AFGRI Technology Services forms partnership with Aerobotics, world-leading agritech tree crop data analytics company

Centurion, 2 October 2019 – AFGRI Technology Services (ATS), the strategic innovation and growth division of AFGRI Agri Services, has partnered with Aerobotics, the Cape Town based start-up that processes data from drone and satellite imagery through its proprietary artificial intelligence software to bring the latest technology to a broader section of South Africa’s farmers.

 

The partnership aims to provide critical tools to support the growing market of tree crop farmers to ensure they are optimising how they make decisions, manage risk and operate their farming business.

 

“Our customers stand to benefit from Aerobotics’ tools, which are used for general farm management and to discover and analyse problems affecting individual trees, to proactively manage pests and disease outbreaks as well as monitoring tree crop health and optimising their yields,” says AFGRI Agri Services CEO, Jacob de Villiers.

 

According to Niki Neumann, GM for Strategy & Innovation at AFGRI Agri Services, Aerobotics has seen good traction and growth in the tree crop market in South Africa and abroad. “Their focus on a superior product experience and customer service has put them strides ahead of their competitors. We look forward to working with dynamic, disruptive companies like Aerobotics to bring only the best-of-breed solutions to our farmers.”

 

Neumann adds that the Aerobotics tool was introduced to AFGRI Agri Services employees during August, and that some farmers have already been introduced to the company and its capabilities through ATS’ Future Farmers Forum, an initiative aimed exclusively at forward-thinking early adopters in the agricultural sector with the sole goal of connecting South Africa’s farming community with the latest in agricultural technology.

 

“By working with start-ups like Aerobotics, we can encourage a truly tech-enabled sector in South Africa that promotes sustainable, responsible and efficient food production, with a focus on increased productivity and data-driven decision making.”

 

Aerobotics Head of Sales for Africa, Vic van den Berg, is excited about the partnership as an opportunity to bring their farm management software to a larger market. “Our team is consistently working on product updates and features with the key objective being to save our farmers all over the world time and money through our early-stage pest and disease detection software – which gets smarter by the day. This partnership means that we will be able to add value to more farmers with our data-driven software, which ensures that farmers can make smart, data-driven decisions when it comes to their crops’ health and yields.”

 

 

Notes for the editor:

About AFGRI Agri Services

AFGRI Agri Services is a leading agricultural services company with core competencies to enhance, support and guide the growth of agricultural enterprises. It provides services across the entire grain production and storage cycle, offering financial support and solutions as well as inputs and hi-tech equipment through the John Deere brand supported by a large retail footprint. Lemang Agricultural Services was established to train, develop and mentor new era farmers with a focused service in the further development of commercial black farmers in South Africa.

 

AFGRI Agri Services is part of the AFGRI Group, the investment holding company with interests in a number of food, agriculture and financial services related companies providing products and services to ensure sustainable agriculture and food security.

 

Visit www.afgri.co.za for more information.

 

About AFGRI Technology Services (ATS)

ATS is the strategic growth and innovation division of AFGRI Agri Services. Catalysing growth through superior strategy, insights, technology and innovation across the agricultural value chain, with the vision to introduce solutions that solve agriculture’s biggest challenges and enable food security.

 

Visit www.afgritechnologyservices.com for more information.

 

About Aerobotics

Based in Cape Town, Aerobotics was co-founded by James Paterson (CEO) and Benji Meltzer (CTO) and combines aerial imagery obtained from satellites and drones with its machine learning algorithms to provide early problem detection services to farmers, helping them to monitor their crops, receive early warning of potential risks, and optimise yields.

 

Aerobotics provides farmers with accurate statistics on their trees and vines and allows them to use its management zones to plan planting. It now operates across hundreds of farms in 11 countries throughout the world, has commanded 40% and 20% of South Africa’s macadamia nut and citrus markets respectively, has won numerous awards including Best Technology Company of 2019 at Africa Tech Week, and has raised two funding rounds totalling US$2.6million.

 

Visit www.aerobotics.com for more information.

