Day 1 Conference Overview
South Africa continues to be a pacesetter in agriculture
South Africa continues to be a global pacesetter in many aspects of agriculture.
This was clear from many of the presentations at the Landbouweekblad Conference held on the opening day of the Africa Agri Tech 2020.
Public and private sector co-operation necessary to drive growth
Opening the conference Chris Burgess, editor-in-chief of Landbouweekblad stated that South Africa is a nett exporter of almost 70% of the 24 major agricultural commodities produced locally. Hopefully the latest addition to this list will be medical marijuana especially in the Northern Cape where efforts are underway to develop the crop commercially. Mr Burgess said it is interesting to note that South Africa and New Zealand are amongst the most advanced countries in the world in terms of their agricultural development despite being amongst the countries that receive the least government support in this respect.
He added that for South Africa to be successful everyone needs to be able to work together and move in the same direction.
"One of the key stakeholders in this regard is the state. It is truly encouraging to see a new willingness on the part of government to involve the private sector in solving problems. We at Landbouweekblad are optimistic that South Africa may be on the brink of a new golden age of co-operation."
Examples of increasing co-operation between the public and private sectors include the fight to control foot-and-mouth disease and an undertaking from government to expedite the issuing of water licences.
During his opening address Mmboneni Muofhe, Deputy Director-General - Technology Innovation from the Department of Science and Innovation stated that the government welcomes partnerships with the private sector. His department viewed this as a vehicle to bring innovations to market and were actively involved in developing equipment that can be used to add value in agro-processing.
Wheat is a major staple in Africa with the continent being a nett importer of the grain. South Africa spends approximately R5.5 Billion to import 1.89 Million tonnes of wheat per annum and outflow of capital that is detrimental to the economy and job creation. The Department has invested some R5 Million in a platform designed to develop new cultivars and technology to benefit local growers.
Mr Muofhe highlighted the importance of the sector stating that "agriculture can create more jobs for every rand spent than any other sector. It is estimated that agriculture has the potential to create a million jobs by 2030. The competitiveness of large-scale commercial agriculture must therefore be maintained while at the same time small-scale farmers should have the opportunity to develop into commercial farmers". Partnerships between state and industry are paramount concluded Mr Muofhe, "there are many opportunities where technology and innovation are utilised As a department we look forward to partnering with industry so that we can make sure we are looking for solutions to the problems you face on a daily basis".
Deputy Director General,
Department of Science & Innovation
Port Elizabeth based BKB is transforming many aspects of the industry by developing digital aids for farmers through its SHIFT initiative and through the increasing use of blockchain technology to provide traceability.
Jaco Maas, General Manager of BKB SHIFT, shared that the wake-up call came when his team realised that Amazon is becoming a major online retailer of meat meaning that competition for farmers had taken a new turn and use of the latest digital technology was necessary for farmers to remain competitive in the global market.
For over a century BKB's business has been based on trust; taking a willing seller's product from the farm, creating a marketplace for it and bringing a willing buyer to that marketplace to complete the transaction. It was therefore a natural progression for BKB to take the digital leap by launching a digital livestock trading platform in its Digital Auction platform. The BKB Digital Auction system is unique in that the process is still managed by an auctioneer physically auctioning livestock with the platform allowing buyers and sellers to complete their transactions seamlessly and efficiently.
General Manager, BKB SHIFT
Dutch guest speaker, Dr Willemien van Asselt, Director of International Strategy from Topsector Agri and Food emphasised the importance of public private partnerships. Agriculture in the Netherlands benefits from close cooperation between government, researchers and scientists and agricultural producers.
She said that the Netherlands is not one of the largest exporters in the world because it produces so much itself but rather as a result of importing agricultural products from all over the world, processing them and then exporting the processed products. The Netherlands produces €3.5 billion of food itself importing approximately €7.6 billion of agricultural products from 128 countries. Eventually food worth €11.3 billion is exported to 152 countries with the main export products being flowers, meat, dairy products, eggs, vegetables and fruit.
The Netherlands are experiencing major challenges as a result of climate change and have adopted a new approach known as circular agriculture in order to make the most efficient use of scarce resources. This approach entails the prevention of waste at all stages of production, using the waste from one supply chain as the feedstock for the next, and the use of waste food as animal feed. This approach also requires smart integration between plant and animal supply chains. “What we are now aiming for is to produce more food while reducing our footprint on the environment,” explained the Dutch visitor.
Dr van Asselt Highlighted a renewed drive to educate farmers on the benefits of adopting the latest technologies to ensure future productivity . Increasing use is made of data obtained from individual farmers who retain ownership of the data and are paid by third parties who make use of it.
Dr Willemien van Asselt
Director, International Strategy from Topsector Agri and Food
Technology increasingly important
John Deere empowers farmers
Tavonga Siyavora, Programme Manager - New Market Entry at John Deere provided delegates with insight into the rapid increase in the speed of introduction of technology in the company's tractors and other equipment.
The objective is to empower farmers to be more productive using telematics, connectivity, data capture and analytics.
introduces My Farm Platform
Agri Technovation's Eric de Vries stated that many farmers were overwhelmed by new technology solutions being promoted to them. He believes that farmers need to identify what data or equipment they really need to improve their productivity levels cost-effectively. Data not only needs to be collected, but also monitored and interpreted to make it meaningful. The My Farm Web platform, currently being rolled out globally, aims to provide such a solution to farmers.
More reseach required
Livestock consultant, Dr Michael Bradfield, is of the view that the livestock sector does not always receive the support required in terms of investment in research and development despite being the largest component in agriculture's contribution to South Africa's GDP.
In order to meet the demands of major livestock and beef export markets traceability is urgently required. The widespread introduction of traceability could also play a role in reducing livestock theft.
Agriculture currently accounts for 60 - 70% of South African water usage. Benoit le Roy of Water Shortage South Africa highlighted the risk for farmers who would be first in line when cities and towns looked to increasing their water supplies and stated it is essential for farmers to develop systems and processes that decrease water usage.
Le Roy stated that R900-billion is required to resolve the country's water shortages - this amounts to double Eksom's debt. He added that water is a fundamental economic enabler and does not receive enough attention from government with ongoing policy uncertainty exacerbating the problem.
Technology Improves Output
Leading farmer, Cobus van Coller of the Farm Libanon in the Viljoenskroen district, provided attendees with excellent, practical insight into the way that agricultural output can be increased using the latest, relevant technology.
Cobus was the recipient of the 2019 National Sheep Farmer of the Year presented in association with Voermol, BKB, FNB, Zoetis & Landbouweekblad.
Francois van der Merwe, CEO of CAN-Agri, presented a South African vertical farming innovation that is finding traction globally.
The system for growing leafy greens may be expensive to erect but is very cost-effective and efficient to operate using a closed loop system distributing nutrient infused water. This is particularly beneficial in regions such as the Middle East where the heat makes outdoor farming impossible.
Day one concluded with the official opening cocktail function hosted by AFGRI.
Seen here: Thinus Prinsloo - Chairman, AFGRI Agri Services; Chris Burgess - Editor-in-chief, Landbouweekblad and Werner Scholtz, CEO of Landbouweekliks Producers, Brand Republic