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.”

 

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.

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.

 

AGH announces new CEO for its AFGRI Agri Services business

Centurion, 27 August 2019 – Chris Venter, the CEO of AGH, 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, has announced the appointment of Jacob de Villiers as the new CEO of its AFGRI Agri Services business, following former CEO Tinus Prinsloo’s retirement at the end of July 2019. De Villiers is no stranger to the business nor any of its stakeholders, most recently filling the position of CFO of AFGRI Agri Services.

De Villiers, a Chartered Accountant by training, has held various roles within the organisation since first joining in 2002. Most recently, he acted in a dual capacity as managing director of AFGRI Grain Management and CFO of AFGRI Agri Services.

He believes there will be no major changes in the business, a leading agricultural services company with core competencies to enhance, support and guide the growth of agricultural enterprises, under his leadership in the next 12 to 18 months. His focus will be on strategy implementation and exemplary customer service.

“We are privileged that Tinus is leaving behind such an excellent legacy. AFGRI Agri Services has gone through extensive restructuring during the past two years as part of the overall AGH reorganisation, which has successfully positioned us to take this business forward. We’ve also during this time dealt with legacy issues and have built a solid management team – now it’s really a matter of fine tuning,” said de Villiers.

“What we want to do is to implement our strategy, ensuring our processes are optimised and working for us, doing more with less, and executing swiftly with an even greater focus on our customers, ensuring they are always front of mind.”

De Villiers says that given a number of external forces affecting the agricultural sector, including drought, political intervention, and foreign exchange fluctuations, amongst others,  that are simply beyond the business’ control, it’s critical  to remain heedful of those things that can be managed to ensure that AFGRI Agri Services continues to flourish.

“We are responsible corporate citizen, contributing wholeheartedly to building South Africa’s economy, employing more people – all this to ensure our business thrives.”

With the newly-created AFGRI Silo Company now in place, de Villiers says leveraging this platform will be a major focus in the next 12 to 18 months, with the intention being to have more grain storage participants come on board, with the goal of building storage capacity from 4,7 million tonnes to six million tonnes, as well as branching out into the storage of other agricultural commodities beyond grain.

On the financial services side, de Villiers believes that apart from having a more robust financial services offering from UNIGRO following AGH’s acquisition of the South African Bank of Athens (now Grobank) last year, securing long-term funding is critical to ensuring that the farmer book continues to strengthen, all the while ensuring the relationship of origination for the Land Bank remains steadfast.

“We are working with like-minded funding partners that have the best interests of the sector at heart to support South Africa’s farmers across all nine provinces, with AFGRI Agri Services now having a solid presence across the country.”

From AFGRI Equipment perspective, de Villiers says that the next 12 to 18 months will be a period of consolidation for this division, which has gone through several mergers and acquisitions over the past three to four years. “Here the focus for the next year or so will be on further process improvement, bedding these down, and ensuring the business operates optimally.”

Lemang Agricultural Services, created last year to focus on assisting black commercial farmers, is now in the final stages of being accredited as a level 1 B-BBEE financial intermediary and will be supported by UNIGRO and other funders. “This is a very exciting initiative – it’s almost like starting a new business from scratch, and here certainly the long-term goal is to grow Lemang to the same size as AFGRI Agri Services.”

AFGRI Technology Services (ATS) will also play a key role in supporting the other divisions adapt to innovation and technology, as well as bringing AgTech to customers as part of AFGRI Agri Services’ overall suite of offerings. Furthermore, ATS has several joint partnerships and in terms of data extraction and mining with the aim of ensuring that AFGRI Agri Services has the right information at hand to ensure its sustainability going forward. “We’re very excited to see various other developments coming to fruition soon.”

Another clear focus will be on people – for de Villiers having an engaged workforce is imperative to achieving a truly customer-centric organisation that is set apart from others in the sector.

According to Venter, AFGRI Agri Services will remain in good hands. “I am confident Jacob has what it takes to further cement this business’ position as a leader in providing agricultural services and products and I look forward to working with him.”

Venter added that whilst Prinsloo may be retiring as CEO of AFGRI Agri Services, he will continue to serve as a non-executive director on the boards of a number of invested companies falling under the AGH umbrella, and further assist in the positioning of the AFGRI Silo Company.

“In this way his skills and expertise will remain available to AGH, which will ensure that his knowledge and deep experience of the agricultural sector are passed on to another generation of leaders within the Group.”

The state of the grain industry

NAMPO, 17 May 2019 – With grain, including maize, wheat and several other crops, set to remain the staple diet of South Africans for many years to come, it’s essential that the industry is supported in order to thrive.

This is the view of AFGRI, one of South Africa’s leading agricultural companies, home to AFGRI Grain Management, which handles and stores not only maize, but also wheat, sunflower, soya beans, barley and sorghum at more than 100 operational points throughout South and Southern Africa, including Congo-Brazzaville, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia.

The current storage capacity of around 4,7 million tons in South Africa is due to get a boost from the recent announcement by parent holding company, AFGRI Group Holdings (AGH) and its BEE partner, Izitsalo Employee Investments, of the creation of a strategic grain storage platform vehicle in collaboration with STANLIB Infrastructure Investments, Wiphold, and the Land Bank.  The consortium will initially own storage facilities with a total value of R3,6 billion, while AFGRI will manage these storage facilities in terms of a management agreement.

