MERKWAARDIGE BOERE, BUITENGEWONE STORIES

VIA en Landbouweekblad snoer kragte saam met nuwe TV-program

‘Beleef boere soos jy hulle nog nooit voorheen beleef het nie’

Kom reis saam na van Suid-Afrika se beste boere saam met Landbouweekblad, Suid-Afrika se grootste en invloedrykste landboutydskrif. Dié boere bepaal die agenda en dink nuut en só los hulle ook van die land se grootste probleme op. Hulle is groot boere, klein boere, manlike boere, vroulike boere, wit, swart en bruin. En dan is daar natuurlik ook die groot masjiene, pragtige diere en indrukwekkende boorde en landerye!

VIA se nuwe program, Landbouweekliks, gaan nie net lig werp op die tegniese aspekte van landbou nie, maar ook op die boere se visie en lewenspad. Kenners gaan ook elke week raad en inligting oor spesifieke onderwerpe deel, en Landbouweekblad se redakteur en ’n paar joernaliste gaan ook te sien wees. Dié program is ’n vennootskap tussen VIA en Landbouweekblad, Suid-Afrika se grootste landboutydskrif. Landbouweekliks begin op Dinsdag 9 Januarie 2018 om 19:30 eksklusief op die Afrikaanse leefstylkanaal VIA (DStv-kanaal 147).

Die geliefde radio- en TV-persoonlikheid Ivor Price reis in elke episode na plase regoor Suid-Afrika. Hy ontmoet besonderse boere met hope entoesiasme vir die landboubedryf, sowel as die span mense wat saamwerk om die boerdery vorentoe te neem. Soos die Laeveldse boer Milaan Thal- witzer in die eerste episode sê: “Jy kan nie ’n besigheid bestuur en bedryf as jy nie goeie werkers het nie. Daarom gaan ons uit ons pad om vir ons werkers so veel voordele as moontlik te bied.”
‘Doen meer met minder’
“Ons boere is van die beste bestuurders in ons ekonomie,” sê Chris Burgess, hoofredakteur van Landbouweekblad. “Nie net moet hulle ’n magdom veranderlikes, soos die weer en die wisselkoers (wat grootliks buite hulle beheer is) suksesvol bestuur nie, maar hulle moet ook met vernuwende oplossings vorendag kom vir byna onoorkombare probleme. Een daarvan is dat hulle insetkoste gewoonlik vinniger styg as die prys van die produkte wat hulle produseer. Hulle moet die heeltyd nuut dink, nie net met hulle masjiene nie, maar ook in hulle koppe, om meer met minder te kan doen. Die resultaat is besonderse mense met ’n besonderse perspektief op die lewe wat gewone kykers sal verras en verstom. Beleef boere soos jy hulle nog nooit vantevore beleef het nie.”

Ivor besoek verskeie boerderye – van winter- en somergraan, vee, vrugte en wyn tot suksesvolle bemagtigingsprojekte. In Landbouweekliks rol Ivor ook sy moue op vir ’n bietjie handearbeid op die plaas. Dit sorg vir lekker humor én bied insig tot die daaglikse plaaslewe. Te midde van die harde werk, sweet en saamkuier leer ons hoe belangrik die landboubedryf werklik in Suid-Afrika is.

“VIA se leefstyl-inhoud bied die ideale platform vir ’n moderne landbouprogram wat klem lê op Suid-Afrikaners wat voluit boer,” sê Izelle Venter, VIA se kanaalhoof. “Die program sal nie net die
landbougemeenskap aan die hart gryp nie, maar ook gewone verbruikers wat graag wil verstaan waar hulle kos vandaan kom.”

Nuwe episodes van Landbouweekliks word elke Dinsdag om 19:30 uitgesaai met heruitsendings op Sondae om 17:30. Die twee seisoene van die program bestaan uit 26 episodes van ’n halfuur elk. Die program is ook op DStv Now beskikbaar.

Landbouweekliks word deur Brand Republic vervaardig en met trots ondersteun deur die hoofborg AFGRI en ook dié rolspelers in die landboubedryf: GWK, Monsanto (Dekalb SA), MSD, PSG en Hinterland.

Bly op die hoogte
• VIA se programroosters word in Afrikaanse koerante, Huisgenoot en tvplus gepubliseer en is ook op viatv.co.za en dstv.com beskikbaar. Volg VIA TV op Facebook en @viatv op Instagram om op hoogte te bly van programnuus.
• Besoek Landbou.com vir nog inligting oor die boere en plase.
• Vir nog besonderhede oor VIA se programme of aanbieders, stuur e-pos aan Saskia Hill by saskia.hill@media24.com of besoek viatv.co.za.

