OUR NETWORK, YOUR OPPORTUNITY. bauma CONEXPO AFRICA, Johannesburg, Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand, October 13-16, 2021 Sub Saharan Africa’s Leading Trade Fair for Construction, Building Material, Mining, Agriculture & Forestry Machines, Machinery and Vehicles
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All around construction
Production of building materials
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Component & service suppliers
Agriculture machinery & vehichles
Forestry machinery & vehicles
Plant and equipment hire
2018 Stats 455
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EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM!
Volume 9. Issue 1. Jan/Feb 2021
News GAMBIA launches rice value-chain development project............03 Clariant’s next-generation Tonsil® 9193 FF..........................................03 New Holland appoints Direkçi as distributor in Nigeria................04 Silobela District in Midlands Devastated by Blackleg........................04 BBC launches series exploring how to feed the world...................05 Image courtesy: Victor Ndlovu
Executive Editor Nita Karume email@example.com Writers Silimina Derick, Bertha M. Contributing Writers Nqobile Bhebhe Zimbabwe Oscar Nkala Botswana Bertha M South Africa Nita Karume Kenya East Africa Advertising Executives Ken Tobby, Paul Amimo, M. Cherono Project Manager Victor Ndlovu firstname.lastname@example.org Graphic Design & Layout Faith Omudho Art Director Augustine Ombwa email@example.com Correspondents - Isabel Banda firstname.lastname@example.org Sales & Marketing Gladmore. N email@example.com Mandla M. firstname.lastname@example.org Kholwani. D email@example.com Polite Mkhize firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com East African Liaison Arobia Creative Consultancy Tel: +254 772 187334, 790 153505 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Published by : Mailing Times Media +27 11 044 8986 firstname.lastname@example.org
TRAINING Syngenta launches 2021 Leadership Academy for Agriculture Programme...................................................................................06
OPINION The role of questions on unearthing resolutions and triggering change in 2021...............................................................................07 Sowing the Seeds of Industrial Farming in Mozambique..............08
Feature Tumbling the fissure between knowing and practicing agriculture...............................................................................................................10 Aerial spraying systems for agricultural applications.........................12 BI warns against the unforeseen costs of using counterfeit bearings ...................................................................................................................14 Conveyor and elevator belts for agricultural applications.............16 The real benefits of deploying tech in the Agri-Industry...............20 Using Artificial Intelligence to Grow Avocados...................................24 Local company plays a vital role in livestock feed..............................26 The foods that reverse climate change....................................................27
Happy 2021! The agriculture sector, like all others, is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. And according to a World Bank projection of the year; “As SubSaharan African countries have managed to keep the COVID-19 virus under control with relatively low number of cases, the pandemic continues to take a toll on African lives and economies, economic activity is projected to decline by 3.3% in 2020, confirming the region’s first recession in 25 years. The substantial downturn in economic activity will cost the region at least $115 billion in output losses this year, in part caused by lower domestic consumption and investment brought on by containment measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus...” For a continent whose countries are most dependent on Agriculture for the sustenance of their economies, this is alarming. Maybe the antidote will change things? (Maybe the status quo will be maintained). Presently the world’s economy is heavily influenced by factors such as health. Now a novel virus would technically be the least ideal prevailing situation for a thriving economy. But we continue to hope for the best and do the best we can. Just how much do you know about agriculture? Could be a lot. I am guessing it’s a lot. Now, stay with me; how much of that knowledge do you put to practice? Not much of it? None of it? See where I am going with this? What if we could bridge the gap? What would it mean for agriculture- in terms of sustainability and such? Have I caught your attention now? Good. Here’s to a fruitful year for both those who know a lot about it and the ones who practice it!
Is diversifying crops the answer to feeding the world’s growing population?............................................................................................32 Inspiring a new generation of farmers to stop the world going hungry............................................................................................................34
Mailing Times Media (Pty) Ltd makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of the contents of its publications, but no warranty is made as to such accuracy and no responsibility will be borne by the publisher for the consequences of actions based on information so published. Further, opinions expr essed are not necessarily shared by Mailing Times Media (Pty) Ltd
AfDB, Fao and S.Sudan’s Government ink Protocols for $14 Million Grant To Boost Agricultural Markets
he African Development Bank has signed protocols to disburse a $14 million grant to the Government of South Sudan to boost agricultural markets in a project to be implemented by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Agricultural Markets, Value Addition and Trade Development (AMVAT) project aims to enhance agricultural productivity and boost the marketing and trade of agricultural products in South Sudan. The project will be implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in close liaison with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. The five-year project will help increase the productivity and incomes of almost 20,000 farming families in Central and Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei states, most of whom are formerly internally displaced persons who have now returned to their homes. The project will create aggregation business opportunities for farmers and traders, including women and youth, and provide them with new skills and the agro-processing equipment they need to produce competitive products. Twenty
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aggregation business centers will serve as ‘onestop shops’ where farmers can access extension services and connect to markets for their valueadded products. Farmer groups joining the aggregation centers will have their products not only tested and quality certified, but also traded with the private sector on their behalf. “A diversified economy away from oil and longterm growth depends on promoting agribusiness development,” said Athian Ding Athian, South Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Planning at the signing ceremony, thanking the African Development Bank for its growing assistance. “With the support from our partners, we are building an improved marketing and trade environment for agribusinesses, increasing people’s incomes and creating new jobs, particularly for the youth.” The Bank’s Country Manager for South Sudan, Benedict Kanu, noted that “a key factor explaining Africa’s and indeed South Sudan’s low level of agricultural value addition is the inefficient marketing infrastructure. This prevents farmers and processors from realizing the full value of their produce, even in their raw form.”
South Sudan has considerable unrealized agricultural potential, but the effects of continued violence combined with unprecedented flooding have seriously damaged food production, resulting in a huge food import bill. “Thanks to this generous contribution from the African Development Bank, farmers will move faster from subsistence to commercial agriculture by having access to new technologies, markets and linkages with other services and actors,” said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan. Despite the country’s agricultural potential and 78 percent of the population employed in agriculture, the sector contributes only one-tenth of the GDP of South Sudan. Agricultural and food products struggle to find their way into international markets due partly to the lack of adequate food quality controls. The Bank and FAO are partnering with government bodies to strengthen the safety and quality of local agricultural products. To this end, two mini testing laboratories will be established in Central and Eastern Equatoria to enable farmers to test and certify their value-added products, particularly cereals, oilseeds and maize, before selling them on various markets.
GAMBIA launches us $30m rice value-chain development project
he government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Agriculture on Wednesday launched an ambitious regional rice valuechain development project worth about 30 million dollars at a local hotel. Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), BADEA and the government of The Gambia is funding the project, which seeks to address the value chain in rice and reduce rice importation. At the launch, Amie Fabureh, minister of Agriculture said that IsDB and BADEA are providing the necessary support to help unleash the potential inherent in The Gambian agriculture sector, which she said, to a larger extent, has been acknowledged as a key growth pole for the nation’s economic and social development. “The IsDB received official request from Government of The Gambia (GoTG) under the
leadership of His Excellency President Adama Barrow on 24th of December 2017 to support the development of its rice sector to realise the food self-sufficiency drive.” The project, Minister Fabureh noted, would significantly contribute to reducing high importation rate of rice, thereby enhancing economic growth through improved production, processing, and marketing, and ensuring private sector participation. This project would also support government’s efforts to substantially increase the production and productivity of rice using the private sector value chain led approach and increase smallholder farmer’s income and reduce poverty. The agriculture minister indicated that the project is mainly on land development and will be
implemented in Central River and Upper River Regions in both tidal and pump irrigation. “Four villages in Niani and three villages in Sami in CRR north will benefit from the project as well as Pacharr in Lower Fulladu in CRRsouth. Seven villages in the Upper River region will also benefit and a total of 3,265hectares will be developed.”
Clariant’s next-generation Tonsil® 9193 FF improves cost efficiency of feedstock pre-treatment
lariant’s recently launched Tonsil 9193 FF helps to improve the cost performance ratio for the pre-treatment of diverse oil feedstocks. This next-generation adsorbent answers the growing demand for bio- and renewable fuel production with an adaptive solution for the purification of a wide variety of feedstock sources including crop-based oils, animal fats or other waste streams. Erik Wolski, Global Head of Marketing Purification at Clariant Functional Minerals, commented: “Our customers’ challenge is to remain flexible when sourcing feedstocks without compromising their production processes. Through innovation, Clariant addresses these challenges and constantly develops its purification portfolio to meet the increased requirements of multiple feedstock sourcing.” As a result of the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), the demand for renewable diesel is outpacing the supply
of conventional feedstock sources such as vegetable oil. In response, renewable diesel producers are increasingly turning to alternative sources, such as used cooking oil (UCO), animal fat, and palm oil mill effluent (POME). But these differ significantly in quality and pose new challenges for the production processes. Pre-treatment is a vital step for removing contaminants that would compromise and shorten the lifespan of the catalyst used in diesel transformation. Clariant has developed the specialty adsorbent Tonsil 9193 FF to act as a safety barrier, which is adapted to the range of contaminants that are present in these diverse feedstocks. For advanced feedstocks with changing quality characteristics, the adsorbent’s reactiveness to dosing is especially relevant. The Tonsil product line is made using sustainably mined bentonite clay, which enables enhanced filtration at improved dosage requirements.
Tonsil 9193 FF has been designed to specifically optimize the cost effectiveness of the process by helping to achieve an ideal balance between selective removal of contaminants, minimal feedstock losses, and prevention of process bottlenecks. These improved properties facilitate the adsorption of phospholipids (gums), soaps, large polar/non-polar compounds, and traces of heavy metals in these advanced feedstocks. The filtration performance is “FF”-grade (Fast Filtration) and the filtration time averages between 40 and 70 seconds (according to the standard method BE 0013). Carlos Rodriguez, Head of Product Management & Technical Sales EMEA at Clariant, puts it in a nutshell as follows: “Tonsil 9193 FF is a safeguard for customers who have to face uncertain qualities in biodiesel pre-treatment.” Tonsil 9193 FF is available in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa), with secure product supply from four EMEA plants. This product provides a solution to the problem of feedstock variability and gives producers a large flexibility in feedstock sourcing, as well as increased confidence in achieving robust production processes.
