Microsoft to invest R40 million in agritech for SA smallholder farmers

Tech giant to partner with local tech companies to boost smallholder farmers and address key challenges

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Microsoft South Africa has announced it will be investing up to R40 million into the South African agricultural landscape.

The capital injection is aimed at driving sustainability in the sector for smallholder farmers and will be geared towards using technology as an enabler to address the challenges which prevent these farmers from becoming commercially viable, efficient and sustainable.

In a press release issued by the tech giant, Lillian Barnard, managing director at Microsoft South Africa, said Mzansi’s smallholder farmers hold significant potential to drive growth and employment opportunities. In addition, they enable other sectors within the country to ultimately drive food security.

“This makes it critical to invest in the sector to address the challenges they face. Key challenges are a lack of infrastructure, access to competitive formal markets, production and business skills, funding and financial support to re-invest in their farming activities, and compliance with food safety regulations and legislation,” Barnard states.

Microsoft said its investment is geared towards using technology to help address these key challenges.

The company stated that this broadly meant harnessing the power of technology to help improve the economic participation and contribution, efficiencies, viability and sustainability of South Africa’s smallholder farmers.

It also seeks to help meet broader South African national development plan goals. This includes creating job opportunities and facilitating skills development to attract more people, particularly youth and women, into key sectors such as agriculture.

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“Our investment is aimed at making a real difference in one of South Africa’s most vital sectors by harnessing the power of technology,” Barnard said.

The tech company believes high-impact technological solutions will improve efficiencies in smallholder farming and lower the cost of production. Barnard stated that among others, it will also improve access to local and international markets, at the same time improve compliance with legislation, and drive access to information.

“By investing in the agriculture sector and unlocking the potential of technology to act as an enabler for growth and skills development, we are showing our commitment to driving sustainability and creating opportunities in one of South Africa’s most critical, job-creating industries,” Barnard concluded.

Microsoft said it would be identifying and appointing established tech companies in South Africa to jointly conceptualise, develop and roll-out various high-impact solutions in the agriculture sector.

These solutions are expected to address the challenges Mzansi’s smallholder farmers face and make a meaningful economic impact.

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