VODACOM BULLS ANNOUNCE EXCITING 38 MAN SQUAD

Vodacom Bulls head coach, John Mitchell, on Monday named 38 players as well the leadership for the 2018 Vodacom Super Rugby season. The coach named midfielder, Burger Odendaal and loose forward, Nic de Jager, as co-captains.

 

The squad is made up out of 21 forwards and 17 backs, with 11 of those being Springboks and furthermore includes a host of Junior Springboks.  Springbok Sevens forward Tim Agaba has also been included and will join the squad after the Blitzboks return from tournaments in Sydney and Hamilton.

 

Only a handful of players do not have any Vodacom Super Rugby experience, among those outside back Divan Rossouw, midfielder JT Jackson, flyhalf Manie Libbok, scrumhalf Embrose Papier and lock Aston Fortuin.

 

The Vodacom Bulls will be involved in 2 warmup matches this weekend as they take on the Cell C Sharks in Polokwane on Saturday at 18h00, and the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg earlier at 15h00.

“We have made tremendous progress with our processes over the last couple of months and we will be ready for whatever comes our way during Super Rugby 2018,” said Mitchell

 

“I don’t want to make any promises on how the team will perform this year, we will be solely focussed on the process.  It’s about marginal gains for us, stacking good stuff on good stuff daily as we continue to ensure excellence.  It’s not about the end but rather the daily effort combined at the end.  Our purpose is to fill Loftus and put smiles on people’s faces.  We will be working very hard to achieve that.”

 

“I am confident that we have worked smartly and laid a solid foundation. This squad will develop and improve and one needs to be realistic about it, but we are all in agreement about the way forward.  We will be connected, we want to be respected and not just liked and therefore one of our main focus areas during this process will be to remain honest and never forget to enjoy it and have fun.  We want to serve our fans, supporters, shareholders and sponsors – we want to earn back their respect and get the Vodacom Bulls to bind us together as one.”

 

The Vodacom Bulls Super Rugby squad is:

Outside Backs: Warrick Gelant, Duncan Matthews, Travis Ismaiel, Jamba Ulengo, Jade Stighling, Divan Rossouw.

Midfielders: Burger Odendaal, JT Jackson, Francois Brummer, Jesse Kriel, Johnny Kotze

Flyhalves: Handre Pollard, Marnitz Boshoff, Manie Libbok

Halfbacks: Ivan van Zyl, Andre Warner, Embrose Papier

Loose Forwards: Roelof Smit, Ruan Steenkamp, Hendre Stassen, Hanro Liebenberg, Jannes Kirsten, Nic de Jager, Tim Agaba.

Locks: Jason Jenkins, Ruben van Heerden, RG Snyman, Lood de Jager, Aston Fortuin.

Props: Pierre Schoeman, Conraad van Vuuren, Frans van Wyk, Matthys Basson, Lizo Gqoboka, Trevor Nyakane.

Hookers: Jaco Visagie, Adriaan Strauss, Edgar Marutlulle

 

NOTE: The BBCo would also like to confirm that we have parted ways with loose forward Jacques Potgieter after lengthy discussions on his future. Potgieter has decided not to partake in Vodacom Super Rugby during 2018, and rather take a sabbatical to focus on his family and spend time with his wife, boy and soon to be born twins.  We would like to sincerely thank him for his contributions to the team both on and off the field, and wish him well with his future endeavours. He will make an announcement later in the year regarding his future.

Landbouweekliks kuier by suksesvolle Drakensberger-boer

In die tweede episode van Landbouweekliks besoek aanbieder Ivor Price die plaas Quaggafontein naby Zastron om uit te vind hoe dr. Liesel Foster haar Drakensberger-boerdery op wetenskaplike wyse benader.

 

Om winsgewend in dié marginale beeswêreld in die Suid-Vrystaat te boer, verg groot vaardigheid en fyn beplanning. Foster het in haar doktorale navorsing gevind dat die insluiting van natuurlike proteïene in ’n winterlik nie ekonomies regverdigbaar is nie en op so ’n manier behaal sy besparings op wetenskaplike manier.
Foster, ’n voormalige finalis in Voermol se Beesboer van die Jaar-kompetisie, vertel dat mense aanvanklik skepties was oor haar vermoë as beesboer, maar dat baie van mening verander het namate sy haar plek in die gemeenskap volgestaan het.