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New Holland appoints Direkçi Group as distributor in Nigeria Combining New Holland’s global expertise with Direkçi Group’s knowledge of the Nigerian market will help accelerate progress in the nation’s important agricultural sector.
ew Holland Agriculture has appointed Direkçi Group as its distributor in Nigeria. This new partnership brings a broad range of mechanized solutions to help improve productivity in one of the country’s most important industries. New Holland has more than 125 years’ experience as a world-leading agricultural equipment brand. Direkçi Group has been successfully trading in various industry sectors, in Nigeria and internationally, since 1983.
Özkan Eren, Head of Business for New Holland Middle East and Africa, said: “We are very excited about this collaboration. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy in Nigeria and with the excellent support of our dealer we are ready to revitalize this sector. New Holland’s equipment supports food production and infrastructure construction all around the world - vital responsibilities in which we help our customers achieve their critical missions.”
Direkçi Group’s dealership in Nigeria expects the most popular New Holland products to be the world-renowned TT-series tractors (55 or 75 HP), which complement power with economy; TD Straddle tractors (59 to 98 HP), which are suitable for a wide range of applications; and the TC series of combine harvesters, which provide dependable performance for mixed and smallscale farmers in varied crop conditions.
Mehmet Özgür Direkçi, CEO of Direkçi Group, commented: “Nigeria’s agricultural industry needs to increase production to feed the country’s growing population. We help customers throughout the world make better choices on how to set up and run their farms successfully and our collaboration with New Holland will accelerate this progress in Nigeria. We aim to significantly increase mechanization in Nigerian agriculture,
Silobela District in Midlands Devastated by Blackleg
which will help farmers improve productivity and profitability.” Agriculture accounts for more than 20 percent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product. Approximately 70 percent of the nation’s households participate in crop farming and about 40 percent own or raise livestock. The country is a leading grower of numerous types of crop, including palm oil, cocoa beans, pineapple, and sorghum.
“Farmers must team up and buy the vaccine to control the disease, it is a winter disease that thrives in humid conditions and must be controlled before the outbreak spreads,’’ Namarare said. Donsa ward 29 councillor, Willard Moyo confirmed that the disease was killing their cattle in large numbers.He said farmers were unable to buy vaccines to contain the outbreak due to the economic hardships affecting the country, which have been worsened by the COVID-19-induced lockdown.
severe blackleg disease outbreak has hit Silobela, with cattle farmers in the area suspecting that it could have been triggered by wet conditions caused by incessant rains in the country. The coming of the rainy season brings relief and joy to most farmers across the length and breadth of the country. But this joy can be short-lived or tinkered with headaches to livestock farmers who lose their stock to disease outbreaks. The rainfall
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“Our cattle have started succumbing to the blackleg disease in large numbers. Farmers do not have money to buy the vaccine as it is supposed to be bought only in large quantities,” Moyo said. season is characterised by soil diseases and tickborne diseases. Blackleg is an acute, febrile, highly fatal disease of cattle and sheep caused by Clostridium chauvoei and characterized by emphysematous swelling, commonly affecting heavy muscles (clostridial myositis). It is found worldwide. Silobela district veterinary officer Marvis Namarare confirmed that the disease had affected the whole district due to the rains.
“This is a challenge because their children in the diaspora, who used to support them, are also on lockdown.’ He said they were facing transport challenges to travel to Kwekwe to buy important items such as vaccines due to lack of clearance letters from the police. Moyo said due to such challenges, farmers in Silobela had resorted to traditional methods of pouring hot water on the affected cattle in a bid to cure the disease.
BBC launches series exploring how to feed the world in 2021 and beyond
own and cultivate coffee bushes, selling roasted beans directly to suppliers.
ith the global population expected to rise to 10 billion in the next 30 years, the UN predicts that food production will need to double by 2050. How can this be done in an environmentally sustainable way, given the threat that climate change poses to our land and to food production? How can we avoid a catastrophic food disaster that could leave millions starving? The issue was brought into sharp focus in 2020 when travel restrictions and the dearth of labour, caused by Covid-19, led to the shortage of some food stuffs across the world. Suddenly we were all forced to sit up and take notice of where our food comes from and how it is produced. It was a timely warning of the dangers of the food insecurity crisis we are all threatened with. In a new eight-part multi-platform series called Follow the Food, sponsored by Corteva Agriscience™, BBC World News and BBC.com explore the stories behind feeding the world’s ever-growing population. Presented by renowned Botanist James Wong, the series will examine how farming, science, AI technology and the consumer can overcome this profound challenge and asks whether we can do so in a way that doesn’t harm the planet. Follow the Food questions whether agriculture could provide the solution to replenishing our planet’s water supply, utilising the 50 thousand different edible plants available or reforesting our planet and asks whether agriculture has the power to reverse our course and allow us to produce more from less. From a transformative water conservation project in India to the scientists breeding super plants in California, Follow the Food takes audiences on a journey from farm to fork. James Wong, ethnobotanist and presenter of Follow the Food, said: “Incredibly, our food system - from the farmers and scientists to the shelf-stackers and truck drivers - ensured a continuous, affordable, safe and adequate food supply throughout the global pandemic. The resilience of the food system, and its ability to keep functioning in the face of unprecedented challenges, is testament to its spectacular resilience. But there are more challenges to come, and we examine how those in the food industry are adapting to keep us fed into the future.”
In episode four, Follow the Food investigates how farmers, scientists and engineers are changing the way agriculture interacts with water - the way it’s used, sourced and stored. James meets the developers who are pioneering a much less water-consuming method of drip irrigation to grow rice. Also in this episode, the programme travels to India, one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, to examine an innovative new water harvesting technique. The multi-platform series includes eight half-hour programmes on BBC World News and eight indepth articles on BBC Future. Each story brings audiences insights into what we’re eating, where it came from and how it was produced, visiting experts across the world. In episode one, James Wong examines how farmers are digging deeper to unlock the hidden potential of their land to mitigate and potentially even reverse climate change. He speaks to the farmers on the frontline, using innovative techniques that produce plentiful food with as little impact as possible. From the US, there’s a look at the latest in precision Ag - Blue River’s smart machines that ‘see and spray’, making decisions about individual plants, dramatically reducing emissions. In episode two, Follow the Food visits Kew Gardens in the UK to find out how the team there are future-proofing the Cavendish banana - the variety most of us eat. New varieties are also being cultivated in Kenya; but can any be produced on a large enough scale, provide an income for the farming community and taste good? James also visits the Designing Future Wheat programme, which is pioneering a new breed of crop using gene-editing technology to reduce the impact of mildew. In episode three, James meets young members of the climate-conscious tech-savvy generation who are embracing and transforming farming by bringing new skills and ideas into play. In California, we hear about how new technology allows young farm workers to make a profit from owning their own land, without the economic pitfall of leasing fields. And in Kenya, James speaks to the people at Zawadi Coffee to find out how their Fairtrade initiative is enabling women to
In episode five, James speaks to the CEO of General Mills to learn how the company is enriching overworked land using regenerative agriculture. James also speaks to people behind The Grand African Savannah Green Up Project, hailed as the biggest land restoration project the world has ever seen, to find out how agroforestry is bringing soil back to life. In episode six, James Wong meets the innovative growers who have created global, full-scale urban farming operations. He finds out how La Caverne, a unique urban farm in Paris, is growing a tonne of mushrooms and greens each day beneath the city’s streets. In the US, vertical farming is beginning to make a real impact and James explores how rapidly increasing knowledge and technology in this field will assist its expansion. In episode seven, Follow the Food looks at how big data is helping farmers produce more and better food. James examines the technology that can assess thousands of plants daily, from satellites to planes, drones to robots. He investigates how collecting live data can increase yields and meets a young female engineer who’s saving our bees, by the millions, using smart pollination. In episode eight, the final episode of the series, James focuses on one of the most important people in our food system – the consumer. He looks at the rise of the meatless meat industry, said to be worth $2.5 billion by 2023. James looks at what ‘carbon footprint’ really means and finds out how a UK food producer is leading the way in communicating this information on their packaging. And, as the journey into the future of food concludes, James finds out how new startup, Wasteless, is helping supermarkets recapture the full value of perishable products and reduce food waste through AI-powered dynamic pricing.
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Syngenta launches 2021 Leadership Academy for Agriculture Programme
ith the right leadership, agriculture can heal South Africa - Twenty-eight agriculturists, from grain producers and agri-researchers to a Brahman stud manager and even a beekeeper, started their journey into leadership mastery. This group, which represents the rich diversity of South Africa’s agriculture sector, is the 2021 class of the ninth annual Leadership Academy for Agriculture programme, sponsored by Syngenta South Africa. “The Academy is our investment in the future of South African agriculture, especially now when food security is more important than ever as we deal with a global pandemic,” says Ben Schoonwinkel, head of marketing for Syngenta South Africa. “Our objective is to help shape the future of agriculture by equipping the next generation of leaders across the agriculture spectrum to address the real-life challenges that confront our industry. Judging by the contribution that the more than 200 alumni are making, we are indeed impacting the sector positively.” The Leadership Academy for Agriculture programme is supported by Grain SA and is presented in three modules of three to four days each, during which the candidates work in groups
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to research and present solutions to topical issues facing the local agriculture sector. The curriculum is developed and facilitated by Thinking Fusion Africa, with the Northwest University Business School as academic partner. Candidates who complete the course therefore add a highly accredited leadership programme to their portfolio of academic achievements. The impact and reputation of the programme are attested to by the fact that more than 300 young career agriculturists applied to be included in the class of 2021. Many of them were inspired to do so by alumni who described the programme as “demanding” and “rewarding” in equal measure. In his address, Jannie de Villiers, CEO of Grain SA, emphasised the importance of the programme being aimed at young agriprofessionals. He recalled experiencing the leadership development programme Syngenta presented for senior American producers in August 2011. “I was hugely impressed, but it was clear to me that we shouldn’t pour resources into teaching old dogs new tricks.” Syngenta South Africa supported De Villiers’ conviction that a leadership development programme for the local agri-market had to focus
on the younger generation, says Schoonwinkel. “We need passionate leaders who have the energy and the courage to accept the challenge to drive change in the sector.” Professor René Uys from Thinking Fusion Africa, who was recently appointed as a professor of practice at the NWU Business School on the strength of her work with the Leadership Academy, says that personal attributes and diversity were taken into account in the selection process. “This business leadership development programme serves the entire agriculture sector, and we have seen in previous programmes that the more diverse the group is, the more the delegates are able to engage with real-life industry challenges in innovative ways,” she says. While the purpose of the programme is to equip agri-professionals with the skills to tackle the industry’s challenges, its dream is for agriculture to be the unifying force and leader of economic growth in South Africa. “I believe that agriculture can heal this country, and my mantra is that leaders make things better,” said De Villiers. This, he said, is achieved when individuals change their mindset and behaviour, learn to listen and are open to participate and develop.
