South Africa will soon be home to only the second Farms of the Future project in the world. Global frozen foods giant McCain announced this week that it will follow up its Canadian regenerative farming project with a similar farm near Lichtenburg in North West.
This farm will cover 465 hectares of irrigation and 90 hectares of dryland on which McCain will grow 125 hectares of potatoes every year, while doing valuable work on soil health and effective water management that will hopefully inform future farming practices.
“The new farm will allow us to build a better understanding of regenerative agricultural practices, enabling McCain to work with our farm partners to re-imagine the way we grow a potato that is better for both their farm and the planet,” said McCain CEO Max Koeune in a statement.
Through partnerships with various sector experts, the farm will focus on enhancing productivity, while prioritising soil health, water efficiency, the reduction of agro-chemical impacts and the introduction and preservation of biodiversity.
Crops from the farm will be used to produce McCain products.
Shaping the future
Koeune believes it will eventually help make the global food system more sustainable. “The strain that global supply chains are under right now is shining a stark light on how exposed we are, with a food system that requires a radical transformation to address the challenges of our century. Farmers are on the front line.”
Unathi Mhlatyana, managing director of McCain Food South Africa, added that the project could help them understand climate change risks and ongoing food production. This, as South Africa had dropped from number 62 a decade ago to 70th position on the 2021 Global Food Security Index by Economist Impact and Corteva Agriscience.
The new farm will be the second of three Farms of the Future which McCain plans to open by 2025.
The company has also made a global commitment to implement regenerative agricultural practices across 100% of its potato acreage by 2030.
A time for partnerships, new thinking
According to Agbiz chief economist Wandile Sihlobo, the current conflict in Ukraine has put increased pressure on South African farmers because of fertiliser and fuel price hikes, and the requirement to boost local production despite extreme weather events and rising electricity costs.
“Now is the time to focus on close collaboration and embrace state-of-the-art crop protection solutions and suitable and innovative agricultural practices to empower farmers to continue to feed our nation, whilst still being profitable.”
Mhlatyana added, “We are confident that smart and sustainable farming will help growers future-proof their operations ensuring that both McCain and our farmers have a business for generations to come.”
Triple-digit jump in online bread sales
In other news, research company NielsenIQ has released its latest figures on online grocery sales, which indicate growth of 53% in online food sales in the first three months of 2022.
Although online still represents a single-digit percentage of overall retail sales, online is growing much faster than the 14% overall. Within the online sales, food sales jumped the most.
Long-life milk took a top position in terms of online volume growth, followed by instant coffee. In terms of value growth, bread shot up 109%.
NielsenIQ South Africa MD Ged Nooy says that 38% of consumers with online access still say they prefer to shop at their local store, and adds that delivery times, available product ranges and choice are major factors driving consumers’ decision to shop online.
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