 

 

 

 

Issued for:                                                 AFGRI Technology Services

Contact:                                                    Niki Neumann

GM: Innovation & Strategy at AFGRI Agri Services

Tel:                                                                011-063-2661

Email:                                                          [email protected]

 

Contact:                                                    Aerobotics (Pty) Ltd

Tel:                                                                021-035-1060

Email:                                                          [email protected]

 

Distributed by:                                      Keyter Rech Investor Solutions

Contact:                                                    Deborah Chapman

Tel:                                                                087-351-3816 or 076-650-4150

Email:                                                          [email protected]

Refinitiv partners with AFGRI Technology Services to use AI and alternative data sets to enable small farmers to gain access to banking services across Africa

New York/Johannesburg: Refinitiv and AFGRI Technology Services (ATS) today announce the Bankable Farmer Research Initiative (BFRI). BFRI will be dedicated to the use of data science, alternative data sets and novel approaches to risk modeling in order to increase access to financial services for small commercial farmers across sub-Saharan Africa. Access to credit for small farmers continues to be a challenge due to lack of credit history and profile. BFRI proposes a highly innovative approach to establishing creditworthiness and is expected to be a significant enabler for growth and prosperity in the region. It is anticipated the BFRI will partner with public and private entities to expand the impact of this initiative.

Over 80% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is engaged in agriculture. Smallholders, micro-commercial farms and the business ecosystem around these farms constitute the vast majority of economic activity on the African continent. The number of small commercial farmers in Africa is estimated at over 30 million, most of which are underbanked, and as a result find it difficult to pay for seed, fertilizer and other inputs. The World Bank’s Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) estimates the market opportunity for credit services to small farmers across Africa and South Asia to be $450bn.

Luke Manning, Global Head of Sustainability at Refinitiv said: “Two of our key sustainability pledges are to support the communities we operate in and put sustainability at the heart of our product offering, and our bankable farmer innovation delivers on both of those. We’re committed to using Refinitiv data and expertise wherever possible to support the UN’s sustainable development goals, and ultimately solve some of the world’s largest environmental and social challenges. As the solution emerges, Refinitiv looks forward to working with its and AFGRI Agri Services banking customers to ensure the financial ecosystem develops across all demographics in Africa.”

“AFGRI Agri Services is proud to support this research initiative through our ATS division. We already have a strong focus on developing small and emerging farmers locally through our Lemang business and we want to see the number of successful farmers grow. Through innovation and new methodologies, we can improve how we collectively do this”, said Jacob de Villiers, CEO AFGRI Agri Services.

The Research & Development team will be based at AFGRI Agri Services in Centurion, Pretoria (South Africa) and will be supported by Refinitiv’s global team of data scientists. “We are very excited about what we can achieve with this partnership. Not only are we striving to solve a critical business challenge faced by financial institutions, we are striving to solve a critical development need on the continent. It’s not an easy challenge to solve, successful farming comes with many variables and risks. A critical pillar to a farmer’s success is accessing the right funding at the right time,” added Niki Neumann, GM Innovation & Strategy (Head of ATS), AFGRI Agri Services.

Partnership and co-creation remain core tenets of the initiative going forward, and the team is keen to engage with additional partners.

“The world’s most intractable problems require deep collaboration and an approach to partnership grounded in shared values and shared vision to find viable, sustainable solutions.   I’m thrilled to continue this journey with AFGRI Agri Services and ATS .” said Saidah Nash Carter, previously head of Refinitiv’s Innovation Lab in Cape Town and now strategic advisor to the new initiative.

I’m excited about what the combined strengths of the two companies’ cross-functional teams has produced – solving for real problems. The continued collaboration through Saidah Nash Carter and Niki Neumann will help to ensure that the BFRI scales for greater impact across Africa,” added Tim Baker, Head of Refinitiv Labs.

About AFGRI Agri Services

AFGRI Agri Services is a leading agricultural services company with core competencies to enhance, support and guide the growth of agricultural enterprises. It provides services across the entire grain production and storage cycle, offering financial support and solutions as well as inputs and hi-tech equipment through the John Deere brand supported by a large retail footprint. Lemang Agricultural Services was established to train, develop and mentor new era farmers with a focused service in the further development of commercial black farmers in South Africa. AFGRI Agri Services is part of AFGRI Group Holdings, the investment holding company with interests in a number of food, agriculture and financial services related companies providing products and services to ensure sustainable agriculture and food security. Visit www.afgri.co.za for more information.

