How tech is helping AFGRI remain on the forefront of the agricultural sector

NAMPO, May 16, 2019 – Launched four years ago, the AFGRI eAccounts platform continues to grow in leaps and bounds. There are now 2,000 registered users across South Africa, with an average of 8,300 logins a month – that’s about 380 per day! Since inception, payments amounting to a staggering R13 billion have been made through eAccounts.

 

For those of you who might not know, eAccounts is the ground-breaking electronic account management solution offered to AFGRI’s customers through UNIGRO Financial Services. It is a key differentiator for AFGRI, with around R430 million worth of transactions flowing through the platform each month.

 

Customers can, from a grain handling and storage perspective, view and receive invoices and statements, as well as draw detailed reports and information of their respective grain delivered for storage at any of AFGRI Grain Management’s 85 locations across the country. They can also calculate storage rates according to grade and grain type.

 

Farmers are further able to access and monitor their procurement contracts, which contain detailed information as well as movement reports, with remittance advice available in PDF format. The platform also includes an insurance and claims functionality, and a more recent feature enables farmers to record rainfall on their lands.

 

In keeping with rapidly-evolving technology, several new features have been added, including the ability for farmers to see regional rainfall patterns as a heatmap. They can also track the average monthly rainfall for more than three years.

 

Farmers can now also add more information about their farm, by adding new land, as well as assigning a commodity and colour to the new field. A summary is available by simply hovering the mouse over the field in the map view.  Beyond this, users can view AFGRI silos and bunker locations on the map, as well as get directions from their farm to the nearest silo or bunker, or a preferred location.

 

Finally, a new Hinterland “Promotional Display” functionality has been added, with users able to receive voucher codes online and redeem them at any Hinterland branch across the country.

 

“We are exceptionally pleased with the performance of the platform since its launch in 2015 and are delighted we’ve been able to put access to financial transactions specifically aimed at the farmer, as well as vital information for those involved directly in agriculture, literally in the hands of our users.  We recognise that like all technology-based offerings, eAccounts needs to evolve. We have a number of exciting initiatives in the pipeline that we will be sharing with customers in due course,” says Tinus Prinsloo, the CEO of AFGRI.

 

However, technology extends further than this for the group as a whole. Recognising the increasing interest in – and reliance on – the role of technology in day-to-day farming operations, the rise of agricultural technology or “AgTech” as it is better known, is not being ignored by AFGRI.

 

Most recently AFGRI’s parent holding company, AFGRI Group Holdings (“AGH”), teamed up with specialised financial technology company, Synthesis Software Technologies, to form a joint venture to accelerate the development of innovative solutions in the AgTech space. The relationship between the two companies began in 2014 when Synthesis helped to develop eAccounts.

 

“Through the JV we will be able to take a longer-term approach to further development of eAccounts, and customers can expect to see more features, more innovation, and more value from the platform through strategic updates,” says Prinsloo.

 

AFGRI Technology Services (“ATS”), part of the larger AFGRI business, is also directly engaging with AFGRI’s farmers through their Future Farmer Forum to keep them apprised of the latest innovations in the AgTech movement. ATS was set-up to identify and develop future focussed solutions and partnerships that encourage a competitive and sustainable agricultural sector.

 

ATS looks for opportunities to introduce emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), digital solutions, Internet of Things (IOT) and other emerging technologies to the sector and to its customers. “The South African sector is not immune to the technology disruption we are seeing rapidly impact all industries globally, we need to ensure we are looking around corners,” says Niki Neumann, GM of Innovation and Strategy for AFGRI.

 

“We are seeing a lot of this disruption coming from start-ups and entrepreneurs, and it’s for this reason we have partnered with the University of Pretoria’s TuksNovation Activate Challenge, which is focused on identifying and supporting entrepreneurs who have solutions in the AgTech, agricultural financial technology and agricultural insurance technology space.”

 

ATS and AFGRI executives have played an active role throughout the competition, helping to provide business planning, industry insights and mentoring to the finalists.

 

“The objective of the competition is to identify potentially profitable technologies and disruptive start-ups for incubation and acceleration, with the intention of building AFGRI’s innovation capacity and to foster support for and growth of South Africa’s entrepreneurs.”

Support Funds: Models that make a tangible difference to agricultural communities or just a drop in the bucket?

