The Nation in Conversation topic “Agriculture 2035”, focusing on how new technology will change the face of agriculture as we know it today, is sure to spark debate around how to feed a burgeoning global population with natural resources that are already under pressure, as well as the sustainable development of the sector.
For AFGRI, South Africa’s leading agribusiness, innovation is one of the key aspects of remaining relevant to today’s farmers. “At AFGRI we strive to place innovation at the forefront of solutions to enhance productivity, creativity and ultimate value to customers. It is quite simply a way of doing business today,” says Chris Venter, CEO of AFGRI Group Holdings.
While innovation is encouraged across all of AFGRI’s products and services, including farming equipment and FinTech products such as the group’s eAccounts offering, AFGRI Technology Services (“ATS”) was set up some 18 months ago to focus on introducing innovation and technology across the agricultural value chain and bringing AgTech solutions to customers.
According to MD Niki Neumann, these are solutions ATS believes will help ensure both the future of agriculture and enable food security. “We are bringing together products and solutions that will solve some of agriculture’s biggest challenges. We aim to be the catalyst of innovation and technology-enabled solutions to drive sustainable agricultural growth across the African and global agricultural value chain.”
Neumann lists some of these challenges to be: the limited access to resources, finance, markets and information; increasing demand for farming efficiency – the constant demand to do more with less at a cheaper price; changing consumer demands, particularly towards increased food traceability and alternate protein sources; the demand to produce more to meet the exponential growth in the population; supply chain inefficiency and wasteful value chains; climate change, decreasing availability of land, water scarcity and changing weather patterns.
“Imagine a world where everyone had access to nutritional food. Imagine a world where 40% of the food produced is not wasted. Imagine a world where there is enough, equally dispersed for all. This is all possible through introducing innovative and inclusive business models, new technology and innovation in the sector. There’s both a positive societal impact, as well as a promising commercial opportunity that advanced, technology-driven agriculture can play, that is yet to be unlocked – agriculture can touch many lives positively.”
Neumann adds that a new frontier in agriculture has started and it’s moving faster than we imagined. “Last year alone there was a reported investment in AgTech start-ups of $10.1 billion. We are already on the back foot as a country in this space. It’s time for us to put technology and innovation forward as a key pillar of the future of the industry. It cannot be a ‘nice to have’, it needs to be adopted as a crucial enabler to the industry. We need to rethink the ordinary.”
With services uniquely centred on the concepts of “grow”, “create”, “build”, “leap” and “unite”, ATS provides a host of offerings, including:
- Innovation and technology advisory services for farmers and businesses.
- The design and co-design of new technology-driven business models, digital products and services for the sector.
- The building of new technology through co-creation and outsourcing services for Ag-specific innovation and digital activities.
“We offer start-ups and entrepreneurs the ability to scale their enterprise and technology with us. Innovation and future-proofing your business is best done by working together. Join our innovation ecosystem to connect with like-minded innovators, entrepreneurs and gain first access to game-changing technology solutions, and to talk to us about partnerships and strategic alliances.”
In the FinTech space, AFGRI has for some time led the pack amongst agricultural businesses with its afore-mentioned eAccounts offering. “In this age of technology, where most financial transactions are done through the touch of a button rather than in the presence of a teller or the bank manager, it is essential for financial services companies to offer top-notch electronic platforms from which clients can transact. eAccounts does just this – it’s a ground-breaking electronic account management solution offered to customers through UNIGRO,” explains Tinus Prinsloo, CEO of AFGRI.
Customers can, from a 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. An ability exists to calculate storage rates according to grade and grain type. Customers are also able to access and monitor their procurement contracts, which contain detailed information, as well as movement reports. Another feature enables farmers to record rainfall on their lands. Future developments on this platform include an insurance and claims functionality.
Of course, when it comes to agricultural equipment, staying at the forefront of innovation is a must. AFGRI Equipment has ensured that farmers in Africa have had access to the finest agricultural equipment through the largest single John Deere franchise on the continent since 1962. What’s more is that AFGRI Equipment can support farmers with mobile servicing and maintenance workshops, ensuring effortless management of an agricultural fleet. Workshops are manned by highly qualified personnel, accredited by John Deere.
What’s more is that to ensure farmers have ground-breaking technology to hand in order to best manage their equipment, the AFGRI Equipment and John Deere partnership are currently implementing JD Link, a near real-time telematics system connecting all makes and models of agricultural machinery in the field with the farmer’s office and mobile devices.
“The JD Link system, which AFGRI Equipment has already started rolling out to farmers, helps collate telematics and a wide range of data from all machines. Vital information to prevent downtime as an example, is available at any time to the farmer, and this, in our opinion, will improve efficiencies even further,” says Prinsloo, adding that AFGRI Equipment would be making more information available on this system in the next few weeks.
The spectacular John Deere machines, along with specialist potato equipment, will be on display at the AFGRI Equipment John Deere stand as well as the new AFGRI stand, H2 at NAMPO – we urge you to come and take look at our latest range.