‘Soil Sista’ profits from the informal vegetable market

At 9pm on most weekday nights, many South Africans are in front of the TV, comfortably digesting their supper of meat and vegetables.

Not so for KwaZulu-Natal fruit and vegetable farmer Zama Buthelezi, who was placed second in the highly contested 2017 SAB KickStart competition.

By 9pm, Zama is invariably asleep, recovering from a working day that began at 3am.

When she started her working career in 2001, predominantly in financial management, Zama would probably have laughed at the thought that she would one day swap her business suits for gumboots and overalls, and plant, pick and pack vegetables.

But this is exactly what happened 10 years later, by which time she was married to Andile and had a son and daughter, Dingaan and Zola.

The change was actually triggered by Andile’s father, Aubrey, when he invited his son to assist him with running his 549ha sugar cane farming operation in KZN’s Albert Falls area.

This meant that he had to leave his job as a business analyst.

“Looking at the financials of the sugar cane farm, Andile and I realised it could not fully support both Aubrey’s family and ours,” recalls Zama.

“So we decided that while Andile would earn some of our family’s income by helping manage Aubrey’s farm, I would look at starting my own commercial farming business, with a focus on vegetable production due to the fast cash turnover for added income.”

With the help of Ithala Development Finance Corporation, Zama and Andile found the 116ha Glentworth Farm in the Baynesfield area.

“When we got here, we found that the farm hadn’t been used for many years,” explains Zama.

“The lands had reverted to veld grasses. But I saw opportunity. Andile and I chose to spend our savings on rehabilitating the farm and starting with vegetables, instead of on both rehabilitation and paying off a bond. We secured a four-year lease in 2011, which was extended for a further three years in 2015.”

Since 2011, Zama and her ever-growing team – now up to 16 permanent and 15 seasonal workers – have gradually transformed Glentworth into a fully functional mixed cropping agribusiness. Their goal is to buy the farm this year.

Crops and management

Commercial vegetable production is the primary enterprise, but Zama also has 10ha of irrigated sugar cane and a 2,7ha orchard of still immature pomegranates. In addition, she intends establishing an 8ha gold kiwifruit orchard before long.

Her vegetable enterprise comprises 5ha to 6ha of cabbages planted and harvested year-round in a three-month cycle; between 1h and 2ha of spinach planted and harvested year-round in a five-month cycle; and 5ha of potatoes planted and harvested in a 12-month cycle.

Potatoes being harvested on Glentworth Farm. The property had been neglected before Zama Buthelezi began leasing it in 2011.

In summer, she harvests one crop each of butternuts (2ha), green maize (10ha) and green beans (3ha). In winter, she harvests one crop each of lettuce (2ha), peas (5ha) and beetroot (1ha).

Back in 2011, Zama had very little farming knowledge, but she threw herself into learning as much as she could as quickly as possible. She did this mainly by attending a variety of short courses hosted by Cedara Agricultural College and Tshwane University of Technology.

She has also received advice from other farmers, including Aubrey, as well as agricultural experts.

Finding – and keeping – buyers

How to find and keep vegetable buyers has been one of the most important lessons of all.

“When I started out, I naively contacted the large retail chains and asked to speak directly to their fresh produce buyers,” Zama recalls with a wry chuckle. “While I could grow plenty of vegetables to supply them, I wasn’t prepared for the stringent requirements of the retail chains.”

Still laughing, she says that in 2011 she wasn’t even aware that there were municipal fresh produce markets in nearby Pietermaritzburg and in Durban.
Instead, she sought out bakkie traders in both areas. She explains that these typically work in small groups to have better bargaining power and distribution networks.
They buy vegetables directly from farms or fresh produce markets, then travel to various areas where they either sell directly from their bakkies to passers-by or informal street hawkers.
Zama initially began working with a group of five bakkie traders based in Pietermaritzburg.
“In 2011, I grew only 0,6ha of cabbages,” she says. “The traders were so impressed with the quality they asked me to increase the scale and variety of my vegetable production, something I’ve been gradually doing ever since.”
She soon learnt that to deal successfully and profitably with the bakkie traders it was imperative to know the latest daily market prices for Glentworth’s fresh produce.
The traders themselves are well-informed about local supply and demand, and Zama has to be on top of her game to achieve the best possible prices from the traders.