NAMPO, 15 May 2019 – With climatic changes worsening and the economy under strain, farmers across South Africa are having to do more with less, with many struggling to make ends meet. During the past two years alone, farmers have had to contend with drought, hail, foot and mouth disease, armyworm invasions and wildfires, to name but a few. While several funds have been established in support of local farmers, AFGRI’s Support Fund offers a significant beacon of hope to agricultural communities across South Africa.

The Fund, established in February this year, offers financial support to beneficiaries in the agricultural sector, focusing on those operating within the AFGRI ecosystem and geographic areas. However, recognising that funds such as these need to be sustainable to make a real difference, AFGRI, apart from committing an annual donation of a minimum of R3 million, will make use of a host of events, including golf and farmers days as well as ad hoc opportunities, to raise additional money for the Support Fund.

It also is accepting contributions from external individuals and organisations, and will, in addition, continue to have an account into which farmers are able to donate grain for sale, the proceeds of which will be transferred to the Fund account.

When asked what drove the establishment of the Fund, AFGRI’s CEO Tinus Prinsloo explains: “We know all too well the publicised issues and get asked by so many to assist. We want to ensure that support reaches those in need as much too often donations don’t reach those who truly need them.”

AFGRI’s CFO Jacob de Villiers, who was instrumental in setting up the Fund, says that so far AFGRI has been inundated with requests for assistance, showing just how much support South African farmers and those involved in agriculture-related industries need currently, and validating that the Fund is serving the purpose it was created for.

“Many of the requests have been from new era farmers asking for help in starting farming operations, or for access to finance, training, and equipment. These have been redirected either to Lemang Agricultural Services, which focuses on developing black farmers ready to take the next steps to full commercialisation, or to Harvest Time Investments, which focuses on small new era farmers, for further evaluation so that we can offer support through the correct channels. However, a large portion are coming from farmers who really need a helping hand.”

Ten requests from across the country meeting the Fund’s criteria have already been put before the executive management team, with a number of these being approved for funding in the amount of R400,000. “We have already started engaging with the beneficiaries, whose requests ranged from assistance in providing additional security measures on farms to money to repair hail damage. One project involves assisting farmers in the Middelburg area who are sending animal feed to farmers in need in the Northern Cape.”

De Villiers adds that a further R350,000 was raised at a recent AFGRI golf day. “We have just received confirmation that we will be hosting another golf event in the Western Cape towards on the end of 2nd of August, and are already receiving bookings for this, which is so encouraging. We will of course continue to leverage other events and initiatives to raise money for the Fund.”

More important though, says de Villiers, is the fact that AFGRI has started engaging the farming community to get involved and contribute, so that farmers support farmers. An example of this working well is when the proceeds from the sale of grain is made available by those farmers willing to assist. “This money can be contributed to the Fund, while grain itself can also be donated for sale.” He estimates this could raise another R500,000 during the upcoming harvest time. “Of course, we will also look to assist farmers who have set up their own help initiatives to grow critical mass, as is the case with the one project we will now be helping to fund.”

Knowing the power of the media, AFGRI is looking at bringing a local media partner on board to assist its efforts in creating awareness of the Support Fund, with de Villiers saying that AFGRI would soon be in a position to divulge this information. “We are, in all honesty, blown away by the response to the Fund – this truly shows that setting it up was the right thing to do at the right time and we are very proud and excited to be making a real difference to the lives of those in need through it.”

Another factor in ensuring sustainability is sound management and governance. De Villiers, along with AFGRI Group senior executives, Marion Shikwinya and Ross Simmonds, are the directors of the Fund and will be responsible for the evaluation and disbursements of requests received. Furthermore, AFGRI is committed to and follows strict corporate governance procedures. “Both the impact and the measurement of the difference we are making will be noted with the purpose of continual improvement to safeguard a growing and sustainable Fund,” says de Villiers.

“This will ensure that financial support is available to all involved in agriculture in the long-term. In this way AFGRI will continue to make a positive impact on the agricultural sector in our country, just as we have for the past nine decades and more.”

Moreover, AFGRI’s assistance to farmers is not a recent development but has been part of the company’s ethos since it was established over 95 years ago. More recently, in 2016 during one of the worst droughts ever recorded in South Africa, AFGRI donated R5 million in drought aid to farmers. It also offered a zero increase on storage fees for a period, knowing that these gestures would assist farmers caught in the grips of the drought.