Dit is vir haar ook belangrik dat sy alles op die plaas kan doen wat haar werkers doen. “Dit was vir my belangrik dat mense na my opkyk. Ek sal hulle nooit vra om iets te doen wat ek nie self bereid is om te doen nie.”
Chris Burgess, redakteur van Landbouweekblad, gesels ook in dié episode met mnr. Richardt Venter van AGSCI oor meetbare standaarde vir voergehalte en hoe boere dit kan verbeter. Lucille Botha vra mnr. Ronald King van PSG hoe boere kan beplan om vir hul kinders se opvoeding te betaal, terwyl kykers in die meganisasie-segment meer
kan leer oor John Deere se 8245-trekker en 1725-lugdrukplanter.
Gerrit Bezuidenhout vind by mnr. Arthur Schroder, produkbestuurder by Monsanto, uit hoe saadmaatskappye geelmieliebasters ontwikkel en teel. Die bekende veearts dr. Faffa Malan van Vra vir Faffa-faam gee raad oor hoe boere parasiete by inheemse beesrasse kan bestuur.

Terug op Quaggafontein moet Ivor probeer om ’n jong kalf te vang, te weeg en te merk – met skreeusnaakse gevolge!
Nuwe episodes van Landbouweekliks word elke Dinsdag om 19:30 uitgesaai, met heruitsendings op Sondae om 17:30. Die reeks bestaan uit 26 episodes van ’n halfuur elk. Die program is ook op DStv Now beskikbaar. Landbouweekliks word deur Brand Republic vervaardig en met trots geborg deur Afgri, GWK, Monsanto (Dekalb), PSG, MSD en Hinterland.

 

PUMA REVEALS KIT CELEBRATING 80 YEARS OF BLUE BULLS RUGBY UNION

Official technical partner PUMA has unveiled the 2018 home kit for the Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Blue Bulls, with a design in celebration of the Rugby Union’s 80 year anniversary.

PUMA has also designed a new badge, which will be positioned over the heart of the jersey and will see all the Union’s teams, from Vodacom Super Rugby all the way down to U19 Championship, play under the same badge for the first time. Giving rise to the mantra One Legacy, One Family, One Dream, One Badge, One Kit.

Paying homage to the original Bulls kit from 1938, the new outfit for Vodacom Super Rugby, Supersport Rugby Challenge and Currie Cup tournaments stays true to the blue and white strip in a two-tone manner with the front of the entire kit baring Bulls’ blue and the back a crisp white.

A 20180 graphic on the chest signifies the 80 years of heritage and will be communicated through the launch of the year-long “Our heritage drives our future” campaign, created to excite and engage with fans, consumers and customers through innovative activations as well as digital and retail executions.

 

View the campaign video here:

VIDEO LINK: https://youtu.be/UR-0Mi31eEA

“We have drawn inspiration from this 80 year milestone and forged one badge, providing the #BullsFamily with a kit that will hopefully go down in history as a must have collector’s item for fans,” said PUMA Marketing Director Brett Bellinger.

CEO of the Blue Bulls Company, Barend van Graan: ‘PUMA have once again outdone themselves in producing an awe-inspiring kit for the new season. In 2018 we celebrate our 80th anniversary, and we will be looking to pay tribute to our proud heritage. We firmly believe PUMA has truly captured the essence, and are looking forward to running out in this timeless classic ”.

The Vodacom Bulls Home Jersey will hit stores 30 November 2017 for R799 at PUMA stores, Totalsports, The Cross Trainer, Sportsmans Warehouse and selected retailers nationwide.

#BullsFamily #20180

 

AFGRI’s eAccounts platform now allows farmers to record and track rain fall measurements

e-Accounts, AFGRI’s electronic account management system, has been enhanced to include yet another innovative feature that benefits South African farmers. The feature – the first of its kind in the agricultural industry – enables farmers to record rain fall on their lands, allowing them to keep track of seasonal rain fall measurements, and assisting in having statistics readily available for comparative purposes.

Users will also be able to upload historical data to provide handy comparisons. Moreover, the new feature is simple to use. Clients simply log into e-Accounts, select “My Farm” and then “My Rainfall”. On the menu, navigate to “Grain” and “Capture Rainfall”. Here clients can capture or upload their first measurement. This unique functionality also allows users to capture measurements for multiple farms and for multiple rain meters.