About AFGRI Technology Services (ATS)

ATS is the strategic growth and innovation division of AFGRI Agri Services. Catalysing growth through superior strategy, insights, technology and innovation across the agricultural value chain, with the vision to introduce solutions that solve agriculture’s biggest challenges and enable food security. www.afgritechnologyservices.com

 

About Refinitiv

Refinitiv is one of the world’s largest providers of financial markets data and infrastructure. Serving more than 40,000 institutions in over 190 countries, we provide information, insights, and technology that drive innovation and performance in global markets. Our 160-year Reuters heritage of integrity enables customers to make critical decisions with confidence, while our unique open platform, best-in-class data, and cutting-edge technology bring greater opportunity to our customers. By advancing our customers, we drive progress for the entire financial community. For more information, go to www.refinitiv.com

 

About Bright Insights Global

Bright insights global is a boutique women-owned consultancy dedicated to partnering with purpose driven, tech-forward companies with a desire to define and optimize financial performance through the prism of innovation, inclusion and impact.

Media Contacts

Lemuel Brewster
Communications

Refinitiv

Tel: +1 917-805-1089

Email: [email protected]

 

Sonwabise Sebata

Communications

Refinitiv

Tel: +27 11 775 3000

Email: [email protected]

 

Saidah Nash Carter

Principal

Bright Insights Global

Tel: +27 63 684 5007

Email: [email protected]

 

AFGRI Technology Services

Email: [email protected]

Deborah Chapman

ATS PR and Communications Representative

Keyter Rech Investor Solutions

Email: [email protected]

Tel: +27 11 063 2347

AFGRI Technology Services partners with TuksNovation to drive agricultural innovation in SA

Centurion, 13 February 2019 – AFGRI Technology Services (“ATS”), which focuses on the development and implementation of agricultural technology (“AgTech”) solutions, will be partnering with the University of Pretoria’s (“UP”) TuksNovation to foster innovation in the agricultural sector.

TuksNovation, a non-profit company founded by UP in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Small Business, is a technology business incubator and accelerator providing specialised product and business development support to tech start-ups.

ATS has partnered with TuksNovation for its annual Activate Competition, which searches for cutting-edge and innovative technologies and start-ups that can be grown into successful businesses.

“The objective of the competition is to identify potentially profitable technologies and disruptive start-ups for Virtual Incubation and Acceleration, with the intention of building AFGRI’s innovation capacity and to foster support for and growth of South Africa’s entrepreneurs,” says ATS MD, Niki Neumann.

The competition is open primarily to UP and Gordon Institute of Business Science (“GIBS”) students, as well as academic staff and alumni. “ATS will be actively participating in the competition by helping to validate entry concepts and providing a degree of mentoring to relevant start-ups in the Fintech, FoodTech and AgTech spaces.”

Neumann says that the ATS team is very excited at the opportunity to get involved with TuksNovation, which not only offers the company access to a pipeline of top technology start-ups to partner with, but also allows ATS to take another step forward in supporting the entrepreneurial and SME innovation community in South Africa.

She adds that the partnership fully supports ATS’ desire to advance the development and implementation of agricultural technology solutions that will help drive the future of agriculture and enable food security.

“By supporting TuksNovation, we further our vision of bringing together the greatest minds, technology and products to be the catalyst of innovation and technology-enabled solutions to drive sustainable agricultural growth across the African and global agricultural value chains.”

The competition is open for entries from 11 February to 22 March 2019. For more information please visit, www.tuksnovation.co.za/activate.

LISTEN: SAFM interview with Niki Neumann, MD of AFGRI Technology Services, on the vital role of AgriTech in SA and Africa

Listen to the Classic FM interview with ATS’ MD Niki Neumann, who talks to Classic Business’s Michael Avery about AgTech in South Africa and how technology is changing the agricultural sector for the good.

African Innovation Paradigm

AFGRI Technology Services’ MD, Niki Neumann, is one of the contributors to the first in a series of white papers being produced by Thomson Reuters Labs Cape Town/Matter Innovation/HYBR. The first report of the series focuses on the overall challenges of the African innovation ecosystem and includes a set of recommendations to provide a practical guide of success stories, persistent challenges, and most importantly, lessons learned.   The report, entitled “Fixing the African Innovation ecosystem for the many, not the few”, investigates the effectiveness of existing approaches to support the innovation ecosystem and provides recommendations on how to address specific challenges. It offers an important contribution to the crucial debate about how African corporates, start-ups and ecosystem actors can collaborate more effectively in future for mutual gain and broader societal impact.