Understanding customers’ needs

Zama is also keenly aware of the requirements of her informal consumers. For example, they want larger cabbages than are commonly found on retail shop shelves, and are willing to pay more for these, provided the quality is consistently good.

“I sell most of my vegetables to lower-income consumers,” she explains.

“Many in this group don’t own fridges, so they want fresh produce that also has a reasonable shelf-life at home. I provide this in a number of ways: through good crop management, by knowing which varieties to plant and when, by making sure my soil health and fertility are optimal, by carefully deciding on when to harvest each crop, and by best post-harvest produce handling.”

Bakkie traders and formal markets

Come rain or shine, up to 10 bakkie traders at a time arrive on Glentworth Farm well before sunrise.

“One bakkie can take 300 cabbages or 1 800 green mealies. About a month before my crops are harvested, the bakkie traders start scouting my lands with me to get an estimate of what the quality and quantity of each harvest is going to look like. About 70% of all my fresh produce is now sold to bakkie traders.”

Bakkie traders, however, are not particularly big buyers of what they say are ‘slower-moving’ produce, such as carrots, beetroots and potatoes. So while Zama grows a variety
of fresh produce to generate income throughout the year, her other clients include a
major KZN retail chain.

In addition, she supplies the fresh produce markets in Pietermaritzburg and Durban. In this way, she sells those crops that are not in great demand by bakkie traders.

Adding value

Zama continually seeks more opportunities for her vegetable business and is in the process
of developing an on-farm value-adding facility that will cater specifically to low-income consumers.

These people typically work a full day, travel long distances by public transport between home and work, and have families of about seven members on average.

Despite working a full day, the women in the family are expected to cook and serve meals to the family.

“Major retailers do sell processed vegetables, such as grated cabbage and cubed butternut, which are aimed at making food preparation easier and faster for consumers. But these are generally too expensive for low-income families and the portions are too small. I want to start providing correctly sized processed vegetable portions at affordable prices.”

She also wants to deliver these products directly to outlets in townships, cutting out the middle-man to keep the till price as low as possible.

Soil Sista brand

Zama has already registered her ‘Soil Sista’ brand, under which she will market and label her produce.

She intends establishing her on-farm processing facility once she and Andile officially own Glentworth Farm. This will all be a gradual process, but will be greatly facilitated by her R400 000 prize money.

Phone Zama Buthelezi on 079 505 8006 or email her at [email protected].

Source: Farmer’s Weekly

Exploring the best tactics to combat Fall armyworm outbreaks in Africa

Cereal farmers across sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing heavy losses due to the devastation by an invasive pest: the Fall army worm – Spodoptera frugiperda. In Africa it has caused huge losses to staple cereals, especially maize and sorghum, affecting food security and trade. Damage to maize alone is estimated to be between $ 2.5 – 6.2bn per year.

The Fall armyworm’s lifespan, from egg to larva to moth, lasts between one to three months. It’s during the larval stage that it does the most crop damage. Controlling them is a challenge because they reproduce fast and in large numbers, can migrate great distances, hide within growing leaves and have been reported to resist several pesticides. Emergency responses by the affected countries have been based on the use of pesticides but in most cases, this has proven costly and not very effective.

Adult male moth. Sevgan Subramanian

Various tactics – both old and new – are being tested to try and control the Fall armyworm in Africa. These include the use of inter-cropping technology, natural enemies, early warning systems and use of biopesticides.

To combat the voracious pest, and prevent the huge losses, policymakers, extension agencies and growers could learn from the experiences of farmers in the Americas, and adapt the same to suit the smallholder African production system. This knowledge must be shared with farmers and agricultural officers. And any policy developed must involve local and international stakeholders before being rolled out.

Stopping the outbreak

The pest, an alien from the Americas, was first reported in Africa in 2016. Starting in the São Tomé and Príncipe islands and Nigeria, in just two years it spread to over 38 African countries.

The speed with which they spread could be due to a few factors. Firstly, female armyworms produce a huge number of eggs (between 50 – 200 eggs per batch), and can have up to 10 batches within her lifespan. Secondly, the moths are carried by the wind across vast distances. Some have been known to travel up to 1,000km. Thirdly, numbers aren’t being reduced by their natural enemies which means they can multiply uninhibited.

