Buddies turn farm problem into African tech company

Today, Adagin Technologies serve more than 100 agricultural clients across Africa. Not many people know, though, that it all started when founder FG Adriaanse faced a real-life problem on the family farm

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When FG Adriaanse designed a technology solution to a problem faced on the family farm, he could never imagine that it would develop into a company serving more than 100 clients across Africa.

Adriaanse, who was born and raised on the Cape West Coast, is the founder and joint MD of Adagin Technologies, providing farmers with solutions in precision harvesting, packing and job costing.

Today, many people are amazed to learn that Adagin started in January 2016 as a side-hustle while he was studying towards a Master’s degree in logistics at Stellenbosch University.

“The aim was to solve a simple problem on our family farm with my extra time while studying,” Adriaanse recalls.

“I had to find a way to help our farmworkers harvest more effectively and to handle the grapes with greater care, and a picking harness seemed to address both challenges very well.”

Adagin combines FG Adriaanse and JD Naudé’s passion for farming and engineering to create some of the latest and progressive agricultural technologies in Mzansi. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Adagin combines FG Adriaanse and JD Naudé’s passion for farming and engineering to create some of the latest and progressive agricultural technologies in Mzansi. Pictured are Adriaanse and his cousin, Wian Adriaanse, who developed the company’s first picking harness. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Scaling up quickly

He then started asking other farmers whether they too could benefit from the harness and, low and behold, he received market-fit feedback. His innovative picking harness boasted a seatbelt and 3D-printed clamps.

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“So, I thought let’s make this a nice side-hustle to help pay for my Master’s and maybe use the extra money to travel a bit after I finish my studies.” 

The rest, as they say, is history… Just 11 months later, in November 2016, the first big sales started rolling in. This, after the company proved the harness’ efficiency. Fast-forward to today and Adagin, with its head office in Stellenbosch, is a fully-fledged agritech innovation company.

Since the initial idea, Adagin has grown from the simple harness solution to a full suite of high-tech solutions. They help farmers monitor their harvesting outputs with scanners and satellite technology. They have also developed technology solutions to manage farmers’ workforce and costs with a smartphone app.

Furthermore, they help farmers reduce packhouse waste and cost with Adagin’s Smart-Scales, which are supplied in conjunction with partner Soft-Pro.

However, Adriaanse admits that although he knew his ideas were good and filled a niche in the market, he had no idea where to start in reaching the market.

“Websites, brochures, accounting and networking all need to be in place beyond a company’s unique product or service offering. So, I just walked into the Stellenbosch LaunchLab one day. I told the first member I could find, Johnathan Smit, that this product needs to reach the agri industry, but that I didn’t know where to start!” 

LaunchLab was game-changer

Stellenbosch University LaunchLab is building the next generation of sustainable, high-impact companies. They tackle the world’s toughest challenges in agriculture, climate and health with a heavy dose of engineering and data science.

According to Adriaanse, this LaunchLab shared practical advice. They asked if he would like to join their knowledge acceleration programme, which is similar to its current Countdown programme.

The programme taught him exactly what he needed to get started. It also helped him to look beyond the short-term idea of the harness.

ALSO READ: Your guide to landing an agriculture internship

Combining passions to create magic

This is also where he befriended JD Naudé, who is now an equal owner and partner in the business, along with tech venture building specialists, Acumen.Zone, which today is invested in the business.

“We met Henry for a potential co-working project to take his product to the next level. It has acted as a foundation for Adagin to build new modules.

Adagin is known for many technology solutions in agriculture. This includes a smart-weigh scale that ensures a close correlation between punnets scanned and packed. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Adagin is known for many technology solutions in agriculture. This includes a smart-weigh scale that ensures a close correlation between punnets scanned and packed. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Another key milestone in Adagin’s evolution was meeting Henry Ford, founder of Soft-Pro scales.

“Our vision for Adagin and Henry’s vision for his product were really aligned. We are truly appreciative of the opportunity he gave us in partnering with us,” says Adriaanse.

Adagin combines the two friends’ passion for farming and engineering. They create some of the latest and progressive agricultural technologies in Mzansi. While Adriaanse has a farming background, Naudé is a mechanical design engineer with wide experience in product development.

Naudé says that Adagin is passionate about agriculture.

“We measure farmers’ largest income [harvest] and largest expense [labour], and have a responsibility to provide accurate and trustworthy data. And we just love the challenge of simplifying high-tech solutions to be more ‘farmer friendly’ and to solve burning problems on farms at their core.

“We continually ask ourselves, ‘how can we simplify this more’, ‘why are users not getting it’, ‘how can we get unschooled users to effectively use our products without intensive training’? The industry’s response has been fantastic, and feedback suggests that we are being effective in our approach.”

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