Once the information has been captured, the system generates detailed graphs showing the rain fall per farm. Users will also be able to submit feedback by clicking on “Suggestions”, allowing AFGRI to keep enhancing functionality.

e-Accounts was originally launched in 2014 by UNIGRO, the financial services arm of AFGRI Agri Services. It has since evolved into a powerful, dynamic digital channel. Not only does e-Accounts allow farmers to manage their entire business, finance and planning on one secure user-friendly platform, but has been expanded to include further agri-related functions that enable farmers to administer and manage their entire farming operations.

The rain fall measurement feature is just one such feature that has been added to the platform to make life simpler for farmers. Another is the popular grain management tool. Using e-Accounts, farmers can view the amount of grain they have in stock at the silo, as well as the amount they still need to deliver on their contracts.

AFGRI e-Accounts now has approximately 1,200 active users, with more than 30,000 logins since the launch in 2014. The largest single payment so far was more than R60 million.

AFGRI Agri Services is owned by AFGRI Group Holdings, an investment holding company with interests in agricultural and food products and services.

 

Climate-smart Agriculture: A new approach for a new reality

As the world’s population continues to surge, there are mounting concerns about how agricultural production will cope with feeding everyone. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that food production must increase by at least 60% to respond to the demands of the nine billion people that are expected to inhabit the planet by 2050. This has become a food security issue globally.

With many of the resources needed for food security already stretched, the challenges are huge – and are being intensified by the fact that the world’s climate is changing fast. For agriculture, change will be significant, as temperatures rise, rainfall patterns change, and pests and diseases find new areas to inhabit or spread to, all of which pose significant new risks to food and farming.

There is also a growing recognition of agriculture’s contribution to climate change, and of the means by which farming systems can adapt to cope with the changes, as well as the potential of agriculture to mitigate climate impact. This recognition has led to the concept of ‘climate-smart agriculture’ (CSA).

 Just what is CSA?

CSA is defined by the FAO as “agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience, reduces/removes greenhouse gas emissions where possible, and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals”.

Therefore, CSA is an integrated approach that aims to deliver food security in the face of climate change by:

  • Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity
  • Building the resilience of food systems
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture

While there are several other sustainable agricultural models in place already, what is new about CSA is that it includes climate change and risks, which are happening more rapidly and with greater intensity than in the past.

CSA is more comprehensive as it strives to adopt a perspective including various other systems at play, such as landscapes, ecosystems and value chains. It also goes beyond new technologies and practices like drought-resistant varieties or precision farming. Identified CSA practices include the following, along with some examples of actions that contribute to CSA:[1]

    • Soil management: Nitrogen and other nutrients are essential to increased yields – this can be done through composting manure, precise matching of nutrients with plant needs, or using legumes for natural fixation.
    • Crop production: Crop productivity can be increased through breeding higher-yielding crop varieties, though crop and crop nutrient management, and through choosing crop species that have higher yield potentials under given environmental conditions.
    • Water management: For rain-fed agriculture, improved water management can be done through water harvesting, soil management practices that result in the capture and retention of rainfall, as well as through soil fertility and crop management innovations that enhance crop growth and yield, thus using water more effectively.
    • Livestock management: Sustainable interventions that target improved feed resources directly increase productivity. For cattle, examples include improved grazing management, using improved pasture and agroforestry species, as well as nutritious diet supplements. Similarly, interventions aimed at improving animal health, such as vaccination programmes, will also improve animal productivity.
    • Forestry & Agroforestry: Examples here include planting trees to act as windbreaks to protect adjacent field crops, reduce wind erosion, and store carbon, or as shelter for grazing livestock.
    • Fisheries & Aquaculture: For aquaculture, the emphasis is on intensifying production, improving stocks, making feeding more efficient and reducing losses from disease. More broadly across the sector, efforts should be made in reducing losses and wastes, increasing yields and productivity in fish and aquatic food processing and other areas where value can be added, and enhancing efficiencies in product distribution.
  • Energy management: Agricultural production can be increased by improving energy efficiency, and implementing the use of renewable energy sources.

 

 What are the benefits for farmers?

For farmers, weather variability brings both lucky breaks and difficult challenges that must be managed. This is especially true for resource-poor small-scale farmers in developing countries, like many in Africa. CSA gives farmers a framework for achieving increases in agricultural production despite the increasing climate variability being caused by climate change. This helps to secure both individual livelihoods and global food security.