View the whitepaper here.

AFGRI Technology Services to showcase AgTech expertise at SA’s leading technology summit in September

29 August 2018, Centurion – AFGRI Technology Services (ATS), part of AFGRI Group Holdings (AGH), is partnering with The SA Innovation Summit, taking place in Cape Town from 12-14 September, where the pioneering agricultural technology company will be participating in sessions focused on how technology can, and is, enabling the agricultural sector across South Africa and the rest of the continent.

ATS’s own MD, Niki Neumann, will be contributing to the Summit – as a panellist in the “Fintech for Farming: The Future of Financial Services for the Sector (Bankable Farmer)” session taking place on 12 September, and as the moderator for the panel, “AGRITECH: Investing for Growth in Food and Agri Tech” taking place on 13 September, which will look at venture capital, corporate venturing and investment support of the sector.

Joining her at the event will be Pieter Wasserfall, MD of the Six33 Group and Founder of PICSA, an affiliate start-up within the AGH investment portfolio that provides employee benefit solutions that holistically address the financial challenges faced by farmworkers in South Africa. They will be joined by a host of other guest speakers and panellists from a broad spectrum of technology-driven companies and organisations, start-ups, and academic institutions being represented at the Summit.

“We believe that enabling a platform for South African entrepreneurs, investors and innovators to connect with the broader AgTech ecosystem will have a positive impact on South Africa. Building the ecosystem will not only benefit our customers and our business, but the industry too. If you enable farming, you enable Africa,” says Neumann.

Neumann and Wasserfall both bring high levels of expertise in the field of AgTech to bear on the debates.

The Summit – an industry-leading annual platform for nurturing, developing and showcasing African innovation, as well as facilitating innovation thought leadership – provides the perfect springboard to start conversations about the power of AgTech, believes Neumann.

“Platforms like these provide a way for us to inspire thinking and provide leadership in this sphere to a range of participants, whether they’re entrepreneurial start-ups or corporates considering how to grow and accelerate innovation within their own companies.”

She adds that AgTech can drastically change the sector as we know it. “We want to build a connected, globally competitive, efficient, inclusive agriculture sector through introducing technology and

innovative solutions. AgTech goes beyond on-farm technology, robotics, IOT and sensing – it’s about looking at the sector holistically and bringing together pieces of the puzzle to solve the challenges of financial inclusion, water scarcity, connectivity, food security, increased population growth, the increasing demand for farmers to increase productivity and outputs to meet ever-growing consumption patterns, climate change, enabling smaller farmers access to markets and developing surrounding conditions to enable farmers, for example infrastructure.

This is the first year that ATS will be joining organisations such as the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), The Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge, the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences, and Adams and Adams, amongst others, with the City of Cape Town, to support this much-needed platform for innovators, not only in South Africa, but across the continent.

For more information on the Summit, including the full programme, visit www.innovationsummit.co.za.

AFGRI Technology Services partners with SA’s leading technology summit to accelerate innovation in Africa

21 June 2018, Centurion – AFGRI Technology Services (“ATS”), part of AFGRI Group Holdings, is proud to partner with The SA Innovation Summit, an industry-leading annual platform for nurturing, developing and showcasing African innovation, as well as facilitating innovation thought leadership. The Summit will be taking place in Cape Town from 12-14 September.

This is the first year that ATS will be joining organisations such as the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), The Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge, the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences, and Adams and Adams, amongst others, with the City of Cape Town, to support this much-needed platform for innovators, not only in South Africa, but across the continent.

ATS has committed to pioneer the conversation and sponsor the AgTech vertical at the Summit, which will bring together corporates, thought leaders, inventors, entrepreneurs, academia and policy makers to strengthen South Africa’s competitive edge and to inspire sustained economic growth across Africa.

Niki Neumann, the MD of ATS, believes platforms such as these provide a vital springboard for leadership in this space, whether to inspire entrepreneurial start-ups or grow and accelerate organisational innovation culture.