“The AFGRI Grain Silo Company has the clear objective of expanding the current storage capacity to six million tons or more in the near future, allowing us not only to cater for grain storage, but to expand into the storage of other types of commodities,” said Chris Venter, the CEO of AGH, when the deal was announced.

 

According to Jacob de Villiers, MD of AFGRI Grain Management and CFO of AFGRI, this bodes well for the grain industry, the future of which already looks very positive, with maize farmers in particular increasingly embracing the rotation of their maize crop with oil seeds, boosting the output of both as a result.

 

In the case of soya beans, increasing local demand has also led to improved production, says de Villiers, which is further good news for the industry as a whole. However, the recent rain during what would have been the traditional harvest time for soya has led to the first challenging harvest period in the county for a number of years, which is challenging for farmers. “This, factored in with the increasing price and yield differential between maize and soya beans, is making the decision fairly difficult for farmers, who might be more inclined to plant maize next year. However, we are optimistic that soya bean production will rebound.”

 

Given the reality of the growing global population, the role of the grain industry in feeding not only the nation, but also South Africa’s neighbouring states, particularly Zimbabwe, where demand is high, as well as being able to export to international markets, with the hope that government-run rail and port infrastructure will continue to improve, is likely to stimulate the industry even further, says de Villiers.

 

AFGRI is of course set to play a bigger role in South Africa’s ports going forward, with the announcement in November last year that Transnet had indicated its intent to enter into a 15-year concession agreement with AFGRI for the operation and maintenance of two strategic agri-ports in the country, the Grain Elevator in the Port of East London and the Agri-Port at the Port of Durban. This initiative is aimed at breathing new life into the two terminals through refurbishment, funding, and marketing projects.

 

De Villiers stresses though that it is of utmost importance that maize production remains financially viable for South African farmers, and as such government should continue to allow free market principles to prevail.

Apart from food security, AFGRI also ensures that grains are handled and stored safely and responsibly, and with a growing worldwide demand for cleaner and safer food, will strive to stay abreast of the latest technologies to ensure it continues to adhere to world-class standards in this regard.

“As mentioned, the new storage platform will give us the ability to expand storage infrastructure in future, which includes putting up new facilities in areas where it is not currently economically feasible, but which will be important in the future,” says de Villiers.

“We need to ensure that as a responsible corporate citizen we support these areas to give them the best possible chance of success, and that farmers have a safe place to store their grain once its harvested. It goes without saying that job creation is just one of the positive spin-offs of such initiatives.”

In addition, other commodities will also be stored in future, enhancing AFGRI’s role in ensuring food security in South Africa and throughout the continent.

De Villiers concludes: “We recognise that it will take massive investment to drive food security, which remains our core vision, and this relates not only the availability of food, but also its affordability. For this reason, we are also cognisant of helping drive down the price of food to the consumer by consolidating our own costs and being open to opportunities to form consortiums with like-minded investors like we’d done on the storage platform to benefit from additional funding and other synergies.”

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/

Listen to the @KayaFM95.9 interview with Marion Shikwinya, Head of AFGRI’s Lemang Agricultural Services

Listen to the @KayaFM95.9 interview with Marion Shikwinya, Head of AFGRI’s Lemang Agricultural Services, talking to Kaya Bizz host Gugu Mfuphi about how Lemang is helping those black farmers in South Africa who ready to take the next steps towards full commercialisation. This includes access to finance, technical skills, training, equipment, mentorship and more.

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.

Papier to make rare start for Vodacom Blue Bulls

Embrose Papier will make a rare start for the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge when they take on the Windhoek Draught Welwitschias at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

Papier played in the competition three times last year before making his Springbok debut later in the year. He will replace André Warner, who was called into the Vodacom Bulls squad.

Coach Nollis Marais was forced in a number of changes to his starting team that came up short against the iSG Pumas last weekend, due to other call-ups.

Cornal Hendricks, Rosko Specman and Dylan Sage are all needed at the Vodacom Bulls, which will see a brand new backline in action.

Earll Dowrie will start at fullback, while Duncan Matthews moves from the back to wing and JT Jackson from flyhalf to centre. Cameron Hufke will make his senior debut on the wing and Theo Boshoff will start at 10. Erich Cronje is the only player who will wear the same jersey again.

Up front, Nic de Jager will make a first appearance at flank while Marais also included a fit-again Roelof Smit on the bench.

Vaughan Isaacs and Diego Appollis has also being called into action, with both playing off the bench.

The changes are par for the course, said Marais.

“There is always the danger of losing players to the Vodacom Bulls and we have to cope with that. We also get players back at times and I am sure Embrose will enjoy the time on the field with us. The Namibian side are well-coached and will be a tough opponent, but we need to make sure we get on the winning track, starting this weekend,” he said.

The team is: Earll Douwrie, Duncan Matthews, Erich Cronje, JT Jackson, Cameron Hufke, Fiela Boshoff, Embrose Papier, Muller Uys, Nic De Jager, Ruan Steenkamp (c), Aston Fortuin, Marius Verwey, Mornay Smith, Werner Fourie, Nqoba Mxoli. Replacements: Joe van Zyl, Madot Mabokela, Ruan Nortje, Roelof Smit, Theo Maree, Vaughan Isaacs, Diego Appollis