Similarly, in 2017 AFGRI partnered with farmers in the Free State and the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, as far afield as Bothaville, Koppies, Danielsrus and Tweeling, to facilitate a process through which large-scale hay donations could be sent to farms in the Thornhill district in the Eastern Cape. The donation amounted to more than a
1,000 round bales. AFGRI Grain Producers further donated maize for trading, using the proceeds to support the project.

Growing a thriving agricultural sector key to unlocking economic wellbeing AFGRI partners with public and private sector to boost agriculture

NAMPO, 14 May 2019 – AFGRI, one of South Africa’s leading agricultural services company, is firmly committed to developing a sustainable agricultural sector in South Africa, both through its own initiatives, as well as by partnering with the public and private sector to drive growth in the sector, which in turn will contribute to the country’s overall economic wellbeing.

In 2012, AFGRI set up Harvest Time Investments (HTI), a training and development programme focused on unlocking the potential of emerging black farmers through training, development and mentorship. Two years later, AFGRI further committed to assisting the development of emerging farmers, as well as towards other projects targeted at community and rural developments, through an agreement with the public sector, including the Department of Economic Development, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

In terms of this agreement, AFGRI pledged R90 million, spending R60 million on emerging farmer development and R30 million on community support over a period of four years.

Today, the R90 million investment in farmer training and development and related corporate social investment (CSI) initiatives has resulted in a meaningful contribution to the economy. In the past four financial years[1] alone AGH and AFGRI, through CSI initiatives focused on food security, water security, poverty alleviation and education, have touched the lives of almost 60,000 beneficiaries through a total of 112 projects[2].

With respect to emerging farmers development, over 800 farmers have to date benefitted from the HTI programme, with over 18 400 hectares of crops planted, and an estimated 5 600 people supported by the income received. In addition, over 660 permanent jobs and almost 1 000 seasonal jobs were created.

“Not only did the investment in farmer training and development and CSI result in economic success stories for emerging farmers, but for the thousands of lives meaningfully improved in our communities,” says Tinus Prinsloo, CEO of AFGRI. “However, more than this, a vital goal of AFGRI’s is to promote sustainability, which is why we focus on training, mentorship and access to finance for emerging farmers, offering them ongoing support and working with them in partnership to cultivate success.”

Prinsloo adds that this approach has also encouraged entrepreneurship, with many of these farmers now having proper access to markets, purchasing additional equipment and growing their operations as a result.

With HTI now housed within AFGRI Group Holdings (AGH) – AFGRI’s parent holding company – where the focus will remain on supporting emerging farmers, AFGRI has launched Lemang Agricultural Services to specifically develop those black farmers who have reached the potential to become commercial farmers.

“This is essential for the future of the country, as well as food security, as the population grows and food demands increase. These farmers will also create much-needed jobs and provide a welcome boost to the economy,” states Prinsloo.

According to Marion Shikwinya, who heads up Lemang, it will support large black farmers ready to take the final steps towards becoming full-scale commercial farmers. This includes financial assistance and more. “We want to extend the experience and record we have already established to bolster yields, crop diversity and job creation in a sector which has traditionally contributed significantly to GDP in South Africa.”

Another AGH company, Abba Initiatives, has developed a unique farming programme that relies on father figures (the ‘Abba’) in communities to establish sustainable agrarian projects across Africa. Last year, Abba teamed up with the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative and other corporate sponsors, including Nedbank and Toyota, to start the Tembisa Container Farming Project in support of urban agriculture.

Abba is providing training and skills development to 25 youths, with a focus initially on open field farming, aquaponics and hydroponics, with the ultimate goal being to develop a sustainable urban agricultural solution for South Africa. According to Tashmia Ismail, the CEO of YES, “A key focus for the YES hub model is the sustainability of the operations – we have to be thinking about long-term impact of our work and ensuring that the investment in infrastructure will have lasting economic benefits. If we are serious about changing the South African economy, we need to think differently about economic models and we are pleased to have identified industry partners who share a common vision.”

CEO of AGH, Chris Venter, wraps up the group’s strategy on this front, saying that AGH’s explicit goal is to enable food security across Africa. “Through dedicated investment and care, we now have a suite of services and products as well as the capability to assist developing black farmers – from the small-scale farmer right through to the farmer ready to join the ranks of commercial farming. We can guide and assist them every step of the way on this path, ensuring that our farmers have both the opportunity as well as access to everything in our arsenal in order to become thriving commercial farmers.”

 

[1] Including the 2017/2018 financial year.