All these factors are crucial to keep in mind when managing an outbreak.

Pesticides: In sub-Saharan Africa, most food is produced by smallholder farmers. When they try to control an outbreak they will often use pesticides as these are believed to instantly suppress the pest. The use of chemical pesticides seems to be the most common practice that is currently heavily supported by the government.

But pesticides can be harmful, particularly to the environment as they affect non-targeted organisms, like bees.

Though often overlooked, there are other, more natural approaches which have proven effective.

Push-pull and other intercropping technology: In this approach crops are grown alongside one another. Some act as a deterrent to insect pests and weeds. The system has reduced pest infestation drastically. This technology has the additional benefit of providing high-quality fodder for livestock and improving yields and soil fertility.

For example, when a “trap” crop (such as Napier grass) is planted around maize rows, it attracts stemborer moths to lay eggs on it. But, because the grass isn’t nutritious, very few stem borer larvae will survive.

In the case of fall armyworm, this has proven effective when maize is inter-cropped with drought-tolerant Greenleaf desmodium and planting Brachiaria as a border crop around this intercrop. When compared to mono-crop areas, data collected from over 250 farmers, who adopted this technology in drier areas of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, showed a reduction of 82.7% in the average number of larvae per plant and 86.7% in plant damage per plot. Intercropping maize with edible legumes can also result in up to 40% reduction in armyworm incidence and damage.

On the basis of these multiple benefits, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology and partners are rolling out the approach in sub-Saharan Africa.

Early warning, surveillance and monitoring systems: Surveillance and monitoring are crucial to managing an outbreak. They ensure that identification happens very early, before a full outbreak, and allows for proper response management.

Pheromone traps, which use the smell of a female armyworm to attract a male, can be a very useful surveillance tool. Judging by the number of moths captured, an infestation can be quickly recognised. These types of surveillance systems are already being demonstrated within some communities. The traps can also be used for mass trappings to reduce the numbers.

Biocontrol: several ecologically sustainable biocontrol solutions are available to farmers. The release of natural enemies is one of them. Parasitic wasps for example can provide (up to 70%) control for Fall armyworm by laying their eggs on or inside the Fall armyworm eggs or larvae.

Scientists at International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology have also identified locally available natural enemies, such as the wasp Cotesia icipe, which has proven effective against the armyworm larvae in the lab.

If these natural enemies are reared in bulk, they can be released in huge numbers in affected fields and conserved. As they multiply in the fields, they can control the pest as they feed on the pest’s larvae.

Biopesticides: These are a fungal, viral or bacteria based product which kill the Fall army worm. Examples include the fungi-like Metarhizium anisopliae or bacteria-based Bacillus thuringiensis that have proven effective against Fall armyworm and have been used to control it in the US and Brazil.

There are also botanical pesticides which act as both deterrent and toxins. These can prevent the caterpillar from feeding on the crop but also interfere with its ability to grow.

The ConversationEfforts to control Fall armyworm by African governments could draw on the lessons of all these interventions which have been used in the Americas but also trialled in Africa. Obviously, local adaptations will need to be made. But the Fall armyworm will remain in Africa for a long time unless concerted action is taken, drawing on the various methods from America and those available in Africa.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Source: Bizcommunity

Meet Tom Osborn, The Founder and CEO of GreenChar in Kenya

At the age of 19, Tom Osborn has already been recognised as one of the world’s top entrepreneurs.

GreenChar is a clean energy start-up that produces charcoal briquettes for cooking purposes that are both healthier to use and last longer.

The coals he produces from recycled agricultural waste such as sugarcane, which studies show emit 90% less smoke, and have 60% more energy than the normal charcoal used for cooking.  Now that is clean energy there.

Tom’s company is causing a buzz because of his innovation, thats not only a business but is also environmentally more friendly. Forbes has named him one of the  global ’30 under 30′ social entrepreneurs, including many other accolades.

Health concern

It all started when Tom realised how smoke affected his mother as she cooked and he set out to change all that. One day, in school, he came a report that stated “charcoal killed more people than AIDS, Malaria and TB combined,”. That cemented his resolve to come up with a solution, leading to the birth of GreenChar.