The role of questions on unearthing resolutions and triggering change in 2021 By Innocent Mhangarai
he majority of households and business people have made resolutions for the year 2021, this calls for close attention as there is need to dwell more on questions that open doors, unearth answers and trigger positive change among producers, traders in rural economies and other value chain actors in developing countries. In quest for tools and systems to advance practices, we should not overlook the fact that questions are the most authoritative armaments in breaking down barricades, realizing unseen paradoxes, cracking riddles and picturing new ways of doing things in the new normal enchanted by the corona virus pandemic. The COVID-19
pandemic has persuaded lock downs that have exposed the notch to which formal and informal economies in Africa do not work in seclusion but are more like doppelgangers. New corona virus cases continue to threaten lives across the globe as authorities lock down countries to prevent community level transmissions with dire consequences for local and national economies. Various group structures within the society have been affected differently by the virus and currently governments are focusing more on strengthening their systems to be better able to deal with the virus while reducing new infections and recovery mechanisms for those already
affected. Therefore, the majority of African economies are designed in a manner that if one chain of supply is locked down is affects the entire value chain. Below is a sample of questions that households and institutions should try to answer in 2021: 1. How do small to medium enterprises and farmers in rural ecologies crack obstacles into strong points? 2. How can value chain actors stay stupendously positive in difficult times like in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic? 3. Why should we divulge the cost of bad statistics to policy makers and different value chain actors? 4. Meanwhile marginal societies in developing countries do not have information fountains, is it conceivable that knowledge is stored in their genes? Will that prevailing data be able to reach the oncoming generations? 5. How can ordinary people be supported in order to tell their captivating stories? 6. How do we use informal markets to inspire consumption behaviours and buying patterns? 7. To what extent are structured value chains the only idyllic method of organizing African ways of conducting business? For many years there is a strong assumption that for one to succeed in their business, they must be doing contract-based production. Is it rhetoric or reality? Advancing beyond business obstructions in 2021 There is no hesitation that many general dealers and traders in diverse rural economies experienced recurrent distresses in different value chains due to market catastrophe as a result of lock downs and curfews amongst other factors. Nevertheless, questioning and finding answers for the right queries may empower them to move outside obstructions in 2021. The accurate inquiries are not only an expression of inquisitiveness which buttresses connection, fostering self-effacement and inspiring peers. They crack admittance to large puddles of facts and dispositions that can apprise decision making and advance day-to-day happenings towards advanced progress in 2021 and the coming years.
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Sowing the Seeds of Industrial Farming in Mozambique Commercial farming is one of the highest-growth sectors in Mozambique, yet only 16% of land suitable for agriculture is being cultivated By Grace Goodrich
ith fertile river valleys, expansive coastal lowlands and the prolific Zambezi River as a source of irrigation, Mozambique is considered a mecca for crop cultivation, with climatic conditions catering to a diverse range of agricultural products. Agriculture represents the second-largest sector of the Mozambican economy – accounting for more than 25% of GDP and employing 80% of the labor force – and is supported by staple crops including maize, cassava, rice, nuts, cotton, coffee, sugar and tobacco. Maize and cassava, for example, are grown by 80% of all Mozambican small-scale farmers and make up more than one-third of cultivated land. Yet the sector remains confined to subsistence farming largely due to a lack of investment, which impedes the development of critical infrastructure required to extend farming practices outside of the individual household. In fact, smallholder farmers in Mozambique account for 95% of agricultural production, while roughly 400 commercial farmers – primarily producing sugar, soybeans, bananas, rice, vegetables, nuts, cotton and tobacco – account for the remaining five percent. With only 16% of land suitable for farming currently being cultivated – combined with a 1,500-mile coastline that enables export to Middle Eastern and Asian markets via ocean ports – Mozambique boasts considerable potential for large-scale, industrialized farming both in-country and for regional export. From Net Importer to Net Exporter A key constraint to the development of commercial agriculture in Mozambique is limited infrastructure: insufficient roads, railway and ports, antiquated farming practices and high vulnerability to drought, floods and cyclones, leaving the sector susceptible to external shocks.
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While discovery of Mozambican gas has accelerated energy infrastructure growth since commercial reserves were discovered in 2011, domestic transport and logistics sectors remain underdeveloped, leading to longer lead times and higher costs associated with storage and warehousing. Moreover, limited electricity access and high fuel prices – given that the country relies on imported refined petroleum derivatives – can increase product costs by 1020% per kilogram. To render small-scale farmers more resilient to climate change and improve farming techniques, resource-smart technologies such as drip systems, pumps, ultraviolet plastic filtration and post-harvest storage have been implemented and met with intermediate success, yet sustained knowledge and technology transfer remains needed. Despite its considerable export potential to the wider region, Mozambique carries a significant trade deficit, importing capitalintensive goods such as farming and transport equipment, along with processed produce, meat and livestock from its Southern African Development Community neighbors. As a result, integrated value chains that facilitate the manufacturing of cash crops – cashews, tobacco and sugar – stand to generate incountry value by refining raw agricultural goods into consumable products and establishing domestic and regional consumer markets in the process. Improved access to financial services and credit – in which smallholder farmers and small- and medium-sized enterprises can grow their businesses and access critical capital for improved farming technologies – would also serve to alleviate rural poverty and drive financial inclusion. Natural Gas to Drive Expansion Ongoing gas monetization initiatives
Mozambique have a direct impact on the scale and expansion of industrial agriculture in the country, in addition to the potential that gas-to-power offers to power irrigation pumps, dry crops, heat greenhouses and so forth. Under the administration of President Filipe Nyusi, natural gas has been positioned not as an end within itself, but rather as a means of generating long-term economic diversification, skills development and job creation across energy, agriculture, agro-processing, manufacturing and construction sectors. President Nyusi’s focus on agro-industry and agro-chemistry seeks to achieve “zero hunger” in the country through the cultivation of self-sufficient farming and improved access to infrastructure. More specifically, natural gas offers the ability to reduce costs of food production (and importation) and establish large-scale industrial farming through the development of locally manufactured chemical fertilizers. Natural gas – of which Mozambique holds 100 trillion cubic feet of recoverable reserves – plays an integral role in fertilizer production, as it is used as a primary raw material for the production of liquid ammonia and resulting carbon dioxide gas, which is then combined to create urea fertilizer. Fertilization not only improves crop yields, but also boosts agricultural profitability and nutrient density. With enhanced crop efficiency and the early seeds of a downstream and manufacturing industry, Mozambique could serve as a regional – and even international – player in food production and security, a transition facilitated by the African Continental Free Trade Area that widens the reach of domestic agriculture and industry. For importdependent African countries like Mozambique, food and energy security have risen to the forefront of the national agenda in the wake of COVID-19 and disruptions to regional and global supply chains.
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Tumbling the fissure between knowing and practicing agriculture By Innocent Mhangarai
griculture and rural development are faced with various challenges and these have continued from one generation to another. One of the major challenges associated with agriculture and rural development is narrowing the gap that exists between what is known and what is done or put into practice. In most cases farmers practice farming and construes it as they are doing farming as a business. One of the critical questions to ask farmers is do they practice what they know or do they know what they are practicing? As an outcome, most interventions in agricultural and rural development have realized worrying achievements. Therefore, scheming operative ways of converting knowledge into performances is one of the actions that farmers ought to be invigorated to implement. Revitalizing rival bases of information Formal knowledge structures underlines evidence that is congregated through formal research procedures, smallholder farmers and agro dealers and other relevant stakeholders are exposed to varied rival sources of data and information. Through capacitation, education
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and well as look and learn outings, farmers give the impression of being cognizant that there is a line between crop and livestock explorations and these are sovereign of each other. As an upshot, the mainstream of small holder farmers who do integrated crop and livestock production states that they are not getting pleasing answers as findings are independent of each other. Nevertheless, it is significant to note that formal and informal investigations disclose the merits and demerits of many agricultural innovations and practices such as artificial insemination, climate smart farming and contract farming among others. However, the absence of tangible ripostes pertaining what works better for them demonstrates paradoxes which smallholder farmers frequently repeat around and merge with their indigenous knowledge. Refining storage facilities Small quantities of supplies produced by smallholder farmers brands it cost effective to make the most and invest in storage facilities. The majority of farmers keep their produce in
verandas, unoccupied rooms, roof tops and also at the back of their houses. As a result, commodities that are stored in this manner are not ideal for the market as they are exposed to soiling among other factors.
In cases where smallholder farmers are proficient to doubling up their level of production, they are diffident as they are limited by their storage capacity. In the end they produce smaller quantities for subsistence purposes and if they occur to get surplus, they sell at farm gate.
The interlude between knowledge production and its application Studies cannot linger to be motivated exclusively by the inquisitiveness of scholars but ponders the aptitude of users of findings to embrace the new actualities and make use of them. Prominent is the fact that failure to discourse the glitches faced by smallholder farmers and other actors in the value chain is the key cause why some results from different researches are on no occasion used. This necessitates a holistic approach where different value chain actors send their diverse perceptions in order to produce valuable contributions to the body of knowledge. Most farmers and other actors in the value chain strongly believe that findings from researches must not only augment the scientific body of knowledge but must be socially dynamic.
Farmers recognize that if they invest in storage facilities, they have a competitive advantage of producing hefty quantities which will enable them to tap into the market and enjoy their share of returns. The question is, are farmers practicing what they know?
The genesis of researches must be stirred by matters and anxieties of societies rather than singling out topics and benefits of scholars. The detach between knowledge production and application has led to in numerous actors in value chains being disgruntled by the restrictions
Furthermore, the limited storage space that is found at the farmer’s homestead limits the amount of produce they get per season. Imperative to note is the fact that availability of storage facilities endorses upgraded thruput.
of hypothetical methods to the generation of knowledge. As a result, one of the major elucidations why there is diminutive growth in agriculture and rural development is that findings from studies continues to treat all glitches as straight-lined. Hitherto, utmost agricultural encounters do not have a distinct cause effect connection. Some happenings may seem small but they have a huge impact on agricultural production and the bionetwork for example the outburst of veld fires. Therefore, most of these multifaceted glitches cannot be addressed by researchers without insight and first-hand experience from farmers who are on the ground. In most cases, farmers are simply treated as sources of data in the processes of research and also as dutiful receivers of evidence that is circulated to them. In order to close the gap between knowing and practicing agriculture researchers and users of knowledge should join forces in classifying persistent areas of research that are unified with background motion.