[1] Note to editor – follow this link for more information on AFGRI’s CSI initiatives: https://www.afgri.co.za/csi-programme/

Dié Vrystaatse boerdery floreer met familietradisies

Ernst Yzel en sy twee seuns, Tom en Nant, boer op die plaas Wonderkuil naby die dorp Marquard in die Oos-Vrystaat. Hulle boer met verskeie vertakkings (vee, gesaaides en droëlandaartappels), waarvan heelwat op huurgrond bedryf word. Met Ernst se kinders wat die vyfde geslag op die plaas is, sit die Yzels ’n familietradisie voort wat deur Ernst se oupagrootjie begin is. Ernst was voorheen voorsitter van Aartappels SA, en ook ’n stigterslid van die Vrystaatse Jongboerkomitee.

 

Jenkins and Brits back in Vodacom Bulls pack

Springboks, Schalk Brits and Jason Jenkins, are back in the Vodacom Bulls pack for their Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Crusaders at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

Brits has served a four week suspension and will start at hooker, while Jenkins is fit again following injury. Like Brits, he last played for the Vodacom Bulls in their 19-16 win over the Cell C Sharks at the end of March. They replace Jaco Visagie and Jannes Kirsten respectively, with Visagie dropping to the bench and Kirtsen moving into the number 7 jersey.

The duo’s return resulted in Vodacom Bulls Head Coach, Pote Human, making two changes in the pack, as well as two in the backline.

In a rotational change Ivan van Zyl drops out of the match 23 and will be replaced by André Warner at scrumhalf in the starting team, while Warner’s place on the bench is taken by Embrose Papier.

Burger Odendaal, who was a late withdrawal from last weekend’s clash against the Waratahs, has been declared fit and he will start at centre in place of Dylan Sage, who drops out of the match day squad altogether.

Odendaal and Kotze will man the midfield against the New Zealand outfit.

Human welcomed the return of his two Springboks in the pack.

“Schalk has been itching to play for the last couple of weeks and he will be very keen. Jason also recovered well and looked very sharp in training. Both are players of international standard, so it is great to have them back. Our pack will need to step up to the plate if we want to contain the Crusaders and these two are certainly capable of adding to that.”

Vodacom Bulls captain, Handré Pollard, said they are determined to end this phase of the tournament on a strong footing.

“We travel overseas after this and will only be back at Loftus next month, so this is a very important match for us. We need to do well here in order to maintain our log position and to get some momentum for the tour. Everyone realises what is at stake,” he said.

The squad (with Vodacom Super Rugby caps and points) is:

  1. Warrick Gelant (41, 70)
  2. Cornal Hendricks (34, 55)
  3. Johnny Kotze (40, 45)
  4. Burger Odendaal (50, 20)
  5. Rosko Specman (7, 20)
  6. Handré Pollard (c; 55, 573)
  7. André Warner (14, 15)
  8. Duane Vermeulen (118, 50)
  9. Jannes Kirsten (26, 10)
  10. Marco van Staden (19, 15)
  11. RG Snyman (42, 15)
  12. Jason Jenkins (46, 35)
  13. Trevor Nyakane (101, 15)
  14. Schalk Brits (69, 20)
  15. Lizo Gqoboka (47, 15)

 

Replacements:

  1. Jaco Visagie (40, 5)
  2. Simphiwe Matanzima (10, 5)
  3. Wiehahn Herbst (43, 0)
  4. Thembelani Bholi (36, 6)
  5. Paul Schoeman (28, 35)
  6. Embrose Papier (19, 5)
  7. Manie Libbok (12, 33),
  8. Divan Rossouw (20, 15)

Wenboer woeker op Wakkerstroom

BP Greyling en sy seun, Ghini, bedryf ’n gediversifiseerde boerdery op die plaas Langfontein naby Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga. Hulle boer met graan, vleisbeeste en -skape, en kweek raaigras- en sojaboonsaad. Hulle plant ook proewe, verpak die saad en versprei landbouinsette aan medeboere. Boonop spog hulle met ’n bekroonde fynwolskaapvertakking en hul eie rooi vleisbees, die Langfonteinbees. BP is in 2011 aangewys as Landbouskrywers SA se Nasionale Boer van die Jaar.

AFGRI at NAMPO 2019 to talk about growth and new service offerings

AFGRI, one of the continent’s leading agricultural services company with core competencies to enhance, support and guide the growth of agricultural enterprises, will be at NAMPO again this year, using the unique opportunity that Africa’s foremost agricultural event offers to showcase some of the enhancements that have taken place across the business in the past 12 months.

