Technological innovations in the farming sector

Nowadays farmers are using advanced technology tools, and this has led to the establishment of innovative business models that are helping farmers overcome some of their challenges.

By Fundiswa Nkwanyana

In the past 10 years using digital tools in farming has become the norm as more farmers are seeing the benefits of using technology. Digital innovations are helping farmers manage their machinery, conduct soil analysis, evaluate crops and even track their livestock.  


The use of technology has drastically increased production and now a new challenge has emerged which is the management, distribution and selling of produce. The gap between farmers, resellers, and customers needs to be bridged.   


A proudly South African business has found the solution and built an e-commerce platform called Agrikool. This digital tool connects growers, buyers, and distributors in a bid to foster strong working relations. “We make it easier for them to work together and this levels the playing field,” said Palesa Motaung the Chief Executive Officer at Agrikool.  


Advanced technology solutions  

When farmers use technology, it increases transparency and traceability across the value chain. Agrikool helps farmers increase their profit margins and become efficient. By using the app, growers, resellers, and distributers are part of a fair marketplace. “Our e-trading platform also helps growers access markets and further facilitates these transactions by handling logistics and storage matters,” said Motaung. 


Disruptions in the agri-value chain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic inspired Motaung and her team to find a solution.   “When government forced all informal traders that we were working with to stop trading, we had to find a solution because retailers still needed their produce”, she said.  


The platform integrates all agri-value chain segments, and this makes it easier for emerging farmers to be able to be part of formalized retail supply chains. Emerging logistics and storage partners also benefit from using the e-trading platform because they have direct access to farmers who need their services.   


Agri-value chain challenges  

The agriculture sector is volatile and interdependent. When there is a problem in one part of the value chain, it can collapse the entire chain. It’s therefore important that there is a streamlined connection.   


“Our sector is easily affected by weather, strikes, and even delays on the road. We also work with highly perishable goods, and this makes our business very time sensitive,” she said.  


Farmers are always looking for ways to better manage working capital especially in winter when many crops don’t grow well. This platform allows them to compare prices and plan accordingly.  


Food security was seriously impacted by the pandemic and the agriculture sector had to find innovative ways to adapt.  According to a report released by Statistics South Africa, Measuring Food Security in South Africa: Applying the Food Insecurity Experience Scale, almost 23,6 % of South Africans in 2020 were affected by moderate to severe food insecurity, while almost 14,9% experienced severe food insecurity.   


Technology innovations like Agrikool, are helping people access food more easily by helping farmers find efficient methods to supply food.  “We play an important role in ensuring that people have access to good quality food,” she said.   


Onwards and upwards  

Agrikool now services some of the country’s biggest retailers such as Shoprite, Food Lovers and Boxer stores.  Motaung and her team have dreams of working with farmers and retailers across the country and in the rest of the continent. “We want to become Africa’s sourcing hub for food and agricultural products”, she concluded.   

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