Microsoft backs The Awareness Company in agritech push

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Lillian Barnard, CEO of Microsoft SA.
Lillian Barnard, CEO of Microsoft SA.

Microsoft SA has picked tech start-up The Awareness Company as beneficiary of its multimillion-rand agritech programme.

The initiative aims to drive digital transformation in agriculture, and with support from Microsoft, The Awareness Company will develop and rollout three high-impact solutions in the agriculture sector within the next year. These solutions are:

  • HYDRA FarmSecurity, which combines artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and sensors through an integrated mobile platform that allows tracking of livestock.
  • HYDRA FarmAwareness, which allows farmers to digitise their farms to improve overall capability management of livestock, crops, people and assets.
  • HYDRA AgriInsights provides data-driven insights and innovation using AI, the internet of things and analytics to improve the services of agri organisations.

The solutions, Microsoft SA says, will enable smallholder farmers to improve efficiencies in their farming operations through the use of operational insights.

“This will allow them to reduce the cost of production, increase yields, strengthen linkages through the value chain and improve farm security,” says Microsoft SA.

In a statement, Microsoft SA says many South African smallholder farmers are failing to leverage available technologies that will allow them to scale into commercial farms, and it hopes to change that with the agritech programme.

“Technology – specifically agritech – has the ability to empower our country’s smallholder farmers by enabling them to become more productive, efficient, competitive, commercially viable and sustainable,” says Lillian Barnard, CEO of Microsoft SA.

“We want to help unlock the potential of one of South Africa’s core industries and its smallholder farmers by tapping into the capabilities of agritech. By investing in local businesses and technologies that are truly disruptive, we will be able to build on our commitment to support the competitiveness of key sectors through innovation and drive economic growth in South Africa.”

Commenting on the Microsoft SA support, Priaash Ramadeen, co-founder and CEO of The Awareness Company, says: “The country’s two million to four million smallholder farmers play a critical role in driving food security and economic participation, but they face specific and deep-rooted challenges, and the sector is typically underserved in terms of high-tech solutions.

“That’s why Microsoft’s support and investment in helping us as a local, home-grown business to grow and develop solutions that focus on solving real-world problems is so meaningful. The programme is a jump-start that has enabled us to create and update products that synchronise with the work we have already done in the agricultural space to promote sustainable agriculture and food security through intelligent data.”

Ramadeen, whose company was founded in 2018 with the objective of using intelligent data and insights to tackle real challenges, adds: “Our partnership with Microsoft is opening up opportunities to do work that no one else is doing – and which would not be possible without the support of a company like Microsoft, who is able to help businesses grow and elevate our offerings to make a real difference.”

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