“This is a larger AFGRI than the one that was at NAMPO in 2018, and in our view, a better one,” said AFGRI CEO, Tinus Prinsloo. The enhancements are reflected within many of our solutions, which include AFGRI Grain Management, AFGRI Equipment, UNIGRO Financial Services, Lemang Agricultural Services and more, recently AFGRI Technology Services (ATS).”

An example, added Prinsloo, is Lemang Agricultural Services, the new entity created by AFGRI to support the commercialisation of new era farmers who may have graduated out of the Harvest Time initiative created by AFGRI in 2012 to train, develop and mentor emerging  farmers. “Lemang is focused on the further development of commercial black farmers in South Africa and has been created specifically to support large farmers ready to take the final steps towards becoming full-scale commercial farmers, including offering financial assistance.”

This includes an enhanced suite of financial offerings resulting from the acquisition by parent company AFGRI Group Holdings (AGH) affiliate, GroCapital Holdings, of the majority shareholding in the South African Bank of Athens Limited (now Grobank) from the National Bank of Greece S.A., bolstering UNIGRO’s already-strong offering of agricultural finance and insurance, covering both long and short-term insurance.

Of course, the other AFGRI stalwarts will also be at NAMPO, including AFGRI Equipment, which holds the accolade of being the largest John Deere agency in southern Africa and outside of North America, and AFGRI Grain Management. “Both of these businesses have gone from strength to strength in the past year, with AFGRI Equipment having made significant progress in Western Australia, with more than 14 strategically-located branches now in place, as well as having branched into forestry and construction equipment.”

And with AGH having just brought on board three of South Africa’s foremost institutional investors to create a strategic storage platform vehicle, AFGRI Grain Silo Company, with the clear objective of expanding the current storage capacity of some 4,7 million tons to six million tons in the near future, there is no doubt that AFGRI Grain Management will also have a lot to discuss with customers.

AFGRI has also made substantial strides in terms of technology, with AGH having teamed up with specialised financial technology company, Synthesis Software Technologies, to form a joint venture to accelerate the development of innovative solutions in the agricultural technology (AgTech) space. The relationship between the two companies began in 2014 when Synthesis helped to develop UNIGRO’s financial platform, eAccounts. To date there are over 2 000 registered users, who made over R4.5 billion in payments on eAccounts in 2018, reflecting growth in payments of 25% over 2017. The platform has been a major differentiator and competitive advantage for AFGRI.

“Through the JV we will be able to take a longer-term approach to further development of eAccounts, and customers can expect to see more features, more innovation, and more value from the platform through strategic updates.”

Within AFGRI itself, the ATS team has a focus on AgTech and is engaging with our farmers to keep them apprised of the latest innovations in this field, and to develop our own AgTech solutions appropriate for their needs. ATS aims to be the catalyst of innovation and technology-enabled solutions to drive sustainable agricultural growth across the African and global agricultural value chain.

Finally, AFGRI will use the opportunity offered by NAMPO to spread the news about the AFGRI Support Fund with the South African farming community. The Fund was launched recently to support those involved in the agricultural sector who are in dire need of financial assistance.  “We want to make a meaningful difference in the areas we operate in, aside from our service and product offerings, as there are times that people just need a partner who cares. We have therefore established this Fund into which we have made an initial injection of R3 million.”

Prinsloo went on to say that he hoped that those so inclined would also contribute towards the Fund,  which has been established in order to extend financial support to beneficiaries in the agricultural sector, focusing on those operating within the AFGRI ecosystem and geographic areas. The aim is to grow the Fund to be sustainable into the future as a beacon of agricultural community support.

“The perils of farming are enormous, and to have an organisation that cares enough to lend a helping hand can mean a great deal,” adds Jacob de Villiers, the CFO of AFGRI.

We look forward to seeing you at NAMPO 2019 – please visit us at stand E29.

Llewellyn Angus benut die voordele van wetenskap

Llewellyn Angus, ’n voormalige Suider- Afrikaanse Stoetteler van die Jaar, is opgewonde oor sy vee, veldbestuur en aangeplante weidings. Sy Simbra- en Simmentaler-stoeterye op Whispering Willows naby Arlington in die Oos-Vrystaat is ’n toonbeeld van ’n wetenskaplike benadering en doelgerigte seleksie. Llewellyn, wat al die Landbounavorsingsraad se eerbewys vir die Vleisbeesverbeteringskudde van die Jaar gewen het, glo ’n goeie beesboer is ook ’n goeie gras- en veldboer.