“It is precisely because ATS was born of the desire to advance the development and implementation of AgTech solutions – solutions we believe will help ensure both the future of agriculture and enable food security, not just for Africa, but for the whole world too – that our support of events such as this is vital.

“We believe that enabling a platform for South African entrepreneurs, investors and innovators to connect with the broader AgTech ecosystem will have a positive impact on South Africa. Building the ecosystem will not only benefit our customers and our business, but the industry too. If you enable farming, you enable Africa.”

Neumann adds that AgTech can drastically change the sector as we know it. “We want to build a connected, globally competitive, efficient, inclusive agriculture sector through introducing technology and innovative solutions. AgTech goes beyond on-farm technology, robotics, IOT and sensing – it’s about looking at the sector holistically and bringing together pieces of the puzzle to solve the challenges of financial inclusion, water scarcity, connectivity, food security, increased population growth, the increasing demand for farmers to increase productivity and outputs to meet ever-growing consumption patterns, climate change, enabling smaller farmers access to markets and developing surrounding conditions to enable farmers, for example infrastructure.

“For this reason, we need to think broader, we need to rethink the ordinary. The word is moving faster than we could’ve imagined, there has been no better time to talk about the future of food, agriculture and technology as a single topic – AgTech. At the Summit, we have the unique opportunity to fast-track the conversation.”

Fintech defines new trends in financial services offerings for farmers

By 2020, consumers may not turn to banks to get the financial services they need. We are already seeing other companies invading the space traditionally reserved for financial institutions. The reason? “Fintech” – financial technology – which is innovative new technology and software aiming to compete with traditional methods in the delivery of financial services to the consumer.

 

For those who might not know what Fintech is, it’s simply the use of software solutions for financial transactions – global examples include Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Wonga and a myriad of other solutions that are offered online or via mobile phones. Some examples include M-Pesa, SnapScan and Nomanini, to name but a few. To indicate the scale of Fintech, back in 2014 already, investment in the US had tripled to $9,89 billion, with Europe investing $1,5 billion.

 

The disruption caused by Fintech has changed the banking world as we know it.  The Financial services industry has been in existence since the 14th century and has always stood the test of time. However, recently it has had to adapt to keep up with the technology evolution. This Goliath has no doubt been shaken up by modern technology’s David – the Fintech revolution.

 

For traditional financial institutions, the risk of disruption is real, as Fintech companies use the internet, mobile phones, cloud computing and open-source software to make banking and investing more efficient. These Fintech start-ups offer existing financial services at lower costs and offer new tech-driven solutions, not previously available and driven by traditional banks.  Financial institutions – both legacy and start-ups – are also driving technology-focused solutions such as peer-to-peer payments, crowdfunding, mobile payments and transfers, and on-demand insurance.  Examples here include Avant, Lending Club, Qufenqi, Affirm and SocietyOne.

 

What does Fintech mean for agriculture?

 

In South Africa, Post-demonetisation, digitisation of milk procurement is getting a massive boost in organized segment which represents 20% of India’s dairy industry. Cooperatives and private companies are looking for digital solutions for direct credit to cattle owners’ accounts to ensure uninterrupted supply of milk despite currency shortage. Post-demonetisation, digitisation of milk procurement is getting a massive boost in organized segment which represents 20% of India’s dairy industry. Cooperatives and private companies are looking for digital solutions for direct credit to cattle owners’ accounts to ensure uninterrupted supply of milk despite currency shortage. Post-demonetisation, digitisation of milk procurement is getting a massive boost in organized segment which represents 20% of India’s dairy industry. Cooperatives and private companies are looking for digital solutions for direct credit to cattle owners’ accounts to ensure uninterrupted supply of milk despite currency shortage.PICSA is a ground-breaking organisation whose primary aim is to responsibly protect and assist the low-end, economically active population through the provision of credit solutions.  At the core of their offering is the savings platform, offering members real returns by saving as little as R25 a month. Their comprehensive products scale to cater to every stage of the saving journey, thereby contributing to the financial well-being of employees in the agricultural sector.

