A power team from leading agricultural enterprise VKB and InteliGro have unveiled their new strategy for summer crops during a live stream hosted from Bethlehem in the Free State.
Anchored by Janet Lawless from InteliGro, the broadcast featured top agricultural leaders, including Francois Swanepoel from VKB, Johan Nienaber and Neil Kruger from InteliGro, and producers Izak Dreyer and Junior Ferreira. Together, they addressed a myriad of challenges facing the farming industry.
Ferreira is a grain producer from Bethlehem and has been a farmer for close to 11 years. He says that the biggest threat to farming in South Africa right now is climate change.
“We go from too dry to too wet, without ever reaching ideal circumstances, but we must adapt to it,” he said.
“We do not have a choice. That is why it is so important for us to choose role players or partners that help you to face the challenges, and to try and pre-empt what is going to happen because it is not always within your power.”
Ferreira, in a video segment that formed part of the livestream, also found that staying adaptable is a big challenge.
“You need to constantly keep abreast of the newest trends, newest operation programs, pests and plagues, every year a new challenge, weeds with resistance to chemicals, and ever-increasing insect costs.”
It starts in the soil
Dreyer, a farmer for more than 25 years, says to meet some of these challenges, farmers need to be a bit more strategic.
“To start at the basics; one needs to do the right thing correctly at the right time. To be sustainable, I think we need to start with the soil. It is our biggest resource.
“Our soil health over the past few years is on a declining trend, and we need to think about how we are going to turn it around and get our soil on a rising trajectory, so that we leave something better for our children and for grandchildren, better perhaps than what we received.”
Dreyer added that farmers need to stay sustainable as they have a responsibility towards those who buy their produce.
“I also think consumers are going to insist on healthy food more and more, which is going to be a big forward driver [for us]. Also, you have a responsibility towards yourself, to be sustainable, to not work yourself to the bone and to have some balance.”
“None of us can do anything without fuel. The entire fuel value chain begins in Durban. All our fuel comes from around Durban, from the north of South Africa. So, all of us saw the negative impact that those happenings caused for us.”
He says the unrest had affected the VKB value chain, particularly the transportation of grain from the silos. Adding even more stress to the food security system was the recent shutting down of the Transnet port terminals, which affected the importing of fertiliser.
“I know I am putting a lot of problems on the table, but know that we do not back away from a challenge. It is incredibly important for VKB, and for everyone else on this panel, through partnerships, through cooperation with role players in the value chain, to ensure that we address these problems,” says Swanepoel.
“That’s why a day like today is so important to us. We partnered up with InteliGro to ensure that we face the problems showing up on this supply chain.”
The importance of partnerships
Neil Kruger, the marketing director for InteliGro, says one way for the company to help resolve these issues is by making decisions effectively. “When to do something. And what to do.”
Kruger also emphasises that the InteliGro solution is crafted around the human being. “We have for the past while identified projects that support the profile of the human being; the knowledge and the experience.”
The projects include InteliBio Solutions, InteliFarm, InteliGro Cerified Crop Advisor, and Intelekt Solutions. All of the projects are focused on different aspects of farming, but all are centred around one thing.
“It begins on the farm. If we do not start there, then we are on the wrong path,” says Kruger.
Sustainability is a big concern for the South African farming fraternity. Swanepoel says that part of VKB’s sustainability strategy is to ensure that they provide producers with support so that they farm more effectively and more profitably.
“That means that we want to reduce their costs and optimise the value of their products.”
For agricultural businesses to stay sustainable, Swanepoel says that having the right partnerships is critical. “It is about relationships. Relationships with your staff, relationships with your supplier, and very importantly, relationships with your clients. Without these components of your business, it is simply not possible to succeed.”
He encourages farmers to go out and find the right partnerships.
“Through doing this, you will take your business forward. We cannot function on islands anymore. It is incredibly important to [partner up with] people who think the same as you do, who have the same value system as you do, to take them forward with you, to achieve sustainability for yourself and your business.”
The VKB and InteliGro solution
Meanwhile, Nienaber, regional director at InteliGro, says it is with stability of producers in mind that VKB and InteliGro set up their strategic partnership.
“Our philosophy is that everything starts on the farm. Therefore, post the previous season, we engaged with our producers where we can improve and to design the commercial offer in accordance to their specific needs.”
The offer has been revised for the upcoming season, and now includes Limpopo. It also includes crop solutions for potatoes, which address factors like cost effectiveness and product availablility.
VKB and InteliGro found that stakeholders in Mzansi are particularly worried about the product availability factor, which is why the offer allows producers to access crop-specific solutions to optimise their yields and maximise their profits.
Some of the offers also include discounts on Dekalb seed, Multi Green fertiliser and InteliGro crop solutions, and allow producers up to six months without interest on their VKB accounts.