Experts say future-focused farmers will have to embrace technology and upskill their labour force. Photo by Getty Images

Producers who see themselves farming into the future, have little choice but to embrace the technological advancements of the fourth industrial revolution. The message from Grain SA to hundreds of farmers who gathered in the Free State, was that resilience in the face of diseases, pests and extreme weather can only be built by farming with technology.
By Tiisetso Manoko

Grain SA executive member Jozeph du Plessis pointed out during the organisation’s annual congress that if the South African farming industry are to compete internationally, farmers have to farm sustainably. And to ensure this, the sector needs to adapt to innovation and enhance new technology.

“Without making a profit, no farmer can survive or continue farming in South Africa. That farmer needs to adapt to new technologies which will lead to an increase in productivity amid the rising operational costs.
“Innovation and adoption of the new technology will be a driver of better yields that we are going to need to feed our nation,” Du Plessis said.

He also called for science-based policies by the regulator, faster availability and approval of new technology and genetics, and creating solutions to counter the high costs of biotech and genetics.

Growing population depends on farmers
According to Frank Rothweiler, of Bayer Global Corn Strategy and Portfolio Lead, the increasing population in South Africa renders it important that farmers are able to feed the nation and, more importantly, increase their productivity with the help of new technologies. These advancements will also ensure that crops are well maintained.

“South African farmers really need to look at technology trends that help them to protect their crops from pests. In that way their produce will have a long life and be able to sustain itself and produce food for the people,” he said.

“Biotech traits are key to technology and crop protection going forward. It is our preferred tech to be able to protect maize, soya beans, cotton and other crops against pest diseases and allow over-the-top use of efficient technology in farming.”

But don’t lose sight of the market…
Even though it is important for farmers to venture into technology in order to increase production, it will be a fruitless exercise if there are no market linkages, Grain SA chairperson Derek Matthew said.
He added that export channels need to be opened for farmers to empower them in their efforts to increase profits and market access.

Matthews called on government to create an enabling environment for farmers to do what they do best and produce food for South Africans.

“All the technology we are talking about is needed indeed. However, we need policy certainty and government to really come to the party and assist us in feeding the nation and ensuring that food security in the country is secured.”

Meanwhile, Eastern Cape farmer Patrick Stuurman pointed out that technology is already key in the farming operations of especially black commercial producers supplying to the South African market.

He also urged farmers to ensure they are exposed to the new opportunities that become available to them.
Stuurman is looking forward to technology being implemented in rural areas but cautioned against technology replacing farmworkers.

He emphasised that farmworkers should not be left behind and should be properly trained in the effective use of technology.


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