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January - February 2021 | 11
Aerial spraying systems for agricultural applications
erial application, or what is informally referred to as crop dusting, involves spraying crops with crop protection products from an agricultural aircraft. Planting certain types of seed are also included in aerial application. The specific spreading of fertilizer is also known as aerial topdressing in some countries. Many countries have severely limited aerial application of pesticides and other products because of environmental and public health hazards like spray drift.
timely, efficient, and effective crop protection product applications have made aerial a valuable addition to and in some cases, alternative to ground approaches.
inevitably damages the crop, sometimes up to five percent of the plants. That damage can reduce crop yield much more than the cost of an aerial application.
The Advantages Several advantages of aerial, including the ability to treat more acres per day than ground rigs; the ability to make extensive applications in busy, narrow treatment windows, especially if weather/ soil conditions are unfavourable.
Today’s crop dusting business is completely different, with million-dollar turbine-engine planes, intricate GPS systems for planning the row flights and triggering the sprayers, and well-trained, experienced pilots. But a number of factors have fostered explosive growth in the aerial segment these past few years. The advent of new corn fungicides designed to be applied at tassel has taken aerial work to a new level. Plus, advances in flight technology that allow for more
Another advantage of aerial application is no soil compaction. Driving ground equipment through a field leaves wheel tracks and compacts soil particles, reducing pore space and restricting oxygen and water movement into and through the soil and root zone. That compaction can be particularly bad on wet soils, sometimes making the soil like a brick and reducing yields. Wet soils never stop aerial applicators from spraying. Moving ground equipment through a field also
The extra height above the crop canopy with aerial application can help create a more uniform spray pattern. Nozzles can be too close to their target and give an uneven application, especially when a ground boom does not stay level in rough and uneven terrain. Aerial application can also apply seed and dry fertilizer formulations more uniformly than ground application, giving higher yield potential.
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Many pesticides are only effective at specific pest and crop growth stages. If a grower misses that application window, those pesticides may not work and the crop can be lost. Once application starts, aerial applicators can apply large areas much faster, spraying more acres in an hour than a ground applicator can in a day. The ability to
apply pesticides rapidly at their optimum time is a big advantage for aerial application The past few years have also brought a host of advances in mapping software, the most notable being the ability to tie orders to georeferenced fields. Operators can create job maps in their offices more easily, then download them onto memory sticks for pilots to load in the computer in the cockpit. Today’s ag aircraft use sophisticated precision application equipment such as GPS (global positioning systems), GIS (geographical information systems), real time meteorological systems, variable-rate flow control valves, singleboom shutoff valves and smokers to identify wind speed and direction.
he use of aircraft to control important pests and diseases through selective pesticide application plays a vital role across Africa. Agriculture is one of the key users of this technology, but clear benefits for public health and migrant pest control operations have made it an indispensable tool across these applications as well. The clear advantage of aerial application is its capability to rapidly treat large areas, an essential requirement of effective pest control. A wide range of aircraft applications are currently undertaken in African agriculture, from sugarcane ripening to fungicide applications in banana plantations. Many aerial applications necessitate the use of Low or Ultra Low Volumes (LV/ ULV). This is best achieved with rotary atomisers, also known as Controlled Droplet Application (CDA). The tight control of droplet sizes from this technology allows selection of the optimum droplet size for the target, minimising wastage to under- and over-sized droplets and increasing efficiency. Aerial rotary atomisers are either wind-driven (for fixed-wing aircraft and fast helicopters) or electrically driven (for slower helicopters). Ground-based methods for rapid large-scale applications (or at least those using higher water volumes) are very labour intensive. Although aerial applications require the use
of highly qualified personnel, they scale up very effectively- reducing the workforce and co-ordination requirements in effectively targeting large areas. One of the clear successes for aerial pest control for Africa has been the control of the tsetse fly. The largescale rapid suppression of tsetse fly provided by aerial application is the first step in effective control, usually followed by odour baited traps and treated cattle to prevent re-invasion. This combination method was very successfully employed in northern Zimbabwe in the 1980s and 1990s, opening areas for agriculture which were previously tsetse fly ‘no-go’ zones. Aerial application has also found success in both larviciding and adulticiding applications for mosquito control. In addition to agriculture and public health, aerial application is often an integral part of migrant pest control programs. For example, locust swarms and hopper bands are often distributed over vast, remote areas, requiring the rapid, large scale treatment of aerial application to achieve effective control. During the current locust plague, Micron’s Micronair aerial equipment has once again proved successful in protecting agricultural crops from devastation. Recently, there has been increased interest in UAVs for aerial spraying. Due to their limited payload and battery life, current platforms will
likely remain limited to small scale operations, relying on LV and ULV application to remain cost-effective. However, larger scale UAVs currently in development may see deployment in similar applications to those covered by conventional aircraft. It
is likely these larger scale UAVs will be able to adopt conventional aerial application equipment. However, for the time being, manned aircraft application is certainly here to stay and remain an essential tool across agriculture and pest control.
A comprehensive range of specialist CDA rotary atomiser systems for ULV and Low Volume aerial spraying.
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January - February 2021 | 13
BI warns against the unforeseen costs of using counterfeit bearings
owntime, consequential damage, reduced lifespan, poor performance and safety are just some of the dangers of using counterfeit bearings, which are increasingly prevalent across South African industry, warns Andrew Altree, Product Manager at leading supplier Bearings International (BI). Major bearing brands distributed by BI included are FAG and INA. Customers sometimes think they can nab genuine parts in a ‘closing’ sale, without realising that they might just have acquired counterfeits in the search for a quick bargain. If they are indeed aware of the fact that they are buying counterfeits, the main motivation seems to be buying good quality at a reduced price. Another factor is availability, which is normally subject to lead times due to the complex processes involved in bearing manufacturing. While counterfeit bearings seem to originate mainly from China, they are not limited to this source, stresses Altree. “We know that counterfeits are brought to market using many ways to veil the real origin of the goods. These counterfeits are normally readily available and actively marketed by the counterfeiters. As far as we know, the production standards in most cases are far lower than the original products. The counterfeiters do not care whether or not the product meets all technical requirements.” Counterfeits are not covered by any warranty offered by the brand owner, warns Altree. This negatively impacts service contracts as anticipated, as the life expectancy will not be achieved, resulting in continuous downtime and
associated costs. In addition, there are severe negative health and safety implications in all applications when installing counterfeit bearings. “Installers and suppliers of these counterfeit products could face legal action and be held liable criminally and/or financially. Here one has to bear in mind that claims for recourse against the suppliers of counterfeits are almost futile,” points out Altree.
Authorised distributors such as BI are trained to support customers with regard to their complete bearing requirements, from technical information to determining the best bearing for a particular application, as well as being able to handle the products in the correct manner, such as storage conditions. This invariably means that bearings supplied via authorised distributors are fully supported technically and guaranteed by both the authorised distributor and brand owner. BI is working closely with brand owners with regard to authentication services and providing accurate information. If any customer suspects that they have received counterfeits, they are requested to get in touch with the relevant brand protection team of the brand owner. Additional information in this regard can be obtained from BI itself. For example, any suspected counterfeit FAG and INA bearings can be reported at piracy@ schaeffler.com. Customers can also download the Schaeffler OrginCheck App for free in order to authenticate any Schaeffler products or to contact specialised experts for advice.
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AGRO-ECOLOGY: THE WEALTH OF THE SOIL BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITY AN UNESTIMABLE TREASURE ! In the future, agricultural production should be intensified sustainably and with respect for the environment.
Who are FCA Fertilisants and Fertilux ?
Proven by the results of official experiments, the performances of FCA Fertilisants and Fertilux solutions provide an answer in the African context.
SUMMARY : Eco-friendly fertilisation has several advantages :
ll the continents, and especially Africa, should take on a challenge for the future :
To feed more and more populations under increasingly difficult soil and climatic conditions. The diversity of soil microorganisms allows them to occupy all environments, even extreme. Micro-organisms are present in the most acidic soils, basic soils, desert environments, saline soils, demonstrating activities involved in ecological processes essential for human activities. The massive use of synthetic products is likely to profoundly modify the interactions between soil fauna and plant / microorganism symbiosis. Declining populations of mycorhizal fungi imply poorer plant nutrition and therefore require higher fertilization with significant ecological and economic costs. Consequently, adopting practices favorable to the development of soil micro-organisms (fungi, telluric bacteria, earthworms, etc.) is the essential condition for maintaining the profitability of agricultural activity, for the necessary increase in production and respect for ecological balances.
> An increase in yield Located in the middle of Europe, the geographic position of their production sites gives FCA Fertilisants and Fertilux direct access to natural raw materials for the agro-industry and microbiology. Through their patented know-how in soil life biostimulation technologies, FCA Fertilisants and Fertilux enable farmers to take the initiative towards a naturally fertile agriculture by following four principles : Enriching soil fertility Significantly reducing the carbon effect in comparison to standard fertilisers Increasing the effectiveness of inputs Decreasing the environmental impact
What are the solutions ? The solutions for eco-friendly fertilisation provided by FCA Fertilisants and Fertilux stabilise the soil by including nutrients and nourishing the microorganisms that are naturally present. Through a symbiotic relationship with plants, these microorganisms shape plant health in two ways : By helping to fight off diseases or pests By reinforcing the resistance to biotic and abiotic stress
> Sustainable strengthening of soil and plant health > Perpetuation of the biological, physical and chemical fertility of the soil FCA Fertilisants and Fertilux are dedicated to the preservation of relations with farmers and devotedly carry out tests each year directly on "pilot" farms in order to continuously evaluate the pertinence of their solutions and optimise their recommendations and fertilisation programmes. We invite you to follow the results of these tests and partnerships in the next issues of Farmers Review of Africa...