Having a good idea wasn’t enough, it had to be marketed , since it was a new product he had to introduce it to people first. People will usually not pay for a product they don’t know, so Tom decided to give free samples first for people to spread the word. Next he had to compete with traditional methods of energy, which he decided compete by lowering price with the added benefit of healthier choice and eco-friendliness. The strategy worked.

Growth through Partnership

Greenchar increased productivity by re-investing their sales revenue into the business. To realise added capacity, the company had to hire more stuff so they decided to diversify by partnering with Envirofit, a global manufacturer of cookstoves that ensured optimum efficiency of his Eco-friendly charcoal briquettes.

Now Greenchar is selling the products in a bundle, stoves and charcoal,  ensuring reoccurring custom. His message to aspiring young entrepreneurs

Just do it, START,

Know how to tell your story, think about how to sell your product.

Source: How Africa

Bigger maize harvest expected for SA

According to the third production forecasts recently released by the National Crop Estimate Committee, most summer crop production estimates were revised up from previous levels, with the exception of dry beans. The production forecast for sorghum and groundnuts remained unchanged.

Production for sunflower seed is estimated to be 792 255  tons, which is 5,75% higher than the March estimate, while that of soya bean is estimated to be 1,43 million tons, which is 2,55% higher than the last estimate.

In the case of dry beans, the production is estimated at 65 610 tons, which is 3,81%  less than the 68 210 tons of the previous forecast.

According to Agbiz economist Wandile Sihlobo, South Africa’s maize market will be well supplied in the 2018/2019 marketing year which started on 1 May 2018.

“This marketing year will open with a large carryover stock of about 4,1 million tons, which will add to the expected large harvest.”

This is 22% more than the roughly 10,5 million tons South Africa typically consumes per year. Shilobo added that this is partially why prices have remained at the current lower levels.

For the winter cereal crops, early indications are that producers intend to plant 500 500ha of wheat for the 2018 production season. This is 1,81% or 8 900ha more than 491 600ha planted to wheat in 2017.

According to Sihlobo, the weather remains a key focus in the local wheat market as the planting period approaches. However, he is optimistic about the upcoming production season, saying that it promises to be better than the last.

“While rainfall could be delayed, there is a bit of optimism following South African Weather Services’ view that parts of the south-western regions of the country could receive above-normal rainfall between the end of April and June.”

Source: Farmer’s Weekly

The autonomous electric tractor, Yanmar

Yanmar, the giant Japanese manufacturer of diesel engines and machinery, has successfully developed a robot tractor in collaboration with Hokkaido University.

The machine, currently undergoing testing in real-world situations, can reportedly carry out all the essential farming tasks, including cultivating, planting and harvesting.

The system enables one driver to operate more than one tractor. Built-in sensors identify obstacles and prevent collisions, while a tablet interface is being developed for intuitive operation.

The engine control unit automatically optimises engine speed according to operating conditions and a camera enables the driver to monitor all operations.

The tractor also sends data by telemetry to a base station, thereby adding another level of precision.

With Japan’s farmers ageing and its young people choosing careers in other fields, the country has a declining agricultural workforce. Driverless tractors might be one solution to the problem.

The electric tractor
Escorts Agri Machinery, one of India’s leading tractor manufacturers, recently unveiled an electric tractor concept under the Farmtrac label.

It is expected to be ready for customer evaluation in 12 to 18 months, and commercial production should begin in three to four years. The target markets are in India, the US, Europe, Southeast Asia and South Africa.

These developments raise the obvious question: is the autonomous electric unit the next big thing?

After years of research, the Mobile Agricultural Robot Swarms (MARS) project, developed by AGCO and Fendt, is ready for series production. The entire system, including small robots operating in swarms and a cloud-based system control, will now be operated under the product name Xaver.

The system plans, monitors and documents the precise planting of maize. The position and planting time of each seed is accurately recorded.

Knowing exactly where the seed has been planted opens up potential for further processes, as subsequent operations such as crop protection or fertilising can be performed precisely for each individual plant.

Crop planning, including seeding patterns and density, is carried out via the Xaver app. The intelligent OptiVisor algorithm plans each robot’s deployment based on selected parameters, and calculates optimal paths for the units and the time required to complete the task.

Source: Farmer’s Weekly

Eric Kaduru: The Ugandan who left his advertising job for passion fruit farming

Most young people would hesitate before leaving a stable job for an entrepreneurial venture. But not for a plucky 34-year-old Ugandan, Eric Kaduru, who made a decision to leave his advertising job in the capital city, Kampala, to become an agripreneur – an entrepreneur in the agriculture business.