CSA is gaining ground in South Africa – it was the topic of a workshop at the PMA Fresh Connections Conference hosted in Cape Town recently, which investigated the needs of South African agriculture. The needs identified for farmers, particularly small-scale farmers, were: [2]

  • more resilient seed varieties;
  • the importance of business planning and inclusion of youth in agriculture;
  • market access and logistics; and
  • scaling up or growing a farming enterprise, within an enabling policy environment.

The Government is currently working on a national strategic framework on climate smart agriculture for 2018.

For more information on innovation in agriculture, contact AFGRI Technology Services on ats@34.255.249.49.

 

[1] Climate Smart Agriculture – Introduction https://csa.guide/csa/practices

[2] Climate Smart Agriculture workshop at PMA Conference, Cape Town http://www.freshplaza.com/article/180702/Climate-smart-agriculture-workshop-at-PMA-conference%2C-Cape-Town

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?

For agriculture, the rise of Fintech means easier access to funds, new competitors in financial services and a global reach. Selling cattle or produce? Fintech and digital markets can now connect farmers directly to buyers on a mobile platform, doing away with the middleman. Important to note is that Fintech not only minimises the dependency on traditional banks as the middlemen, but increases the use of peer-to-peer lending, growing and strengthening the sharing economy model. Good examples are M-Pesa and FarmDrive in Kenya, where FarmDrive connects smallholder farmers to loans and financial management tools through their mobile phones.

In Mozambique, the Institute of Cereals of Mozambique (ICM), which is responsible for regulating and promoting agricultural production and commercialisation under the remit of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, recently joined forces with FinComEco to link agriculture to the latest financial technology.

The collaboration will develop a range of projects and high impact initiatives in the agricultural commodity markets sector. ICM, with its Mozambique domain knowledge, countrywide network of warehouses facilitating smallholder farmers, traders and buyers, will deliver commercialisation and operational capabilities. FinComEco will provide the commodity trading platform and electronic warehouse receipts capabilities, as part of the wider FinComEco model. This includes distribution of third party agri-finance and electronic banking facilitation enabled by scalable technology supported by its partner GMEX Group

In South Africa, PICSA is a ground-breaking organisation whose primary aim is to responsibly protect and assist the lower-income 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, a digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer – 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.

 

For more information on innovation in agriculture, contact AFGRI Technology Services on ats@34.255.249.49.

 

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

Eastern Cape Relief – AFGRI Says Thank You

A month has passed since devastating wildfires caused havoc in the Southern and Eastern Cape regions, claiming lives and leaving many displaced. Apart from homes and businesses affected, the destructive fires also swept through numerous farms in the Thornhill district, destroying pastures, killing livestock and leaving the farming community in dire need of aid.

Several farmers in the Free State and KZN Midlands region, as far as Bothaville, Koppies, Danielsrus and Tweeling, have generously donated animal feeds to the farms in need. AFGRI partnered with these farmers to facilitate a structured and transparent platform and process through which large-scale hay donations could be sent to farms in the Thornhill district. The feeds donation, comprising hay bales and maize rests, amounted to more than a 1000 round bales. AFGRI Grain Producers further donated maize for trading, using proceeds to fund this project.

South Africa’s agricultural community is known for its generosity, resourcefulness and genuine support of fellow farmers in need. During 2015/16, when the Free State lay stricken with severe droughts and the province declared a disaster area, Cape farmers liberally assisted inland farms. Now, as the Eastern Cape faced the trail of damage left by the blaze, Free State and Midlands farmers were returning the favour by offering their support and bringing relief through these donations to farms in distress.

AFGRI is proud to be associated with the South African farming community and wishes to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the farmers that made this generous contribution possible.

Nevertheless, the cost of transporting the bales proved the biggest hurdle to overcome. Taking the task upon themselves, AFGRI ensured the transport costs were covered by involving several industry partners and formally sourcing additional financial contributions from our suppliers and business affiliates.

The response was astounding. AFGRI Animal Feeds MD, Anina Hunter, wishes to acknowledge the following institutions for their financial contributions towards transportation: AFGRI Grain Management, AFGRI Grain Producers, AFGRI Animal Feeds, AFGRI Unigro, VD Commodities, Seaboard, Lynn Phillips Consult, Central Edible Oil, TICSA Feeds, VS Soya CC, Farmwise Grains, KWS Carriers and SCP Polycloth Manufacturers.