To contact us : Mr. Sébastien DAVID email@example.com +126.96.36.199.54.62 Mr. Christophe MONNOT firstname.lastname@example.org +188.8.131.52.68.27
Conveyor and elevator belts for agricultural applications
n today’s world where transportation is perhaps one of the most elements for the business to succeed, people are always in search of better, faster and cost effective technique of transporting, tracking and processing their goods. In the recent years, conveyor belt system has emerged as one of the best ways of transporting products. These belts are specially designed in order to cater the for the needs of the agricultural world. They are not only cost effective, but also efficient. They have the ability to adjust to any type of temperature. Different conveyor belts are used to perform agriculture applications. When deciding on which conveyor system best suits your needs, a key consideration is the material being transported. Some important characteristics to consider are size, flowability, abrasiveness, corrosiveness, moisture content, and the temperature at which it must be kept. The composition of the material, if powders, granules, pellets, fibers, or flakes are being conveyed, should also be considered, along with the particle size, weight, and density. The function of the conveyor system itself may vary. The two main categories of moving material through a process are conveying and feeding. Conveying is the moving of materials from one or more pickup points to one or more drop points. The desired window of time for this movement should be considered, as well as the amount of pickup and drop points, the amount of material being moved, and whether or not cross-contamination between multiple materials
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is a concern. Feeding is more time sensitive and requires more precise systems than conveying. Material is usually moved from one pickup point to one drop point. The product being moved may have to be delivered in batches, or at a controlled, continuous rate. An essential factor to consider before the selection of a conveyor system is the environment in which it will be used. High humidity, temperature, vibration, pressure, fragile or hazardous materials, and flammable products in the facility should all be discussed with a conveyor manufacturer to determine any potential risks and the countermeasures and workarounds needed. The size of the system compared to how much room in the workspace is available should be considered, along with how it will fit alongside existing equipment. Conveyors systems are often relatively complex in their design and construction owing to their large scales and integration into different factory processes. Still, the modular nature of many conveyor components makes even long and complex systems readily achievable. Manufacturers of such systems can offer design assistance so that the conveyor suits the workspace. Uses of Conveyor in the agricultural community The uses of a conveyor belt in the agricultural community are numerous. It is used in the feeding process that processes or freezes vegetables, fruits, and other agricultural products for packing
to be sent to the retailers or other process plants. Besides this, these belts are effectively being used for loading bulk quantities into trucks in order to get them transported to their final destination. Bean market is another place, where conveyor belt scales are used in a large number. Additionally, these belts are to load out the soy beans into the trucks that carry them to the end process. These belts are designed to suit the requirements of the agricultural industry application. Sugar Cane, Cauliflower, peas, flour, rice, and grains are some of the agricultural applications that use conveyor belt scales. Other applications include: • Seed coating for vegetable seeds and cereal grains • Chopping of crops • Dust collection • Harvesting • Threshing • Material handling • Storage • Grain processing • Drying of grains • Merits of using the belts in the agricultural industry With the help of these conveyor belts, the workforce reduces and this leads to more profits and less expense. Also, the storage, drying, and processing of the products have become very efficient and easy.
IG is one of the European most important manufacturers of rubber conveyor and elevator belts. With an experience of more than 70 years manufacturing SIG can easily supply high quality made in Italy synthetic and steel rubber belts worldwide. Since the end of 60’s, our production plant is based in Gorla Minore, Northern Italy, close to Malpensa Airport and Milan city center. In this 12000 sqm area, you could also find SIG headquarter as all the company key position, from purchasing to commercial and technical teams work all together. WE MANUFACTURE IN ITALY, WE SUPPLY WORLDWIDE This specific organization allows all the company workers having a flexible approach to business, satisfying all customer’s needs as well as international market requests. The close cooperation between our technicians and our sales Department members allows SIG to find solutions to any type of problem. Concerning the production process, our factory has a capacity of 400 km every year, manufacturing any type of rubber belt, up to 2200 mm of width and weight for every roll, covering any industrial field, from cement to iron factories, passing through coal power plants, ports and grain terminals, mines and quarries as well as chemical factories. Specific rubber covers are available to handle the most critic bulk materials like hot clinker, flammable coal, oily waste and fertilizers, grain and cereals, highly abrasive bauxite and iron ore. Here at SIG we love challenges, that is why there is no project nor request that we cannot but satisfy. No matter where you are, we will also find the way to reach you with our best and highquality products.
The supply chain is composed by only high qualified suppliers of rubber compounds, synthetic and steel fabrics to assure the highest level of quality with the fastest and most flexible delivery time. Product quality is managed according to codified quality control programs all over the whole production process, from raw material acceptance to delivery of final product. For this purpose and to allow efficient R&D process too, SIG has made, during the years, important investments for the development of its own technological laboratory, provided with the most advanced and reliable equipment which is also available for customer’s needs.
Together with a strict control of the quality, SIG gives high attention to the environmental and health properties of the raw materials involved: since 2012, following the European directives, all rubber compounds used by SIG are free from hazardous chemicals, especially PAHs, PolyAromatic Hydrocarbons, granting a limited and lower impact to the environment and to the health of operators than imported products of unknown origin. Our best happiness is our customer satisfaction with our products, this is the reason why we develop and use the latest technologies available to provide you with the most reliable rubber belts. SIG deeply loves its customers, that is why our main concern is taking care of you.
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January - February 2021 | 17
Benedetta Nangila has diversified into rabbits to sustain her fodder business during covid.
Kenyan agriculture entrepreneurs bet on diversification, networking to weather COVID-19 shocks, study
hroughout 2020 and the myriad of challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting and working with young agribusiness entrepreneurs has been particularly pertinent. To this end, the United States International University-Africa (USIU-A), through support provided by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research through their Cultivate Africa’s Future initiative, has been providing young agripreneurs, aged 18-35 years, with access to business training, finance and mentor support. The program, implemented by the USIU-A’s Global Agribusiness Management and Entrepreneurship (GAME) Center, aims to enable Kenyan youths to develop and maintain resilient, job-creating enterprises.
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At a virtual roundtable event held recently, the results of a recent USIU-A study funded by IDRC to determine the impacts of the pandemic and its gender implications on young entrepreneurs were presented, The event was attended by 14 County Governments, with the keynote address provided by Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o, Governor of the County Government of Kisumu who recounted how the nationwide curfew and cessation of international travel reignited the need to build resilient local food production systems. According to the Kenya Agribusiness Strategy (2017-2021), youth (18-34 years) account for 29% of Kenya’s population and are significant to Kenya’s growth and transformation agenda. However, 70-80% of entrepreneurs fail within their first two years of business. With the disruption of
agricultural value chains since the onset of the pandemic, USIU-A received additional funding from IDRC to better understand the factors that allow young people to be more resilient and to keep their agribusinesses afloat. “This rapid response initiative to document changes in real-time, is part of our efforts at IDRC to help inform recovery of policies and reorganizing of food systems during the current crisis but also to help us prepare for future shocks,” explained Kathryn Toure, IDRC Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa to roundtable participants. In total, 874 young men and women active agripreneurs from 31 Counties consented in July 2020 to be involved in the study. With COVID-19
restrictions in place, data was collected from 500 selected respondents via email, WhatsApp and phone, involving monthly monitoring and recording of resilience indicators. While presenting the results, Prof Francis Wambalaba stated that resilience was investigated from two angles. “The first looked at personal resilience including time spent networking, spending on promotions, confidence, and changes made to business plans,” he explained. “Business resilience included reviewing the entrepreneurs’ customer base, sales, jobs and employee welfare, product lines, outlets and technology adoption.” Consequences of covid-19 crisis Analysis of the results revealed that by November 2020, 366 (73%) were still in business but by January 2021, this had dropped to 260 (52%) with a 48% failure rate. Of those 264 men and 102 women still active in November, most had high school education and were predominantly self-employed in agribusiness. Strikingly, although perhaps understandably, over 90% were unprepared for the COVID-19 crisis. “I never thought anything like this could happen in my lifetime,” stated Kelly Kadiviria, an agriprenuer from Kakamega County. During the study, the average entrepreneur laid off two workers and reduced the money spent on wages. “I could no longer afford to keep them (employees)... I just had to let them go,” explained Jared Omondi Andego from Kisumu County. Significant numbers of respondents had to fall back on savings or seek additional support from family or business associations. The impacts of the pandemic seemed to hit female entrepreneurs particularly hard with a much higher chance of failure resulting from reduced customer bases and falling sales. “Our sales decreased sharply…I used to make an average of Ksh. 6,000 a week, now I can hardly make Ksh. 3,000,” added Benedetta Nangila, a fodder farmer from Bungoma County.
Benedetta Nangila’s Bracharia fodder farm in Bumula, Bungoma County Credit USIU
Building better futures Nevertheless, more resilient entrepreneurs were shown to have spent more time networking, seeking advice and additional funds, and using social media to increase sales. Diversification was also key to sustaining agribusinesses. The USIU-A training has also provided many of the entrepreneurs with essential skills. “Because of the pandemic, the income is less and varies but I was able to check on my costs. I was not doing that before the training,” Samuel Thuo Irungu, a potato entrepreneur from Nairobi County explained during the roundtable. To provide more immediate support, Professor Amos Njuguna emphasised the need for County Governments to provide stimulus packages to agribusinesses impacted by COVID, including
business licenses, seeds and other critical inputs, and agricultural services. More broadly, he also emphasised that agribusinesses needed to be exposed to more diversified markets and marketing channels through county, national, continental and international trading blocs. Government agencies and other organizations working with youth also need to support research, networking, technology and knowledge transfer and capacity building for entrepreneurs. Forging ahead, the GAME Center will support County Governments to implement county specific agribusiness strategies, upscale the training and work with private sector players to accelerate implementation of digital platforms that connect the youth to agricultural value chains.
January - February 2021 | 19
The real benefits of deploying tech in the Agricultural Industry
ll our daily activities are related to a technological process. The benefit of this science is very significant for humanity. After the industrial revolution, scientific knowledge has had an unstoppable growth, allowing machinery and innovation to make our lives much more manageable. The goal of tech is to increase production, meet people’s needs, and improve the lives of humans. The agricultural industry has had a fantastic
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turnaround. This practice continues to be successful in many countries, even in pandemic and lockdown contexts. A study from The Print found that agriculture grew by 3 percent in India during Covid-19 and will continue in that path in 2021. This industry generates food for millions of people around the world. It is one of the leading food and raw material producers for many companies. In the 21st century, the growth and good performance
of agriculture are due not only to manual work but also to technological innovation. This article will review how the tech industry works as a team with agriculture and the trends for 2021 in this area. Data for Agriculture Private investment is an indispensable part of the search for an efficient agricultural system. Ag-Tech Startups are revolutionizing this industry forever. For several years the development of
much more attention than before. You may think agriculture is about people planting and harvesting fruits and vegetables, plowing the land, and watering the plants, yet robots are taking over these spaces as well. “Smart Agriculture” is a tech industry strategy to produce more food using the fewest possible resources. This trend includes autonomous machinery, irrigation drones, harvesting robots, automatic irrigation, sowing equipment, and much more.