 

With the pace of technology developing so quickly, it is difficult to say what the next 10 years will look like.  For agricultural financial services and its customers, it may mean the possibility of loans backed by cryptocurrency –  currencies such as Bitcoin which only exist online – by 2025. What is important though is that AFGRI as a company, the agricultural sector as an industry, and South Africa as country do not get left behind.

 

Sources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2017/02/10/a-complete-beginners-guide-to-fintech-in-2017/#367c7d873340

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-is-fintech_us_58a20d80e4b0cd37efcfebaa

http://www.business2community.com/finance/5-fintech-firms-reshaping-lending-financing-01701485#bUsBMMz8YWzzADyH.97

 

 

Digitisation set to transform the agricultural value chain in Africa

Along with many business processes in organisations, value chains are undergoing a digital transformation. In Africa, the digitisation of agricultural value chains is expected to make the greatest impact in the area of financial services, making these more accessible to farmers, especially small-scale and rural farmers. It will also help to connect buyers and sellers more efficiently.

 

To give you some background, generally agriculture value chains consist of the following players, although these can vary depending on the type of crops being produced, as well as the location:

 

  • Input providers supplying raw materials such as seeds, fertilizer and pesticides
  • Farmers who manage the production of the agricultural product
  • Associations and cooperatives who organise many individual small-scale farmers into groups to negotiate better prices with buyers and provide extension services
  • Buyers who purchase the agriculture product and sometimes undertake the processing, packaging and marketing of the final products
  • Customers who ultimately consume the products

 

In reality, agricultural value chains are often quite multifaceted, and perhaps more so in Africa where role-players often perform more than one role. For example, buyers can also be input providers when the farmers they work with don’t have a reliable supply of inputs. In many cases, buyers also supply loans for these inputs. Middlemen can also confuse the issues by buying directly from individual small-scale farmers and then selling in bulk to more established companies.

 

However, the focus of this article is on how digitisation will assist small-scale and rural farmers who currently find it difficult to get access to financial services. There are several successful examples of this throughout Africa: for example, Colombia Coffee Growers Federation in Ghana issued ATM cards to 82% of its outgrowers (farmers who are contracted to produce for a specific buyer), helping it reduce disbursement costs by up to 79% compared to cash, a saving of $15.5 million.

 

In Tanzania, Multiflower, a seed and cuttings exporter, embarked on pilot programme in 2013 where they issued loans totaling $6,000 to 200 farmers and paid $67,000 to 300 farmers via M-Pesa. Apart from affording each farmer an additional and simple method for accessing credit, the switch from cash to digital payment resulted in an average saving of $10.75 in transport costs and 8 hours per payment per farmer. Over the duration of the pilot, participating farmers saved a total of approximately 6,000 hours because they didn’t have to travel to collect their payments.

 

Another group who stand to benefit from digitised value chains are buyers of agricultural products. This will considerably lower the costs of withdrawing, transporting, and distributing payments – either to farmers directly or via associations or cooperatives. This is particularly true in Africa, where agriculture value chains are often characterised by a small number of buyers paying many farmers spread out over a vast geographic are working through a complex network of middlemen and traders.

 

Here an example is MasterCard which worked with its partners to develop and implement a range of financial tools to digitise the agricultural value chain in East Africa: 2KUZE in Kenya, and eKilimo in Tanzania. 2KUZE, which means ‘let’s grow together’ in Swahili, is effectively a digital agricultural marketplace targeting Africa’s small-scale farmers, agents, large-scale buyers and financial service providers; eKilimo means ‘eAgriculture’ in Swahili and serves the same function in Tanzania.

 

Streamlining the value chain in the agricultural sector will undoubtedly impact not just the industry, but the entire economy meaningfully – ultimately enabling small-scale farmers to access formal financial services that they previously may have been excluded from. This will go a long way towards driving financial inclusion and food security.

—-

A value chain is the range of steps and related actors necessary for an agriculture product to move from the farm to the final customers. Value-chain finance includes any or all the financial services that flow to and/or through the chain to address the needs and constraints of its participants in accessing finance or procuring products.

Agtech to bring about the second “Green Revolution”

As the issue of food security takes grip around the world, agricultural technology (Agtech) is set to become one of the most impactful uses of modern technology, in that it is changing how we grow food. Fundamentally, it has introduced the second “Green Revolution”, putting to use real-time data and innovative technology to ensure effective farming practices and improved yields.

