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TRANSFORMING EMERGING IDEAS INTO ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES IN THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR

– The Innovation Hub’s Dr Chamunorwa Togo was honoured to present at the recent Africa Agri Tech Conference and Exhibition, which took place from 18 to 20 February 2020 at the Sun Arena at Time Square, Menlyn Maine in Pretoria.

The conference proceedings on 19 February focussed on how to harness technology in the agricultural sector, Dr Togo – General Manager for the Bio-economy division – was well placed to discuss the catalytic role of government plays in enabling innovation within agricultural technology area. His presentation on the Catalytic Role of Government in Technology Innovation Value Chain highlighted the enabling role government plays in lowering the barriers to markets for new technologies through The Innovation Hub’s business incubation programmes and reducing the cost of innovation amongst the established companies through the open innovation programme (OpenIX) at TIH. He also indicated that capabilities of hybridising existing solutions within the indigenous knowledge holders and technologically savvy players can unlock phenomenal solutions to the day to day challenges.

“There is an opportunity to develop local solutions by capitalising on the experience of our traditional farmers, but they need help to elevate their small agricultural solutions to the global standards necessary to be commercially viable,” said Dr Togo. “However, this takes substantial expertise as well as funding. This is where The Innovation Hub’s business incubation becomes crucial. The ideas are out there, but they need help from more established entities and government to fine-tune the financial and technological aspects.”

The Innovation Hub is a government agency which partners with other players in government, as well as in the private sector, to provide mentorship and business development support. Through three divisions addressing the Green Economy, Bio-economy and Smart Industries, The Innovation Hub is well-equipped to provide incubation support to various elements of the agricultural industry.

Added to this, in recognition of the expensive and time-intensive nature of research and development (R&D), the agency has created the Open Innovation Exchange Programme (OpenIX). “Through this platform we are streamlining the innovation process by linking solution seekers with solutions providers. Commercialisation is expensive and many companies are hesitant to make the investment. Solution providers selected through the OpenIX Programme receive assistance in rising to the challenge listed by the solution seeker. In this way, The Innovation Hub is a ccatalyst for knowledge interactions that transform emerging ideas into economic opportunities,” said Dr Togo.

“Technology is disrupting the agricultural value chain in many ways. Just look at how access to information has changed the way supply chains work – data on stockpiles and demand means that logistics have become streamlined. There are many opportunities for innovation in the agriculture industry, and government can be of great assistance in this.”

Dr Togo’s point was exemplified by the five companies showcased at the exhibition who are proudly incubated at The Innovation Hub Business Incubation Programmes. These companies illustrate the opportunities for home-grown solutions in the agricultural industry. XY Analytics showcased their artificial intelligence based “connected cow” solution. This solution tracks physical movement and provides status on the cow’s health and reproductive system. Also, in attendance was Gronut, which mechanically presses peanuts to produce oil and oil cake which they use to make instant cereal, cooking oil and biodiesel. They are currently supplying 63 schools in the North West province. Lefakong Farming, producers of tea, capsules, salt and gin using Moringa dried leaves were also on the show floor, along with KURAI who showcased their fully autonomous crop spraying drones which address lack of infrastructural access to crops. South Western Dairy who purchase milk from farmers and add value by processing it into pasteurized milk, yoghurt and amasi.

About Africa Agri-tech

This three-day multi-tiered expo and conference investigated the impact of the latest advances in science and technology, empowering agricultural producers to achieve greater efficiency, productivity and profitability going into the future.

Offering unparalleled discovery, exploration and networking, Africa Agri Tech focused on assisting producers to navigate the evolving agricultural ecosystem. A fully integrated expo floor showcased future trends, technologies and techniques available.


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