Drip Irrigation Is it possible to grow food in a desert? Tech companies in Israel have used all their potential and intelligence to develop innovative plans for cultivation. One of the most noteworthy ideas of recent times was the drip irrigation system. The Polish-Israeli firm Simcha Blass created a sustainable method that consists of a pipe that sprinkles drops of water directly to the plants’ roots.
Greenhouses 2.0 Although greenhouses were created for educational and botanical purposes, they have been included in the agricultural industry little by little. This system has excellent support from the tech industry to offer better results in food production. These fields are part of providing fruits and vegetables in the cities since urban centers need to buy these foods due to the lack of space for planting.
Although the idea began in 1960, its success has spread to more than 100 countries. One of this process’s main benefits is that evaporation is reduced between 15 and 30 percent, which benefits agriculture in arid climates, where the sun’s rays are powerful. This represents a better relationship between water and air, allowing the plants to flourish strongly. Drip irrigation is part of an initiative to grow food in poor, arid countries.
Can this be a solution for healthy city food? The investment of greenhouses 2.0 means that cities and places where vegetable production is scarce will have much cheaper access. These new greenhouse systems have digital monitoring, LED lighting technology, automatic irrigation, and thermostat systems that regulate the temperature according to the type of plant.
Conclusion: The tech industry is an ally for everything we do. We all know that hunger and poverty are problematic issues. However, these proposals allow us to dream of a much better future. We can all eat healthy food and produce agricultural goods efficiently, without destroying the planet.
these companies has positively impacted food production, especially with data processing. One of these companies is AGERpoint. This startup works with a satellite system that manages citrus and nut orchards. The software collects data on what trees can look like, their sizes, and the dimensions of the trunk. A Forbes report revealed that this company had an estimated growth margin of $3 million in sales for 2017, a trend that would continue for many years. In addition to these proposals, it is interesting to analyze how the data science market is growing around the world. More and more people and companies request these services to solve problems. Robotic Agriculture Automation is not just a topic in car or computer factories. In agriculture, this trend receives
January - February 2021 | 21
Sustainable milk production goes hand in hand with animal welfare and high quality
hen it comes to modernization, Staffan Bäcketoft’s focus isn’t only on his business interests, but on the health and welfare of his 200 or so dairy cows as well. Together with his wife Martina, he runs an organic dairy operation called the Bäckeby Farm located outside the town of Målilla in the southern Swedish province of Kalmar. In order to increase labor efficiency as well as improving the lives and the health of his animals, Bäcketoft decided to switch from conventional to automated milking. At the same time, an automated feeding system from GEA would optimize the animals’ feed supply. Bäcketoft’s modernization project has been granted financial support through the European Agricultural Fund. Within EU member states and regions, this fund fosters development in rural areas to strengthen market competitiveness in the agricultural sector, to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources and climate protection as well as to promote rural communities, including the creation of employment opportunities.
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Time savings by switching to automated milking Their good experiences with GEA’s herringbone milking parlor led the farm owners to choose GEA’s DairyRobot R9500 as the ideal next step in modernizing their farm’s milking technology. The switch also promised great advantages from a structural standpoint, as extending the front of the barn by only a few meters would suffice to accommodate the new milking center. Today, however, Bäcketoft sees the greatest benefit in saved time that he can invest in important animal care instead of spending many hours a day milking conventionally. His day begins with a glance at all the information generated by the three automated milking boxes around the clock. In particular, the milk alarms notify him of marked changes in milk quantity, conductivity or milk temperature in any cow down to the quarter level. Since deviating values can indicate disease onset in an animal, Bäcketoft can then take a look at
the reported cows directly in the barn and decide which measures need to be taken. Early warning system for better animal health Thanks to the DairyRobot’s timely and precise alerts, Bäcketoft can now treat his animals quickly in a targeted way preventing slumps in yield and reducing disease progression. Best proof of the herd’s improved constitution is the cell count numbers which dropped from 250,000 to 140,000. The cows’ good health pays off immediately: their milk commands a higher price at the dairy. Peaceful atmosphere in the barn and independent milking While cows previously had to be fetched for fixed milking times, now every animal in the barn goes to the spacious milking robot independently and waits until the wide gate opens. Via a responder, the milking robot checks if the cow is ready to be milked. Subsequently the MilkRack moves into position, and then attaches the teat cups. With GEA’s DairyRobot, milking is carried out peacefully according to the In-Liner Everything principle. From stimulating to cleaning all the way to emptying the udder, the whole milking routine takes place in the protected environment of the teat cup. Finally, a dipping fluid is applied carefully and dosed optimally to each teat. This protects the teat’s sensitive skin and the stillopen teat canal from germs and bacteria for the next hours in the barn. Fresh feed for animals of any rank In the past, Staffan und Martina Bäcketoft noticed that milk yield fluctuated excessively. They attributed this to the unmonitored feed preparation, which was managed by three people using a feed mixer wagon. By installing the GEA MixFeeder, they optimized consistency and continuity in supplying feed to the herd. On rails, the feed wagon moves almost silently and brings fresh feed rations automatically according to a fixed time plan around the clock.
fresh feed also means that the animals make better nutritional use of their fodder. This is directly reflected in strongly increased milk yield. The Bäckeby Farm is the first Scandinavian dairy farm with three automated GEA milking boxes and was able to increase the milk quantity to over 2,000 kg per box, which is a record result. Stress-free farm life at a relaxed pace Modernizing production has fundamentally improved life, working conditions and animal welfare at the Bäckeby Farm. Thanks to the insights provided by GEA’s DairyRobot, Bäcketoft now knows each of his dairy cows much better than before. Life in the barn is calm and relaxed, the animals eat, rest and move around according to their own rhythm and go to be milked without stress. Physically demanding, fixed milking times are a thing of the past and the two and a half hours previously needed for feeding have been
reduced to a half hour per day spent filling up the bunkers and cleaning the feed kitchen. The bottom line: great energy efficiency With the GEA DairyRobot, up to three milking boxes can be run simultaneously with one control unit. The automated milking system is not only perfectly adapted to the Bäckeby Farm’s herd size, but the three milking boxes are economical and highly energy efficient. The largest gain in terms of energy was won by switching to the automated GEA MixFeeder. Getting rid of the old diesel-run feed mixer wagon means savings of up to 8,000 liters in fuel. The Bäcketofts have not only made their farm more sustainable through modernization, but have also prepared themselves for a healthy and profitable future.
According to their own rhythm, the cows come to the feeding fence allowing even lower-ranked cows regular access to fresh feed mixtures. The MixFeeder also mixes the ingredients better. The cows eat what they are served without sorting out certain components and leave less feed behind at the end of the day. Record milking yields In the new feed kitchen that was attached to one side of the barn, the MixFeeder measures the feed ingredients independently via three bunkers and screw feeders and mixes them according to the farmers’ recipes into feed rations for the various performance groups. A good supply of
January - February 2021 | 23
Using Artificial Intelligence to Grow Avocados
Figure 1: SupPlant’s climatic data forecasted a heatwave approaching.
n order for South African Avocados to reach their full growth potential they must be irrigated in the right amount: not too much and not too little. For decades, the decision on how to irrigate avocados was done based on the farmer’s intuition, experience and at best on some scattered data. Traditional irrigation approaches limit growers to being reactive, not proactive in protecting their avocados.
Today, technology is taking over this space to help farmers use smarter ways to irrigate and produce more avocados. SupPlant, the leading precision agriculture hardware-software solution is an Israeli technology that has expertise in sensing plant stress. They have converted this expertise into a system that uses agronomic algorithms, sensors, artificial intelligence, big data and cloud-based technology in order to achieve these
goals. They have developed a data model using predictive algorithms based on analyzing 100M avocado data points. SupPlant’s sensors, which measure the stress of the plant, are placed in 5 locations of the plant (deep soil, shallow soil, stem/trunk, leaf, avocado) and monitor Plant and fruit growth patterns, The actual water content in the soil and plant health
Figure 2: Showcases the difference between an avocado plot that used SupPlant before the heatwave and one that didn’t use SupPlant’s technology
24 | January - February 2021
data. In addition to this data, SupPlant monitors real-time and forecasted climatic data and forecasted plant growth patterns. All this info is uploaded every 30 minutes to an algorithm in the cloud that provides farmers with precise irrigation recommendations based on the integration of all this data. One of the greatest challenges for a South African farmer today is the weather. SupPlant uses ClimaCell, the world-leading weather intelligence platform in order to monitor the weather in a precise plot location. Attached are pictures and charts demonstrating what happens with avocados during a heatwave: In picture1 it is visible that SupPlant’s climatic data forecasted a heatwave approaching. Figure 2 showcases the difference between an avocado plot that used SupPlant before the heatwave and one that didn’t use SupPlant’s technology. The plot that didn’t use SupPlant suffered from loss of avocados in the heatwave, as can be seen in figure 3. In addition, SupPlant’s mobile app allows all partnering farmers to monitor plots and control
The plot that didn’t use SupPlant suffered from loss of avocados in the heatwave
their water budget from anywhere. With the app, each farmer is able to see the information of each plot, graphic displays of the past and future irrigation plans, hyper-local current and forecasted climatic data specific to each plot, agronomic insights, growth patterns of trunk and fruit, irrigation recommendations for today and a week ahead and more. In figure 4 it is shown that the app is alerting the farmer regarding
increasing plant stress, recommending enhanced irrigation. Farmers that do not use technology will only be able to see the results on the avocado themselves after the stressor created vast damage to the plant. Once upon a time, in order to irrigate farmers needed to go to the field or set a water timer. Now they can know from afar when their avocados are thirsty.
Figure 4:App alerting the farmer regarding increasing plant stress, recommending enhanced irrigation.
