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South Africa’s agricultural sector is dualistic, characterised by a highly commercial sector running parallel to a smallholder sector of two million dominated by black producers who are still finding it difficult to become sustainable and commercial.

Smallholder farmers face significant challenges – particularly in the current socio-economic environment and the growing food crisis as millions of poor South Africans cannot afford food.

The biggest challenges they face are the lack of infrastructure, access to competitive markets, production and business skills, funding and financial support to re-invest in their farming activities, and an inability to comply with food safety requirements.

Added to these are a lack of land ownership and access to arable land, drought, inadequate water resources, land degradation, and soil erosion.

Technology will pave the way forward

Technology – specifically AgriTech – has the power to transform the industry and drive widespread positive change for smallholder farmers by improving yield, efficiency, and profitability.

This is why Microsoft South Africa has introduced its AgriTech initiative as part of its Equity Equivalent Investment Programme (EEIP) strategy along with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).

It is a challenge aimed at identifying and appointing established tech companies in South Africa that can conceptualise, develop and roll-out high-impact solutions to address critical challenges, and make a meaningful economic impact.

The solutions will need to specifically:

  • Improve efficiencies in farming to increase yields, create consistency, and improve quality.
  • Reduce the cost of production.
  • Conserve our natural resources.
  • Reduce post-harvest losses.
  • Improve access to local and international markets.
  • Improve compliance with legislation and other regulations.
  • Strengthen linkages through the value chain.
  • Make better access to information and intelligence available to farmers so they can make more informed decisions around production, access to finance, access to markets, and new developments.

Sustainable economic growth

“By unleashing the unrivalled potential of technology, we together with South African AgriTech companies can collectively create solutions that will allow for sustainable economic growth in one of our most critical job-creating industries,” said Asif Valley, national technology officer at Microsoft South Africa. – BusinessTech