovation, The Innovation Hub, the Agricultural Research Council and CSIR.

Asif Valley, National Technology Officer of Microsoft

Asif Valley
National Technology Officer of Microsoft

Sabelo Mabena, Vodacom - 2

Sabelo Mabena
Vodacom

Hardus Swanepoel, DotModus

Hardus Swanepoel
DotModus

Dr Moses Azong Cho, CSIR

Dr Moses Azong Cho
CSIR

Tech Conference media partner, Farmer's Weekly, rounded out the day's proceedings with a panel discussion on the affordability of new technology, especially for small scale farmers, and whether there is a need for local investment to address the unique needs of farmers in Southern Africa.

Denene Erasmus, Farmers Weekly

Denene Erasmus
Farmers Weekly

image strip day 2
Tobie Shabhack

stuff logo

Toby Shapshak
Editor-in-Chief &
Publisher, Stuff

Speakers Layout2

john deere

Nate Heinrich
Director, Precision Ag,
John Deere

Asif Valley National Technology Officer, Microsoft

Microsoft logo

Asif Valley
National Technology
Officer, Microsoft

Speaker 358x358

Vodacom

Sabelo Mabena
Executive Head of Department - Cloud & Hosting: Product Development
Vodacom

Dr Blessed Okole Research Group Leader: Agro-Processing, Advanced Agriculture & Food Cluster, CSIR

CSIR

Dr Blessed Okole Research Group Leader: Agro-Processing, Advanced Agriculture & Food Cluster, CSIR

Pepper

nedbank

Pepper
Nedbank humanoid robot

Professor Sue Walker Institute for Soil, Climate & Water, ARC

Professor Sue Walker Institute for Soil, Climate & Water, ARC

Professor Sue Walker Institute for Soil, Climate & Water, ARC

Peter Leppan Director EMEA, Proagrica

Proagrica

Peter Leppan
Director EMEA, Proagrica

Rod MacKinnon Regional Value Add Partner, eLeaf

Rod MacKinnon Regional Value Add Partner, eLeaf

Rod MacKinnon Regional Value Add Partner, eLeaf

Dr Chamunorwa Togo General Manager, Bio Economy, The Innovation Hub

Dr Chamunorwa Togo General Manager, Bio Economy, The Innovation Hub

Dr Chamunorwa Togo General Manager, Bio Economy, The Innovation Hub

Fanie Coetzer Sales Engineer Security, GEW, HENSOLDT

Fanie Coetzer  Sales Engineer Security, GEW, HENSOLDT

Fanie Coetzer
Sales Engineer Security, GEW, HENSOLDT

Rudie Raath Chief Digital Officer, Datacentrix

Rudie Raath Chief Digital Officer, Datacentrix

Rudie Raath
Chief Digital Officer, Datacentrix

Hardus Swanepoel DotModus

Hardus Swanepoel DotModus

Hardus Swanepoel DotModus

Dr Thulasizwe Mkhabela Group Executive, Impact & Partnerships, ARC

Dr Thulasizwe Mkhabela Group Executive, Impact & Partnerships, ARC

Dr Thulasizwe Mkhabela
Group Executive, Impact & Partnerships, ARC

Dr Moses Azong Cho Research Group Leader, Precision Agriculture, CSIR

Dr Moses Azong Cho Research Group Leader, Precision Agriculture, CSIR

Dr Moses Azong Cho Research Group Leader, Precision Agriculture, CSIR

Dr Santosh Ramchuran Research Group Leader: Bioprocess Development, CSIR

Dr Santosh Ramchuran Research Group Leader: Bioprocess Development, CSIR

Dr Santosh Ramchuran
Research Group Leader: Bioprocess Development, CSIR

Matome Ramokgopa General Manager: Southern Africa, Enza Zaden

Matome Ramokgopa General Manager: Southern Africa, Enza Zaden

Matome Ramokgopa General Manager: Southern Africa, Enza Zaden

Priaash Ramadeen & Estelle Lubbe Co-Founders, The Awareness Company

Priaash Ramadeen & Estelle Lubbe Co-Founders, The Awareness Company

Priaash Ramadeen & Estelle Lubbe
Co-Founders, The Awareness Company

Dr Cynthia Motsi ARC

Dr Cynthia Motsi ARC

Dr Cynthia Motsi
ARC

Speakers Layout20

Denene Erasmus
Editor Farmer’s Weekly