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Local company plays a vital role in livestock feed
linomix® is a zeolite-based feed additive and stock remedy that contains 90% clinoptilolite, a completely natural mineral mined and processed exclusively by Pratley South Africa. Clinomix® effectively reduces acidosis and ammonia levels. Using Clinomix® therefore improves the overall health of sheep, cattle and other ruminants. It is a mycotoxin binder that eliminates 99.9% of deadly mycotoxins in animal feed. These are toxic compounds that are naturally produced by certain types of moulds (fungi). Dangerous mycotoxins which may be present are bound when using Clinomix®, allowing them to safely pass through the gastrointestinal tract without the danger of these harmful toxins being absorbed into the animal’s body.
Pratley Marketing Director Eldon Kruger
26 | January - February 2021
Efficacy tests were carried out to determine to what extent Clinomix® binds various mycotoxins. Conducted by the SANAS-approved SGS Agri Food Laboratory, the results concluded that Clinomix® is extremely effective at binding mycotoxins. In a sample in which the initial aflatoxin count was 4196 µg/kg, following treatment with Clinomix®, the total aflatoxin levels dropped to below 4 µg/kg.
The table below summarises the mycotoxin binding effect of Clinomix®: Clinomix® is part of a range of mineral products that Pratley produces and markets specifically for the livestock farming and pet food industries. A similar product called Clinoxin® is a broadspectrum mycotoxin binder specifically for the poultry industry. It also reduces ammonia levels and faecal moisture in poultry houses. Clinoxin® and Clinomix® are registered stock remedies with the South African Department of Agriculture. Both products are available from Pratley in 25 kg bags and 50 kg bulk bags, concludes Pratley Marketing Manager Eldon Kruger.
John Deere Director Dan Liebfried & Blue River Technology CEO Jorge Heraud walking alongside tractor
The foods that reverse climate change The way we produce food has accelerated climate change, but can sustainable production methods help to reverse it? Cattle are ruminants, meaning part of their digestive system (the rumen) is designed to ferment low-nutrition foods like grasses and leaves. Inside their digestive system, however, is an assortment of microbes that help them extract as much nutrients as they can from their food. Unfortunately, some of these microbes produce methane that is then released from the rumen. And it is here that Nielsen has turned her focus.
By Chloe Berge
n a new eight-part multi-platform series, Follow the Food, sponsored by CortevaAgriscience™, BBC World News and BBC.com explore the stories behind feeding the world’s ever-growing population. In a greenhouse-sized plastic box within a cattle shed in Denmark stands Daisy – farming’s hope for a sustainable future. Daisy has everything she needs. Food is carefully measured and delivered to her and water is on hand. She won’t be detained for long either, just long enough for her food to have the desired effect – we need Daisy to start burping. Overseeing the cow’s welfare is Mette Nielsen, a professor in animal sciences at Aarhus University, who explains the purpose of Daisy’s confinement. Inside the box, every burp, belch and gaseous emission can be measured. Cows’ burps are rich in methane, a greenhouse gas, and only by recording them in this way can we start to unravel how to mitigate the damage livestock farming can do to the climate. The cattle industry contributes 40% of all methane emissions from food production. They’re not the biggest contributors, that title goes to rice, but researchers are keen to clean up their act. It is part of a new wave of farming methods and hightech solutions aimed at turning farming from being a climate change problem to a part of the solution.
“It’s not the cow that produces the methane, it’s these microorganisms called Archaea,” she says. “So if we could just block this process and persuade the Archaea not to produce the methane we would basically have a climate neutral cow.” James Wong at Aarhus University
Agriculture as a whole, and the deforestation that sometimes accompanies it, contributes nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. Farming also accounts for 70% of water usage worldwide. This is not only changing the climate, but also affecting our ability to grow food in the first place. Drought, flooding, high temperatures and rising sea levels are turning productive parts of our planet into places that are incapable of growing food. But what if we could produce food in a way that not only reduces the impact farming has on the planet, but could even be beneficial for the climate.
While some might argue that giving up cattle farming altogether might be the best way to mitigate climate change, as Nielsen explains in the video below, for many people giving up beef is not a reasonable solution. Nielsen and other researchers are instead interested in the methane-inhibiting properties of an unlikely source: seaweed. Asparagopsis, a warm-water seaweed species grown in Australia, contains a compound called bromoform that when used to comprise as little as 2% of a cow’s diet, reduces the animal’s methane emissions by up to 98%. There are, however, questions over whether cows like the taste of bromoform – in some experiments livestock reduced the amount they ate after the
January - February 2021 | 27
land, excess amounts washed into waterways can alter habitats and damage marine life. At the same time, synthetic fertilisers release potent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere during their manufacture and once they are on the fields. One solution is to use farming techniques that use these chemicals more carefully. New technology is enabling large scale farmers to reduce their use of water, fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides while at the same time boosting their profits. Precision agriculture, as it is known, aims to target the right amount of water and chemical treatments to only where they are needed, avoiding widespread spraying and wastage.
Blue River Technology CEO Jorge Heraud & John Deere Director Dan Liebfried
seaweed was introduced to their diet. Bromoform can be carcinogenic in humans, although there it is little research to show whether this is transferred into any meat and diary products. Many people are also already exposed to low levels of bromoform through tap water. While research is ongoing to prove that a seaweed cattle feed additive is safe and effective at reducing methane emissions in cows, one green application is beyond doubt – as a human food. On the south-west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, scientists and farmers at Cascadia Seaweed are working to grow their seaweed farms to be the largest in North America. Not technically a plant, the macroalgae is one of the few vegan sources of the vitamin B12 and only requires the sea and sunlight to grow. The cultivation process begins by harvesting reproductive patches, called sori, from blades of seaweed and bringing them to a nursery. Once
there, spores are released and attach to spools of twine. After 45 days, the seedlings are developed enough to be deployed at sea where they are attached to cultivation lines and grow into kelp. “We only use local species, we don’t do anything invasive, and we collect our sori in the same areas where we plant seaweed,” says Cascadia Seaweed’s chief executive, Mike Williamson. Not only does seaweed farming emit few greenhouse gases, seaweed is 20 times more effective at sequestering carbon than land plants according to a 2019 study by Harvard University. “When seaweed grows, a certain amount of it sloughs off into the deep ocean and stays in the sediment forever,” says Williamson. “That’s permanent carbon sequestration.” At the same time as it stores carbon, seaweed also absorbs excess nutrients from fertilisers that get washed into rivers and the oceans. While fertilisers have helped to boost crops yields on
One such development is the use of silica nanoparticles that release fertiliser and pesticides at a slow, steady rate, reducing the amount and frequency with which they’re used. Some of these solutions also contain microorganisms to help jumpstart soil regeneration. Alternatively, Blue River Technology hope to reduce chemical usage with their See and Spray technology, and have partnered with agricultural machinery manufacturer John Deere to bring it to life. By using artificial intelligence to selectively target weeds with herbicide, they’re able to avoid indiscriminate spraying that blankets an entire crop and its surrounding soil with chemicals. Blue River Technology say they spray between 10% and 30% of the volume of chemicals normally used in traditional farming methods. Cameras attached to a self-propelled sprayer connect to computer processors that use a machine learning algorithm to recognise the captured image in milliseconds. Based on this information, the machine determines whether to spray the herbicide or not. The AI is trained for a couple of seasons so it can recognise the weed and tell it apart from the crop. So far has been used in fields of corn, cotton and soy. If successful, See and Spray could potentially be a significant cost-saving measure for farmers given that in 2019, almost $33bn (£25bn) was spent across the globe on herbicides and that number is increasing. At the same time, it helps to mitigate the effect of surplus chemicals on the environment. But a new wave of farmers are hoping to cut out their use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides altogether by allowing the natural microorganisms that live in the soil to flourish instead.
John Deere tractor in field
28 | January - February 2021
“Regenerative agriculture in its basic form is not disturbing the soil… it’s leaving that life in the soil where it is and just feeding it,” says Tom Morphew, chief executive at Full Circle Farms in Sussex, UK.
While industrial farming has brought about dramatic increases in crop yields and made it possible to feed a rapidly growing population, some practices can degrade the soil. Much of this disruption comes from the use of chemical fertilisers, herbicides, and insecticides, which can affect the natural balance of fungi, bacteria and other organisms living in the soil, says Morphew. “We’ve broken that system of life in the soil. There’s nothing holding our soil together.” This has another unfortunate side-effect – soils can start to release carbon into the atmosphere. Harmful agricultural techniques have “shifted the global cropping soil from a carbon sink to a carbon source, contributing to the global climate crisis”, says Yichao Rui, a soil scientist at the Rodale Institute, a non-profit based in Pennsylvania, US, that supports research into organic farming. Now “we need to maximise the carbon inputs and minimise the carbon outputs”, says Rui. Maximising the amount of carbon that can be stored in the soil requires keeping fields covered with living plants all year long to encourage deep root growth, which helps to transfer the carbon gathered from the atmosphere by the plant to the dirt. Soil-dwelling fungi feed on the carbon delivered by the roots and provide the plants with
Ocean Rainforest - Harvesting seaweed boat
other nutrients in return. Applying microbe-rich compost to topsoil also helps. “Soil microbes play a very important role in decomposing these carbon inputs from plants and converting them into the form that can be sequestered,” says Rui. Regenerative farmers like those at Full Circle Farms avoid excessive tilling to help maintain the soil structure and the fungal communities living in it. This, together with other practices such as
using cover crops and companion planting, are aimed at helping turn the soil back into a carbon store again. There are some doubts, however, about how much of an impact these approaches can have in terms of pulling carbon back into the soil, particularly over the long term. But it may be possible to increase the amount of carbon that can be stored in the soil. With the help of precision gene-editing techniques, some
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January - February 2021 | 29
Ocean Rainforest - Harvesting seaweed boat
researchers are developing new varieties of crops capable of sucking up more carbon from the atmosphere. Watch the video below to find out more about how this can help to fix more carbon into the soil. It would be difficult to eliminate agriculture’s environmental impact entirely, even in light of these advancements. Some scientists believe the answer might involve taking farming indoors or underground, where leafy vegetables grow without soil or sunlight. Indoor farming not only eliminates arable land use, but requires no pesticides and significantly reduces water usage. Crops grown in this way are watered using aeroponics, where plants grow roots through cloth, or hydroponics, which uses water in place of soil. While innovative, it isn’t yet feasible to apply these techniques to staple crops that require a lot of space, like cereals, and the approach is relatively energy intensive. An alternative may be seawater greenhouses, which use only seawater and sunlight to grow food, even in inhospitable desert environments. Using seawater instead of freshwater relieves some of the environmental stresses of growing veg in this energy intensive way. If seawater can be used to grow vegetables, could we create edible commodities out of other unlikely sources?