Kaduru had grown weary of the early-morning traffic and day-to-day struggle in Kampala, and was ready to try something new. A magazine article about an agricultural project triggered his interest. He and his wife did some research, and that’s how the idea of passion fruit farming was conceived. He quit his advertising job in 2011 to found KadAfrica, a commercial passion fruit farm and outgrower network, which links farmers with buyers.

KadAfrica, located in Fort Portal, a town in the Western Region of Uganda, concentrates on commercial production of export-quality passion fruit. It sells fresh passion fruit used to produce juice and pulp countrywide to markets as well as to juice companies such as Coca-Cola. KadAfrica products can now be found in markets in London.

A desire for positive social change drives the company. On its website it lists early marriage, high school dropout rates among girls and girls’ lack of economic power as social problems it hopes to tackle. Its vision statement sums up its purpose: “Enable girls to become economic drivers of their communities.”

Kaduru told Africa Renewal that at the beginning, most of his employees were women who needed money for food and for their children’s school fees. The women also complained that their husbands were not providing any support.

In rural Uganda, women face economic hardships and many young girls are still out of school.

Kaduru subsequently thought that commercial agriculture could help “out-of-school girls have a better life”.

KadAfrica provides training and passion fruit vines to girls, especially those between the ages of 14 and 20 who have dropped out of school, so that they can set up viable agricultural enterprises and earn income. It assists the girls to start their own cooperatives and trains them in basic business management skills and agriculture. The company then connects the girls to domestic and international markets.

The company has engaged more than 1,600 girls since it began operations.

More than 70% of households in Uganda grow food for subsistence only – meaning little to no income. As a result, farming is not seen as a business, but rather a chore delegated to women and girls.

“It was challenging to convince them that it can be a profitable business,” Kaduru said.

With time, after his work with three farmers proved profitable for them, many more wanted to work with KadAfrica.

Young entrepreneurs in Africa usually face challenges in finding capital to start a business and lure top-notch employees.

“Finding access to money is a huge headache for young people, plus getting the best-quality workers also costs a lot of money,” Kaduru said, adding “Finding good partners really helps”.

In 2015, at just 31 years, Kaduru was awarded the Africa Food Prize, becoming the youngest laureate since the prize was established in 2005 to honour achievements in agriculture in Africa.

Encouraged by this and other accolades, he gives this message to African youth: “When you have an idea, if you pursue it, if you persist, you’ll succeed… The quicker you fail, the faster you learn, the quicker you grow. So don’t give up.”

This article was originally published by Africa Renewal.

Source: How We Made It In Africa

12 Burning Questions for the Entrepreneur Trying to Get You to Eat Bugs

Whether a crispy cricket on the end of a fork triggers your spirit for adventure or makes you want to gag, there’s no denying that edible insects will soon be part of the food landscape.

Indeed, in a 2013 paper, Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security, the United Nations outlined the key issue.

“To meet the food and nutrition challenges of today — there are nearly 1 billion chronically hungry people worldwide — and tomorrow, what we eat and how we produce it needs to be re-evaluated,” the authors wrote. “Inefficiencies need to be rectified and food waste reduced. We need to find new ways of growing food.”

Mohammed Ashour, co-founder and CEO of Aspire.
Image credit: Courtesy of Aspire

To get more insights into this growing trend, Entrepreneur spoke with Mohammed Ashour, co-founder and CEO of Aspire, which operates cricket farms in Texas and Ghana and produces cricket powder, among other products. The company recently acquired Exo, the makers of a cricket-powder protein bar that’s backed by Tim Ferrissand Nas. Collectively, the new company is likely the biggest in the edible insects space.

We quizzed Ashour about why people should eat insects, the technology involved in farming insects and the best insect dish he’s ever had.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

1. Why should we eat crickets and other insects?

You should eat crickets and other insects because they are nutritious, delicious and better for the environment than almost any other source of protein. Most sources of animal protein require dramatically more land, water and energy resources to produce. To put that in perspective, to produce one pound of beef, you need around 5,000 gallons of water, whereas to produce one pound of cricket protein, you need less than 5 gallons of water.