Feed donations from various farmers continue to come in, and we would like to fulfil the process by delivering all of the donations to the affected farms. To date, only 85% of the transportation costs have been covered. Should you wish to get involved by contributing financially, please email Phillippus Oosthuizen (Logistics Manager for AFGRI Animal Feeds): phillippus.oosthuizen@34.255.249.49.

As partner to the agricultural community, AFGRI is honoured to be involved in initiatives of this kind.

 

Enhancement to AFGRI’s online transaction platform frees up time for farmers

AFGRI’s innovative e-Accounts online transaction platform has evolved into a powerful, dynamic digital channel that will soon span services and products across the AFGRI suite with further enhancements aimed to free up time for farmers

UNIGRO, the financial services division of AFGRI, became the first South African agricultural lending provider (excluding the tier one banks) to provide internet transaction services to its customers with the launch of its online offering in 2014.

Named e-Accounts, the transactional online system has evolved into a powerful, dynamic digital channel that will soon span offerings across AFGRI.

“e-Accounts evolved from a relatively simple transaction portal into a sophisticated digital channel that is changing the way AFGRI’s customers are doing business,” says Tinus Prinsloo, Chief Executive Officer, AFGRI Agri Services. “The platform lets farmers manage their entire business, finance and planning on one user-friendly platform that’s secure, instant, convenient and accessible from a variety of devices. In addition, farmers get end-to-end transaction capability at lower rates than those charged by banks.”

Four years after the portal was developed by specialist software provider Synthesis for UNIGRO, e-Accounts have been leveraged by most AFGRI divisions and expanded into a powerful, dynamic platform. Additional enhancements will further revolutionise the way farmers manage their AFGRI accounts.

Johann Barnard, Chief Operations Officer, UNIGRO Financial Services and e-Accounts project owner, says the platform is a resounding success. “AFGRI e-Accounts enables farmers to manage their entire operation online – from loans, forex and payments to grain trading and equipment purchases. It offers a secure, easy-to-use transaction and management platform for customers. Instead of having to call or email AFGRI, customers can now access their accounts from multiple devices, simply and intuitively, 24 hours a day.”

Following the initial success of the platform, AFGRI saw the opportunity of adding further agri-related functions that would enable farmers to administer and manage their entire farming operations, says Barnard. Several additional features, including payment scheduling, viewing and authorisation of foreign exchange transactions as well as payroll capabilities, were added for GroCapital, another AFGRI financial division.

As features to the platform are added on demand, the popular grain management tool was added in June 2016. Using e-Accounts, farmers can view the amount of grain they have in stock at the silo, as well as the amount they still need to deliver on their contracts. They can keep an eye on live grain prices, estimating how they will affect them, and trade their grain with brokers, who are able to immediately transfer money from their UNIGR0 facilities to the farmers, says Prinsloo.

With this feature, clients can see everything from tonnage, date of delivery and Rand per ton, through to the processing of loans and payment. They have insight into the entire value chain, via a graphical dashboard, adds Barnard. “e-Accounts also enables farmers to tender for offcuts (called chaff and siftings) from the grain processing which can be used for cattle feed.”

AFGRI’s insurance division will be next to benefit, followed by retail.  And later this year, farmers will have access to e-Credit, where they can apply for new lending facilities through e-Accounts.

“Within five years, we want to create a ‘bartering’ system so that, for example, when our client delivers his grain he can drive away in his new tractor!” says Barnard.

For AFGRI, e-Accounts delivers a major competitive advantage. AFGRI is benefitting from greater customer satisfaction, increased revenue as a result of up-selling and cross-selling, better efficiency, increased employee satisfaction and reduced risk. The platform has been a major differentiator for AFGRI, which is now viewed as a leading technology innovator.

AFGRI e-Accounts now has approximately 1000 active users, with more than 30 000 logins since the first project went live. The largest single payment so far was more than R60 million. “We’re seeing a dramatic trend upwards,” says Barnard. “Within the first 12 months, R1,2 billion in payments went through the system.  During the second year, this value has tripled, shooting up to more than R4 billion.”

“We see e-Accounts as one of most important sticky factors for the agricultural sector going forward,” Barnard concludes. “We’re not aware of any other company – in South African or the rest of the world – that enables its customers to have this wealth of information at their fingertips and which enables  them to run their entire farming operations.”