Familieboerdery word appelprodusent van wêreldgehalte

Josias Beukes is die vierde geslag op Dennegeur in die Elgin-vallei naby Grabouw in die Wes-Kaap. Onder sy leiding is dié familieboerdery omskep in ’n appelprodusent van wêreldgehalte wat uitvoervrugte lewer. Josias is een van die baanbrekers wat die Suid-Afrikaanse appelbedryf help opbou het ná deregulering in die 1990’s. Die Beukes-familie is ook betrokke by verskeie ondersteunings- en ontwikkelingsprojekte wat by die boerdery geïntegreer is. Daar is ook ’n kliniek en crèche op die plaas.

Access to finance, training and entrepreneurship critical to building SA’s black farming community

Centurion, 15 April 2019 – This is according to AFGRI’s recently-renamed Lemang Agricultural Services, created specifically to train, develop and mentor new era farmers, and focused on the further development of commercial black farmers in South Africa, particularly large farmers ready to take the final steps towards becoming full-scale commercial farmers. This includes offering financial assistance, thus helping them to flourish in a sustainable manner.

“With food security becoming an increasing concern for South Africa and the rest of the continent, it’s important that agribusinesses such as AFGRI get behind our farmers, particularly black farmers wanting to take the next step into full commercialisation. And with agriculture being the key driver of food security, AFGRI is fully supportive of bringing a new generation of successful farmers into production to ensure the sector continues to thrive,” says Marion Shikwinya, who heads up Lemang Agricultural Services.

“We are very excited about the opportunities that agriculture offers, but there is a need to recognise the constraints that many new era farmers face. The first of these is the lack of access to affordable credit. Many are not able to access credit facilities to finance their operations, including state-of-the-art equipment and other new technologies required to increase production, and produce high-quality crops or livestock.”

Shikwinya adds that AFGRI – a leading agricultural services company with core competencies to enhance, support and guide the growth of agricultural enterprises – has a wide range of financial services that they are looking at adapting to support new era farmers.

Lemang itself has an enviable track record of success in assisting new era farmers, having trained and supported over 650 farmers in the past four years (in its previous capacity as Harvest Time Investments), resulting in over 18,400 hectares being planted, some 660 permanent jobs being created, and a total yield of 49,873 tonnes. On average, farm income has tripled in cases where Lemang has supported the farmer.

According to Operations Manager, Bankies Malan, the team can bring this track record to bear on assisting farmers overcome another stumbling block, which is the lack of access to information and training.

“Training – and access to the right information – is vital for farmers to succeed. Agribusinesses such as ours have huge role to play in ensuring our farmers are not only trained in the latest farming techniques but are also mentored and given relevant business skills. Knowing how to run a business is integral to growing a successful farming enterprise.”

Malan says that while many systems put in place to help black farmers have failed due to a lack of funding or skills, particularly in rural areas, farmers should also think more innovatively, and not simply wait for assistance.

An easy solution he believes could work is for smaller new era farmers in rural areas to form “study groups”, allowing them to learn from external experts, who could be invited to attend the sessions, and from one another, a major source of knowledge-sharing, at the same time.

However, critical to this kind of out-the-box thinking is a true desire to succeed as a farmer. “It takes real entrepreneurial spirit to set up this kind of initiative, but the benefits are huge, with farmers being able to tap into relevant knowledge when they need it, which will in turn inspire a spirit of independency and drive sustainable success.”

In fact, says Malan, entrepreneurial drive and a true passion for farming are foremost on the list of criteria for qualifying for the Lemang New Era Farmer Development Programme.

He adds that communication also has a role to play connecting farmers with one another and to support systems. “Modern mobile technology makes it so much easier to get farmers around the table to learn from one another and from others. In fact, it’s essential that we all capitalise on this technology, and explore better ways of connecting as a farming community.”

Malan believes that if such ecosystems are established and are fully connected – to each farmer in a specific area through the study groups, as well as to other groups around the country using affordable and readily-available mobile technology – this scenario could give rise to mega farming communities across South Africa.

“Imagine the power this will give new era farmers. With access to the right information when they need it, as well as access to training, mentoring and funding through companies like ours, they could be easily be fully integrated into the agricultural value chain.”

Until such time, though, Shikwinya and the team at Lemang Agricultural Services, are hard at work, spreading the word about their offerings and hoping to reach as many new era farmers as possible.