Outside of Toronto, Canada, Entomo Farms has a vision to use cricket protein as a global food security and environmental solution. Crickets contain as much protein per 100g as beef along with a variety of other key nutrients, according to a report on edible insects by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and up to three times as much B12. “Research shows that not only are those concentrations far higher, but they are more absorbable,” says Entomo Farms cofounder, Jarrod Goldin. And unlike beef and pork, insects like crickets emit comparatively low greenhouse gases and require very little feed, land, or water, according to the FAO. The challenge will be making insect protein palatable to unaccustomed taste buds. Another approach is seeking to use greenhouse gases themselves in our food. Carbon capture technologies make use of CO2 captured from a concentrated source, such as a cement plant, or direct air capture which removes carbon dioxide from ambient air. The captured CO2 can be stored permanently in the Earth. But when carbon capture technology isn’t used to sequester carbon, the CO2 can be repurposed to create products like vodka and sparkling water. Coca-Cola has partnered with Climeworks, a Swiss direct air capture company, to use
captured CO2 to give the sparkling water Valser its fizz. Once the bottle is opened the CO2 is released back into the air, but the alternative to using captured CO2 in drinks is to take natural gas safely stored underground or use byproducts from manufacturing. Air Company, a New Yorkbased startup, recently launched Air Vodka, the first spirit in the world to use ethanol made from captured CO2. The CO2 is collected and combined with renewable hydrogen produced by water electrolysis to create the alcohol. While vodka may not solve global food security issues, these consumer products are helping to create demand for carbon capture technology, which if scaled up could play a role in reducing CO2 emissions. This could be the thin end of the wedge for new, green foods. There is no silver-bullet approach to making agriculture more sustainable, but those at the vanguard of change are proving there are solutions. The combination of technological innovation, new ways of farming and changing consumer demand will create a meaningful shift in the world’s food footprint. The tools, technology and practices that could completely transform food production from an environmental burden to a green solution are coming. Whether we use them is up to us.
Follow the Food is a BBC series exploring how to feed the world in 2021 and beyond
30 | January - February 2021
Banana market Bungoma Kenya - Boy eating banana
Is diversifying crops the answer to feeding the world’s growing population?
O CRISPR Wheat - James packet of seeds John Innes Centre
FHIA 17 banana seedlings
32 | January - February 2021
ver millennia of agricultural practice, we’ve selectively bred a relatively small handful of robust nutritious plants to crop. More than half the calories that all of human civilisation is based upon come from the seeds of just three grass species – wheat, rice and corn. Whilst modern agriculture has given us the most affordable and the most plentiful food supply in the history of our species, relying on that small selection of crops we’ve been cultivating is a perilous foundation for all of humankind.In the
second episode of the BBC World News and BBC.com series, Follow the Food: Seeds of Life, presenter and renowned ethnobotanist, James Wong, speaks to the one group of people that can solve the problems of the future, those who are trying to strike the precarious balance between mass production and diversification – farmers. Most Farmers know we need to make a change, and with over 50,000 edible plants on the planet, surely diversifying what we grow is the answer; reducing risk and bolstering our diets.
FHIA 17 bananas – Banana farmer George Matete
Kew Gardens Glass House
Banana market Bungoma Kenya
CRISPR Wheat - James Wong inside John Innes seed bank
Crops under threat With our global population growing at current rates, some have estimated that we’ll have to produce more food in the next thirty years than we have in the entire history of humanity. But, if one of the small range of crops we rely on to feed us came under attack by pests, super bugs, or environmental change, it risks a catastrophic food disaster that could leave millions starving, something that’s already happening to the fourth most important crop in the world – bananas.
because it’s prone to pests and diseases. We have the FHIA-17 that’s coming up that’s very tolerant to some of the pests and diseases we have around. They’re also much more tolerant compared to the Cavendish, so in areas where we get little rain, we will still have a harvest.”
A staple part of the diet and a lynchpin of the economy in places such as Africa and South America, the banana isn’t just a snack. In fact, Kenya grows around 1.5 million tonnes of bananas annually, and it’s a key local food source. But, a deadly fungus is sweeping the world, and Kenyan farmers are finding themselves on the front line of the fight to find a solution. The Cavendish variety, which makes up almost half of all the bananas grown on the planet, is susceptible to Panama disease and is at imminent risk of extinction. A new type of food At Kalro Kakamega Research Institute in Kenya, they’ve been studying alternative banana varieties, in the hope they can be as popular as the Cavendish, but much more resilient to disease. Dr Ludovicus Okitoi, principal research scientist at Kalro, said: “The Cavendish is dying
The British Quinoa Company Stephen Jones founderfarmer & James Wong
George Mtate, a Kenyan farmer in Myanga, has been trying the FHIA-17 variety, amongst others on his homestead. “The FHIA-17 is the banana of the future. Most diseases do not affect it in the way that they affect other types. It’s quite a promising type of banana. I’m hopeful.” The FHIA breeds were originally developed in Honduras and now they’re being trialled in over 50 countries worldwide. Speaking about the new variety of banana, Isaac Ogutu, farm systems coordinator at Send A Cow, a Kenyan NGO which helps smallholder farmers, like George, grow their own futures said, “We want to have farmers who are food secure. Bananas can give our farmers very good food security.” Is diversity the seed of life? It seems that diversifying within the food group itself could be one solution to future-proofing our food supply, but is it enough to get the right calories to the right people, at the right time? The decisions made right now from Big Ag to smallholder will affect the health and wellbeing of the entire planet for generations to come.
Image of bananas
CRISPR wheat seedling in tube - John Innes Centre Norwich
CRISPR Wheat John Innes Centre Norwich James Wong & Dr Catherine Jacott
FHIA 17 banana - Isaac Ogutu Farm Systems Coordinator – Send a Cow
FHIA 17 banana - Banana Farmer George Matete
FHIA 17 banana - Dr Ludovicus Okitoi Principal Research Scientist KALRO
Follow the Food is a BBC series exploring how to feed the world in 2021 and beyond
January - February 2021 | 33
ALBA - tractor
How can we stop farmers becoming extinct and inspire a new generation of farmers to stop the world going hungry? he average age of a farmer around the world is spiralling ever upwards, and these essential, frontline workers are at real risk of dying out.
low status, low skilled and, of course, backbreaking work. Yet consumers still turn up at the supermarket expecting shelves to be full. But, if we have no farmers, we’ll have no food.
It’s an uncomfortable reality, but the traditional image of farming is considered to be low pay,
The interrupted supply chains at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic gave consumers a glimpse
34 | January - February 2021
of what a future without farmers could look like, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. If we’re to solve the problem of food shortages and malnutrition, we’ll need some of these brightest minds to help us, and if anyone is likely to have ideas on how we transform farming’s traditional image, then it’s a Musk.
In the third episode of the BBC World News and BBC.com series Follow the Food: Growing New Farmers, presenter and renowned ethnobotanist, James Wong, speaks to Kimbal Musk, a food entrepreneur and founder of Square Roots, a high-tech indoor farming project, which aims to attract a new breed of farmer. Inspiring change Speaking about his Square Roots initiative, Kimbal Musk says: “Our farmers range from 1825, and either it’s their first job, or it’s their change in career. These young people are bringing a new and novel approach to farming, and if there isn’t technology involved, it simply baffles them – they don’t even understand why they’re in the room. “We use apps to manage the farms – where you can actually manage it from your home. So, each young farmer gets their own farm, and they don’t have to sit and look at the farm all day, like they did in the old days, that of course gives them more personal freedom, but also make sure their crops are growing very well. It is amazing what tech can do.” Looking forward, Musk believes there will be even more changes to the food system, driven by technology: “Modern day technology is very scalable. Young farmers are going to be engaged and excited to be part of the solution. By 2050, those young farmers are now older folks, and we’re going to have an even younger generation,
and technology is going to improve farming even more.” The current tech revolution in farming has the power to attract new farmers in a way that the stereotyped, old fashioned image just doesn’t.
Growing Women In Coffee - Zeddy sorting coffee beans
Growing Women In Coffee - Zeddy & daughters picking coffee beans
But is this enough to encourage the best and brightest of the next generation to help pioneer a revolution in one of the most important aspects of our civilisation - keeping us all fed? It’d be naïve to think that an instant army of tech geeks are about to populate the world’s farms and magically feed us all, and it isn’t just an image problem that gets in the way of growing new farmers. Green shoots of inclusivity It’s been estimated that agricultural yields would rise by almost a third if women had access to the same resources as men, and there’d be 150 million fewer hungry people on the planet. In the coffee fields of Kericho County in Kenya, there’s a project that’s beginning to turn that tide. An important crop in Kenya, coffee farms are traditionally owned by men while women work in the fields. Speaking to Follow the Food, Bernard Njoroge, a project manager at Fairtrade Africa said: “What would happen is that men would be given the proceeds from the coffee and, instead of taking it back home, they would go out and not be seen for several days.
Harper Adams Uni - James Wong presenter & Kit Franklin senior lecture & Will Flittner student
When they came home, there would be no money. This was demotivating and the (coffee)
ALBA - Jesus Calzadillas farmer tying onions together
January - February 2021 | 35
Growing Women In Coffee - Zeddy dropping coffee beans into bucket
Square Roots - Young Farmer
production came down. We found the easiest way to improve productivity is by going to where there is the gap, and the gap is with the women.”
of skilled, independent female farmers. One of the cooperative’s 300 members is Zeddy Chepkemoi, a new generation of farmer. “We started with 50 bushes, but we now have 300, and it’s actually changing lives. And when the proceeds of the coffee come, they go directly into the women’s account. It has brought a difference to the community, to women especially, because
The Growing Women in Coffee project, run by Fairtrade Africa, works with the Kabnge’tuny coffee cooperative to try to encourage a redistribution of wealth by developing a legion
their earning comes from their coffee. They can educate their children, they can clothe them, they can bring food to the table. We now have our own branded coffee, Zawadi, which purely belongs to the women. I’m so happy, empowering women, I’m so happy. Empower a woman, you empower our nation,” said Zeddy.
Follow the Food is a BBC series exploring how to feed the world in 2021 and beyond
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