What is ERP? – Enterprise Resource Planning

Definition: Enterprise Resource Planning is the integrated management of main business processes, often in real-time and brought about by software and technology. On a farm, this would mean that business processes such as planting, harvesting, spraying, taking on labour, clocking, finances and human resources can all be integrated into a single software solution.

The benefits of implementing ERP software includes:

  • ERP systems enforce real-time capturing of business data, which means real-time business information can be reported on;
  • no longer having to capture the same data into multiple software programs and Excel spreadsheets;
  • shared databases can be used for various purposes, eliminating numerous sources for reporting purposes;
  • opportunities for employees to learn new skills by taking technology to lower levels in the business;
  • the integration of business processes saves time and money;
  • standardised naming conventions are enforced across the company, for example, chemical codes and descriptions in inventory and spray records;
  • consolidates securing business data by bringing it together in one application.

Barriers to entry:

  • ERP software and the implementation thereof can be expensive, and it is difficult to quantify the benefits that it will bring to the business. This makes cost-benefit analysis quite tricky.

At the end of the day, an ERP system needs to work for the business and not the business for the system.

What is IoT ? The Internet of Things

Definition: The Internet of Things is all the devices (hardware) including probes, sensors, cell phones and printers (not limited to), that are connected on a network. On a farm this would mean that even the tractor could be part of the IoT if the tractor is connected to the network, uploading data to the network and receiving software updates via the network.

The IoT includes all devices that could be accessed via the farm’s computer network.

Other useless but interesting facts about IoT:

  • The first appliance that was connected to the internet was a Coca-Cola vending machine at Carnegie Melon University in 1982. The vending machine was able to report its inventory and whether the cool-drinks were cold or not.
  • The term Internet of Things was probably coined by  Kevin Ashton of Procter & Gamble, in 1999, though he prefers the phrase “Internet for things”.
  •  It is estimated that the IoT was “born” between 2008 and 2009 – that would be the point where there were more THINGS connected to the internet than PEOPLE.

SOURCE: Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_things

10 Things you did not know about Meerkats

  • The meerkat is a curious, clever and social little creature. Just like me.
  • The meerkat, also known as a suricate, is a mammal and part of the mongoose family.
  • You will find the meerkat in dry places such as the Kalahari, in Southern Africa.
  • A family of meerkats can be called a mob, clan or gang.
  • A family usually consist of about 20 meerkats but can get as large as 50.
  • The clan sleeps in burrows that can be 5 m deep.
  • Meerkats have excellent eyesight and can spot predators in the air from as far as 300 meters.

Review of Agritech Africa 2020

AGDA (Agricultural Development Agency) Launch

The big program item for the Africa Agritech conference was the launch of AGDA. AGDA is part of the Public-Private Growth Initiative (PPGI). It was established in April 2018 under the leadership of Dr Johan van Zyl, CEO and President of Toyota in Europe.

Watch the embedded YouTube video below from the 44th minute. It shows the launch as well as a video that explains the thinking behind this initiative. If you missed the conference but would have liked to be there – this is almost as good. The video includes an address from Minister of Agriculture, Land reform and Rural development, Thoko Didiza.

Video of AGDA launch

The conference according to Twitter (#AAT2020)

I now finally understand the usefulness of Twitter (I know, I’m a bit slow). By searching for #AAT2020 on Twitter, I was able to get a complete picture. From the tweets, it is clear that the event was well attended.

Some of the issues and concerns that were discussed by the panels and which clear from Twitter included:

  • The lack of funding of research in agriculture from Government. See the following article which sets it out perfectly: https://www.farmersweekly.co.za/opinion/by-invitation/low-investment-in-research-hampers-agri-growth/;
  • The slow and ineffective reaction in South Africa in general to impacts of climate change;
  • The cost of capital is still too expensive for small farmers in South Africa;
  • Collaboration is the key to unlocking value in the agriculture sector;
  • The challenge of making technology accessible, affordable and understandable to more farmers.

My day at #AAT2020

I visited the conference and expo on the last day of the three-day conference as a trade visitor. My purpose was to meet agritech companies and to network to be able to launch this blog.

On the day and time that I was there, there were very few visitors in the exhibition itself. Most people there attended the panel discussion that was going on in the conference area. The conference and exhibition areas shared the same hall, partitioned by a curtain. The noise made it very difficult to have conversations in the exhibition area since the sound from the panel discussion in the conference was so loud.

There were about 35 exhibitions. In my opinion, this is very limited for an industry with lots of new entrants. The exhibitors included:

  • Agricultural Services Companies (Afgri, Grobank, ESusFarm, FarmersAssistant, Standard Bank, ThreeSprints, Syngenta)
  • Chemicals and fertilizers (Agri Technovation, Syngenta, Talborne Organics)
  • Data loggers and sensors (Euca Technologies)
  • Data services and consulting (Britehouse, DataCentrix)
  • Electricity Solutions (MiPower)
  • Embassies (Netherland, Canada, Danish)
  • Inventory and Asset Management (Ronin, Technetium)
  • Livestock technology (FarmRanger, SwiftVee, Topigs Norvin)
  • Livestock share scheme (Bitfarming)
  • Media (Landbou Weekblad)
  • Packaging (Knack Packaging)
  • Precision farming focusing on equipment (Cerealis, JohnDeere, RovicLeers, Kesla)
  • Precision farming software (FarmTrack, Eleaf, Agri Technovation / MyFarmWeb, The Awareness Company)
  • Research and government organisations (CSIR, InnovationHub, SA Tobacco Transformation Alliance)
  • Security (Olarm)
  • Vertical farming (CAN-Agri)

I’m not sure what I expected – Nampo or Fruit Logistica? Africa Agritech has the potential to grow much bigger, as long as the exhibitors keep on returning and bring their competitors with them.

The lesson for me: rather pay to attend one or all three of the conference days. The event was well organised for conference attendees, but not really suited for someone who just wanted to meet exhibitors. My reasons would be the shared space, the noise level because of it, and limited number of exhibitions.

Pepper – Nedbank’s humanoid robot entertained the attendees at the conference on Day 1

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What the heck is agritech?

What is agritech?

Agritech has been one of the buzz-words around internet forums and the business world. But what is the big fuss? What does agritech actually mean? It seems the word embodies quite a lot of things, but its definition is quite simple: any technology that improves efficiency (yield and quality) and profitability for farmers. The end goal is to produce more food, cheaper, faster and healthier.

Why is it important?

The buzz now makes sense. The world population is growing, and people are hungry. According to the UN, the world population is expected to grow from 7,7 billion in 2019 to 9,9 billion in 2050. On the authority of Population Action International, “Almost one in seven people around the world are chronically hungry, lacking enough food to be healthy and lead active lives”.

The challenge.

My challenge is this: the field of agritech seems like a rabbit hole, and I’m getting lost in all the different tunnels. Drones are flying over orchards. Sensors are capturing soil moisture. Data is being captured and analysed from tractors and implements. Productivity measures are being set up and managed. There are so many apps being launched. ERP software, specifically for agriculture, is being launched. Business intelligence tools are being advertised… And on and on. Is it only me feeling confused?

I will be writing some follow-up articles breaking down agritech into more manageable bites to assist farmers and other curious people like myself in making sense of agritech. Hopefully, this will answer the following question: where we should be focusing in order to maximise the cost-benefit to really produce more food, cheaper faster and healthier.