2. How do you convince people to eat insects?

Most people just need to try it once and that’s all it takes. But the challenge is, how do you get people to be willing to try? Part of that has to do with how you present the product. Some people are adventurous and won’t mind eating a cricket that still looks like a cricket. Other people would prefer you to grind crickets into a powder and then add that powder to a product they already enjoy and are familiar with, like bars, chips, protein beverages and other consumer packaged goods.

3. What about the people who are terrified of eating insects? How would you get them on board?

It’s not irrational to have a fear of insects. Insects can be disease vectors, they can destroy crops and in some circumstances they can be directly harmful to human beings. However, we focus on insects that are edible and safe to eat. People can start off by trying familiar products that use insects as an ingredient. Rather than having a bag of whole roasted crickets, perhaps they would be open to trying a peanut-butter chocolate chip protein bar made using cricket protein powder.

4. What are some of the products that feature edible insects?

Under our brand we sell bars that use cricket protein powder, which are high in protein and low in sugar. We also sell granola paleo bites and crispy crickets. There’s other companies that sell chips, pasta using crickets flour and other edibles like beef patties and sausages using insect protein.

5. What kind of technology is involved in farming insects?

We use automated robotic systems that deliver feed and water directly to crickets throughout their entire lives. So instead of a person going around and inserting food and water into every bin — we have thousands of bins in our facility — and calibrating that food and water to the needs of each cricket bin, we have robotic systems that do that automatically and measure exactly the amount of feed and water and record it.

That recording is actually registered in our cloud so that we can keep and compile a massive data archive on how that particular bin has been serviced throughout its life. Because of that we can use theoretically blockchain to keep a ledger of every bin in the entire history of our facility and to know the relationship of the different bins to one another and which crickets ultimately gave rise to which future progeny bins and so on and so forth.

Image credit: Courtesy of Aspire

We have IoT sensors throughout our entire facilities to capture second-by-second data about different parameters like heating, cooling, temperature, humidity, water distribution, air flow, air ventilation, oxygen levels and things of that sort to help us constantly respond and improve the environmental conditions for farming.

6. Why acquire Exo, the cricket-powder protein bar company?

The merger makes a lot of sense if you think about any early stage industry where vertical integration can be essential to improving the product value proposition to the end consumer. Consumers more than ever want to understand where their food is coming from. Who’s farming it? What is the food that their food ate? What things did their food get exposed to? Did you use chemicals, antibiotics, any types of things like that that don’t resonate with these consumer preferences?

There’s a strong need for some type of supply chain transparency. One of the best ways to understand consumers is to actually have a consumer brand. So by being a company that can address the supply chain side and also understand the consumer, we are able to stretch the journey truly from farm to table.

There are some added value benefits like reduced costs, improved customer retention and loyalty because there is an increased level of accountability and transparency.

7. Can you name some famous people who are supportive of the collective company’s mission?

Tim Ferriss was actually an early investor in Exo. John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco, is a major investor in Aspire. Mark Melancon of the San Francisco Giants was a huge supporter. Nas the rapper was also an investor in Exo. That’s just a handful of folks. It’s also worth noting that there’s a number of celebrities that have come out talking about how they enjoy eating insects. Nicole Kidman, Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie are three that come to mind right away.

8. What are some of the countries that eat the most insects?

In Asia you have places like Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan and China. In Africa you have Ghana — we have a farm here. Many parts of Africa: Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Niger and Nigeria. Most of Latin America, and of course in North America you have Mexico, where insects are prominently consumed.

The common statistic that the United Nations cites is that 80 percent of the world’s countries have a tradition of consuming insects.

9. Why do the world’s wealthy nations need to adapt to eating insects?

There’s a need to adapt to it because of the sheer shift in how we’re producing food around the world and trends like reduced land, water, energy, more urbanization, higher population.

There’s also the fact that if you look at the history of most of our food, almost all began with a very inglorious and tough sell, but ended up at the top of the menu. Lobsters are an excellent case in point, but so is shrimp and sushi. Most people think insects are the food of the poor, but that could not be further from the truth. If you go to countries like Mexico, for example, one kilogram of grasshoppers is actually more expensive than beef, chicken and pork. It’s not actually a food of the poor. It’s a delicacy of the very wealthy.

