Be smart – FARM DIGITALLY

Published: 3 May 2024

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Dr Tobias Doyer
CEO, Grain SA

Agriculture is as old as human history. From humble beginnings of subsistence farming to today’s technologically driven agriculture, the journey to produce food has been marked by increasing ingenuity, perseverance, and a relentless pursuit of efficiency.

According to archaeologists, agricultural seed breeding technology laid the foundation for the first steps humanity took towards civilised society as we know it today. About 12 000 years ago, a few members of the society known as the Natufians started experimenting with wild rye by nurturing the plants and selecting higher-yielding plants for breeding.

This enabled the Natufian society to transform from nomadic hunter-gatherers to semi-sedentary producers. They did not have to spend all their time forag­ing for food but could live off the bounty provided by genetic manipulation, which allowed time for the specialisation of labour and the development of new technologies that laid the foundation for modern society.

The Natufians used breeding technology to manipulate the genetic makeup of cereal grasses and producers have continued this application of technology since then to advance human well-being and wealth. Producers have indeed always been at the forefront of either developing or applying technology.

Most of us have heard the tales of how farms converted from animal-drawn technology to tractors and remember being awestruck by the first self-propelled combine harvester. That monstrously big machine swallowed the maize plants and in a huge cloud of dust and noise dramatically spat out the stalks, silk, and leaves at the back and golden grain in the hopper. Some of us can recall the sensation of hessian on our fingers as we wrestled 90 kg or 200 lb maize bags filled by the threshing machine. And later, the frustration of trying to keep up with soil chemistry and calculating the correct quantities that needed to be applied.

We now live in even more amazing times where we experience fast technological leaps. Advances in genetics, plant breeding and crop management techniques have ushered in an era of high-yield varieties and intensive farming practices. This – along with the merging of digital technologies, data analysis, and precision farming techniques – means that grain production has now become a science where the full yield potential of every hectare can be optimally utilised.

Producers have equipped themselves with GPS-guided tractors and drones fitted with multispectral cameras, accessing a multitude of tools and technologies designed to optimise every aspect of crop production. Remote sensing, satellite imaging, and artificial intelligence help producers make informed decisions about soil, fertiliser, plant, irrigation, and pest management, while robotics and automation have drastically changed methods of planting, weed control, and harvesting.

Worldwide, producers have embraced these new technologies with enthusiasm, driving global food production to unprecedented levels. These technologies not only provide solutions to current challenges but also serve as a tool to build a resilient and sustainable agricultural sector for future generations.

It is against this backdrop that the theme for NAMPO Harvest Day 2024 will be ‘Agriculture in a digital age’. The focus on digital innovation at NAMPO will provide a unique opportunity for producers to explore the new frontiers of agricultural advancement and its costs. The survival of the modern producer depends on his ability to evaluate and apply good cost-benefit analysis to continuously stay ahead of the cost-price squeeze in order to continue farming profitably in a highly competitive international grain market.

One cannot help but look forward with excitement and anticipation to spend a day at NAMPO – surrounded by many local and international innovations, all holding the promise of sustainable and profitable agricultural production. All of this amidst an atmosphere of camaraderie and goodwill among all the producers, visitors, and participants who are passionate about agriculture.

This direct interaction and exchange of information between grain producers, suppliers, traders, and manufacturers at the NAMPO Harvest Day are not only a unique experience but also a privilege. The knowledge gained and the contacts made – all in one visit and one place – are invaluable for food producers to improve their agricultural practices, reduce costs, and increase profitability. NAMPO, as an agricultural trade show, is indeed beneficial for the entire agricultural value chain. It is a place where successful business can be conducted in a pleasant and informal environment.

In short, if you want to reap the benefits of the latest digital advancements in agriculture, a visit to this year’s NAMPO Harvest Day is a must. We will once again enjoy discussing the subject we love most – successful farming.

See you at NAMPO.