Data insight a key component of growth in local agri sector, says Datacentrix
The continued strong performance of the local agricultural sector over the past decade, the critical nature of a connected supply chain in food security, and the role of technology in modernising the sector were all topics under discussion at the fourth annual Datacentrix Agri Indaba 2021.
Hosted by the hybrid IT systems integrator and managed services provider and its sponsors at Zebula Golf Estate and Spa in Bela-Bela, Limpopo, sentiment at the event was most positive. Datacentrix CEO Ahmed Mahomed affirmed in his welcome address that, while 2020 was a difficult year for many industries, agriculture in South Africa has made positive growth gains, and also seen employment growth of around 69 000 people in the Western Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Limpopo.
“Technology supported a seamless transition to the new normal and will continue to do this, driving sectors like agriculture and playing a significant role from a strategic point of view for future growth,” he said.
Keynote speaker and respected economist Dr Roelof Botha explained that South Africa has resumed its position as the number one African economy, based on 2020’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of R375 billion, and that the rand is 30% stronger than it was last year – and was in fact the strongest currency in the world at that time.
“Agri and its related exports have played a critical role in its strength. Our exports of agri have exploded, going to the Netherlands and England as the top destinations, and confidence in the farming sector is at an all-time high, at a very encouraging 67%,” he stated.
Wandile Sihlobo, Chief Economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa (Agbiz), author of ‘Finding Common Ground: Land, Equity, and Agriculture’ and second keynote speaker, was of the same opinion, saying that agri is in good shape, with all sectors – other than wine and tobacco due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions – showing 13.4 growth year on year.
“Last year, we had the second largest grain production in history, and the 2021/2022 production season is promising, although rising costs are a concern,” he added. “The story of trade is very important to South Africa. We are exporting around 50% of what we produce. And while the last year has been tough – with Transnet’s recent logistical challenges, for instance – export continued nonetheless and should reach the $11 billion mark.
“We do, however, need to look at boosting volumes for the export market in terms of farmer profitability, with logistics and export development needing to receive more attention. It hasn’t all been shiny for farmers, as the input costs have been hard-hitting.”
Additional points made by Sihlobo in his closing remarks included the need to strengthen investment in infrastructure that supports agriculture, and also the use of fintech to enhance access to finance by emerging farmers.
A highlight of this year’s event was a panel discussion, where guest panellists Pierre Durand, Head of IT and Innovation at AFGRI Agri Services, and Alf White, Group Executive, Digital Transformation at Senwes, joined Sihlobo and Datacentrix General Manager: Gauteng Commercial Sales, Josua Taljaard, to debate the opportunities that modernisation makes available for agriculture today, including the importance of being data-driven for greater insight into the value chain.
Other topics on the agenda included a joint Datacentrix, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Teraco Data Environments and Rubrik presentation on hybrid IT, looking at the real power and business value of data and giving a modern take on cloud computing;a look at the journey of AFGRI’s Axl digital innovation ecosystem by Niki Neumann, General Manager: Strategic Innovation at AFGRI; and a talk by Datacentrix Head: Group Hybrid IT Strategy, Jaap Scholten, Hardus Dippenaar, Senior Network Architect, and Brian Smith, Business Unit Manager, on Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) and the ability to run your network as a service.
Datacentrix Agri Indaba 2021 was made possible by our sponsors. We thank them for their support and valuable contributions to the discussions: Dell Technologies, Cisco, HPE, Lenovo, Cybereason, Hitachi, Rubrik, Teraco and eNetworks.
Download the Datacentrix Agri Indaba 2021 presentations.