Microsoft SA invests in AgriTech to help smallholder farmers digitise

Microsoft South Africa has selected The Awareness Company as the beneficiary of its AgriTech Programme. The Awareness Company will develop and roll out three high-impact solutions in the agriculture sector within the next year – positively impacting one of the country’s critical sectors, helping to drive growth and job creation.

The AgriTech Programme’s main objective is to drive digital transformation in the agriculture sector

“Technology – specifically agritech – has the ability to empower our country’s smallholder farmers by enabling them to become more productive, efficient, competitive, commercially viable and sustainable,” says Lillian Barnard, CEO of Microsoft South Africa.

South African smallholder farmers face various challenges that prevent them from achieving their full potential. Challenges are security concerns, a lack of infrastructure, access to competitive formal markets, production and business skills, funding and financial support to re-invest in farming activities, as well as compliance with food safety regulations and legislation.

Many are failing to leverage available technologies that will allow them to scale into commercial farms. Limited digitisation leads to low productivity, inefficiency and low levels of competitiveness due to a lack of actionable insights.

Hydra Holistic Agriculture digital solutions from The Awareness Company will enable smallholder farmers to improve efficiencies in their farming operations through the use of operational insights. This will allow them to reduce the cost of production, increase yields, strengthen links throughout the value chain and improve farm security.

“The country’s two to four million smallholder farmers play a critical role in driving food security and economic participation, but they face specific and deep-rooted challenges, and the sector is typically underserved in terms of high-tech solutions,” says Priaash Ramadeen, Co-Founder and CEO of The Awareness Company.

“That’s why Microsoft’s support and investment in helping us as a local, homegrown business to grow and develop solutions that focus on solving real-world problems is so meaningful. The programme is a jump-start that has enabled us to create and update products that synchronise with the work we have already done in the agricultural space to promote sustainable agriculture and food security through intelligent data.”

The basket of digital solutions include:

  • HYDRA FarmSecurity: combines AI, data analytics and sensors through an easily accessible integrated mobile platform that acts as an early warning system and provides a safe living and operating environment.
  • HYDRA FarmAwareness: allowing farmers to digitise their farms to improve overall capability management of livestock, crops, people and assets. This improves yields and quality, competitiveness and compliance with regulations.
  • HYDRA AgriInsights: provides data-driven insights and innovation using AI, IoT and analytics to improve the services of agri organisations.

“We want to help unlock the potential of one of South Africa’s core industries and its smallholder farmers by tapping into the capabilities of agritech. By investing in local businesses and technologies that are truly disruptive, we will be able to build on our commitment to support the competitiveness of key sectors through innovation and drive economic growth in South Africa,” concludes Barnard.

Read more: SA agritech unlocks wider revenue stream for farmers

Featured image supplied by Microsoft SA

Lindsey Schutters


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