Building a future with technology

Published: 4 June 2024

Dr Tobias Doyer
CEO, Grain SA

Grain SA’s recent NAMPO Harvest Day with its focus on the latest technological advances in agriculture, once again highlighted the critical role of technology in ensuring successful and sustainable grain production. In a time where climate change and international market requirements pose significant challenges, the ability of producers to adapt to changing circumstances through innovation and technology is of crucial importance.

This emphasises the necessity for grain producers to develop their technological knowledge and skills on an ongoing basis in an extremely competitive agri environment where agri technology is advancing with leaps and bounds.

When referring to producer development, we often think that it only applies to emerging producers. Grain SA does have a complete programme to support new entrants to the grain industry. However, producer development goes much further as we have a holistic approach that includes all levels of grain producers – from subsistence farmers and new entrants to commercial grain producers. All producers use and need technology and the majority of the technology can be used, despite the size of the producer. Grain SA has a responsibility to facilitate this development process for all our members through training, exposure and access.

It is therefore encouraging to know that Grain SA’s research department is at the forefront of the latest technological agricultural development for grain and oilseed production in South Africa. This department fosters strategic partnerships between public institutions, private sector entities and research institutions that drive the collective advancement of agricultural technology.

The sole purpose of this commitment is to promote agricultural technology with a view to improving the profitability and sustainability of South African grain and oilseed producers. Grain SA is also well equipped to keep our members informed about the latest agtech developments through the SA Graan/Grain magazine and regular regional meetings.

Forty seasons
The average grain producer only has about forty seasons to decide to identify and integrate the best new technology for his farming operation. During this period producers must rely on expensive technological agri research conducted by specialised agricultural research institutions. Furthermore, they are expected to make informed and difficult technological decisions which entail inherent risks for their profitable and sustainable survival as grain producers. People often say that producers are conservative, but rather they are extremely cautious decision makers given the limited number of opportunities they have to correct mistakes or to capitalise on good decisions.

Several countries’ governments support their producers by making available extensive state funding and capacity to buffer most of the financial impact of sustainable development in agricultural technology. The benefits of using state resources for the development of agricultural technology not only promote the interests of the producer, but also trickle down to all levels within a society.

By boosting productivity and food security, technological progress contributes to economic growth and social stability. It also creates an improved growth of scale for producers, leading to more affordable food being put on the consumer’s table. In this way, the man on the street has more disposable income to use for his own social advancement to the benefit of society at large.

Unfortunately, over the years gaps have developed regarding support and funding from the government when it comes to research in agricultural technology in South Africa. However, Grain SA keeps on striving to address these gaps by building effective and long-term relationships with government institutions such as the Department of Science and Innovation and the Agricultural Research Council. This pursuit of cooperation with government has resulted in several successful partnerships.

Given the great responsibility that Grain SA has towards its members regarding producer development, we are determined to remain at the forefront of technological development and to tackle any shortcomings in this regard.

However, this responsibility extends even further when taking into account that agriculture is the foundation of our society. Through the successful and innovative application of agricultural practices, producers act as custodians of a future that our descendants can build on.

Rest assured that as an organisation we will continue striving to achieve this goal.