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Agri-tech ‘makes Western Cape inspiring place to do business’

Agriculture is a substantial contributor to exports and employment in South Africa, the Western Cape and Drakenstein. It is however also an industry that has been suffering greatly due to the continued drought, the impact of the global economy, and local challenges.

In the second quarter of 2018, SA’s agriculture production fell by 29,2% (Stats SA). One of the tools that can give agriculture a clear competitive advantage, is agri-tech and this was the topic of the first #Drakensteinconnects networking platform, hosted on Tuesday 26 March by Drakenstein Municipality at Workshop 17, Paarl.

To deal with the knock-on effects, the agricultural industry has had to become resilient and innovative. Entrepreneurs and investors have recognised the opportunity to innovate through deploying technology in what is regarded as a previously “tech-deprived” industry.

Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro (Western Cape Provincial Trade and Investment Promotion Agency) and guest speaker at the #Drakensteinconnects event, said agri-tech showed how the future economy and traditional economic strengths can work together to grow the economy. “The Western Cape is home to the largest tech ecosystem in Africa.

“It also accounts for most of SA’s agricultural exports. When these two strengths come together, in the form of agri-tech, we show precisely why the Western Cape is such an innovative and inspiring place to do business.”

Agri-tech start-ups have so far boomed in numerous African countries, including Kenya and Nigeria. This year the trends include a new generation of farmers, where young minds and new ideas bridge the gap and open the door to innovation in technology. Developing technology, also identified as one of the trends for 2019, provides the tools and software for cutting-edge solutions such as satellite imagery, GPS-driven machinery, soil maps, drone imagery, artificial intelligence and more. Other trends include sustainability and industry networks which aim to ensure continuous growth.

“Agri-tech will result in greater crop yields, better risk management (as was evidenced through the drought) as well as early problem detection. In this way, it provides our agricultural sector with a competitive advantage that will allow it to expand further. With agriculture being a major job creator for the Cape, especially in rural areas, this is good news indeed,” said Harris.

At the #Drakensteinconnects event, Dawie Maree, Head: Agricultural Information and Marketing, First National Bank – South Africa, shared valuable agri-finance international market trends for 2019, while Stuart Reid, Head of Data Science, Aerobotics (recently named as The Best Technology Company of the Year at the Africa Tech Week), gave a fascinating private-sector perspective on agro-tech.

Drakenstein Municipality is the largest municipality in the Western Cape outside the City of Cape Town and contributes R21 billion to the national economy, according to Wesgro. Drakenstein’s top 10 exports are all agricultural products, with the top five being: grapes, citrus fruit, fruit and vegetable juices, fruit, nuts and other edible parts of plants, and wine.

Drakenstein Municipality has initiated the #Drakensteinconnects networking platform for like minded individuals and thought leaders (in particular industries) to interact through dynamic dialogue; to exchange know-how; and to explore ways of taking hands to improve the way business is conducted in Drakenstein. Its further aim is to continue to build solid partnerships with the private sector, and facilitate access to expertise for Drakenstein.

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