 

The post-war transformation of agriculture, known as the first “Green Revolution”, was led by American agronomist Norman Borlaug, who developed high-yielding varieties of cereal grains and the distribution of hybridised seeds, synthetic fertilisers, and pesticides to farmers. Borlaug’s contributions, as well as the widespread buildout of irrigation infrastructure and the adoption of modern management techniques, greatly increased yields without requiring an expansion in agricultural land, saving more than a billion people from starvation. Now, a second revolution, built largely on technologies that comprise precision agriculture, promises to make the farm of the future more productive and efficient.

 

With precision agriculture, farmers and soils work better, not harder. Think about precision agriculture as being ‘site-specific’ and ‘information-specific’, as in the most precise way of informing farming decisions. That is, farmers can take large fields and manage them as if they are a group of small fields through gathering information from the fields in real-time by observation and measurement, then responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops. This reduces the misapplication of inputs and increases crop and farm efficiency.

 

Why is this so important? In South Africa alone, we face a massive challenge to feed our population. In 2009, the population was 49 million and is expected to grow to 82 million in 26 years. Food production must intensify and more than double to feed the expanding population using the same or fewer natural resources. The result, there is shifting trend towards intensified agriculture, which can only be brought about using Agtech. This is a global phenomenon as each country looks at innovative ways to deal with the problem – not only in production, but across the value chain.

 

Agtech innovations include satellite mapping, drones, Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics. In 2014 alone, investment in agricultural technology surpassed investment in Fintech; $2.36 billion and $2.1 billion respectively. The growth potential is monumental particularly because Agtech will seek to find solutions to mitigate against climate change, increasing population growth and land scarcity. An example of this level of investment is with John Deere – the company has recently made an acquisition of an agtech startup, Blue River for $305 million. Reason being that Blue River’s has created technology that uses computer vision and machine learning to help growers reduce the use of herbicides; while conducting analysis on each plant to determine if it is a weed.

 

The eight main categories of Agtech include:

 

  • Farm management software;
  • Precision agriculture and predictive data analytics;
  • Sensors that help farmers to collect data and to monitor crop health, weather and soil quality;
  • Animal data – software and hardware specifically aimed at better understanding livestock, from breeding patterns to genomics;
  • Robotics and drones;
  • Smart irrigation;
  • Next gen farms, where technology is used to provide alternative farming methods to enable farming in locations and settings that previously couldn’t support traditional farming; and marketplaces (technological platforms that connect farmers directly to suppliers or consumers without any middlemen).

 

Some of the most significant technological advances that are already revolutionising the agricultural sector in Africa include:

 

  • Water-saving sensors comprising networks of wireless sensors and smart water management systems;
  • Precision drones used for crop spraying in unmanned helicopters, precise aerial photography, soil and water surveys and spraying and watering assistance;
  • Chemical-free pest control – including systems that can trap, count and monitor pests, systems that trigger the release of EPA-approved pheromones that disrupt pests’ mating cycles, and real-time field monitoring and targeted, automated responses; and
  • Farming automation and management systems including interconnected machinery, machines that can inject fertiliser at precise depths, automated seed-spacing based on soil fertility and machines that measure harvest data in real-time.

 

Technology that increases the efficiency of farms has come a long way since the days when tractors and ploughs were the most important agricultural machines. More importantly though, it’s about food security and feeding the world’s burgeoning population. It’s also about sustaining profitable production – producers need to use the latest technology available, from seed to chemicals and mechanisation to training, including precision agriculture. It’s a case of maintaining a competitive advantage in a competitive global agricultural market; it’s not just a ‘nice-to-have’. And finally, it’s about reducing our impact on the environment too.

 

Sources:

https://soilsmatter.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/what-is-precision-agriculture-and-why-is-it-important/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precision_agriculture

http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/iot-could-help-increase-agri-productivity-by-70-says-deloitte-report-2016-05-03

http://www.precisionag.com

https://www.afgri.co.za/geoagro/

www.planet.com

https://techcrunch-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/techcrunch.com/2017/09/06/after-scraping-monsanto-deal-deere-agrees-to-buy-precision-farming-startup-blue-river-for-305m/amp/