10. What’s the most creative insect dish you’ve ever had?

In Mexico, I had the most delicious tamale that was made with a base that uses grasshoppers. It was peppered with flakes of cricket. On top of that it was garnished with ant eggs, which is called escamol. It was divine.

11. When do you hope to see a big turning point with edible insects?

A major turning point was in 2013, when the United Nations published a landmark report that put edible insects on the map in most parts of the world in economic and financial circles. In 2015 there were some very significant investments made into this industry and some early-stage companies. There’s a number of major retailers that are soon going to be launching cricket products for the first time.

12. What is on the horizon in the edible insects’ space?

Major retail launches, new product development and tons of growth in food service and other distribution channels (think: sports stadiums, airline snacks, convenience stores). This industry is rapidly approaching a tipping point, and we are excited to be at the forefront of this exciting market transition.

Source: Entrepreneur

Nasir Yammama – Founder, Verdant Agri-Tech

Country: Nigeria

It all began in 1996 in the village of Yammama. On a clear day here, a blue sky covers the heavens and white cotton fields light the ground below. A dozen brightly-painted trucks are lined up; workers load sacks upon sacks of cotton. Then six-year-old Yammama, who carries the name of his village, walks the fields with his father. He saw the workers sweating and vowed to improve the work of farmers in Africa.

In 2014, he founded Verdant AgriTech, a social enterprise to support rural farmers with mobile technologies for sustainable farming and improved food production.

“The company was founded on the premise that smallholders should be able to produce more, sell more, make more profit and thereby attain an improved standard of living by using simple technologies,” he says.

Yammama began with 50 farmers in Katsina, his home state. He taught them to use their basic phones to gather market information, weather and management skills, and financial services.

Yammama has achieved a lot. He studied information technology and business information systems at Middlesex University, London, has a master’s in creative technology, was selected among 50 Global Entrepreneurs for the MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and won numerous awards, including the British Council and Virgin Atlantic’s Enterprise Challenge in 2015. This gave him the chance to be mentored by Sir Richard Branson and receive a start-up grant for Verdant.

In collaboration with Oxfam and GIZ, Verdant is currently running a project to support 25,000 farmers. This June, Yammama will also receive the Queen’s Young Leaders Award in England.

Yammama has profited from linking technology to Africa’s rich red soil.

Source: Forbes Africa

Inspirational Youthpreneur: Ibrahima Ben Aziz Konate

At just 22, Ibrahim Ben Aziz Konaté is a business leader and the founder of Poultry d’Or who displays great ambitions and even greater potential for success.

His inspiration for this business came from a documentary in which he saw that Côte d’Ivoire continues to import poultry and he saw that there a gap in the market that needed to be fullfilled.

“I observed the market, studied on the Internet and learned from those who had already done a business model similar to mine. I relied on the weaknesses of my direct competitors to understand how I could better serve the consumers.” said Ibrahim.

Poultry d’Or  is a company that produces and distributes fresh poultry products and agro-foods. Their products are slaughtered, cleaned, packaged and delivered all in the same day! The company specialises in the production and distribution of agri-food products and they aim to sell chicken at competitive prices directly to the consumer.

Source: Anzisha Prize

When to plant sunflower for optimal yield

Over the years, sunflower has come to be considered an ideal low-input crop for South Africa’s marginal cropping conditions.

It is currently the country’s third-largest grain crop after maize and wheat, and is primarily used for the manufacture of oil for human consumption and oilcake for animal feed.

Sunflower produces relatively consistent yield even under adverse weather conditions.

The plants are particularly efficient at extracting water from the soil, especially sandy loam.

This is underscored by the surprisingly high yields realised compared with those of other crops during the 2014/2015 drought.

Unlike other grain crops, sunflower has a relatively long planting window from early November to late January. But this can be misleading. It is important to choose the planting time carefully to ensure a good plant population.

The Agricultural Reseach Council’s Grain Crops Institute in Potchefstroom (ARC-GCI) has been conducting research on sunflower planting dates since 2007, which has demonstrated the importance of planting date for producing maximum yield.

Growth Stages
To better understand the effect of planting date on yield, each of the growth stages must be carefully considered: planting to floral initiation (GS1); floral initiation to bloom (GS2); and bloom to physiological maturity (GS3).

The yield components of sunflower, namely heads per hectare, number of seeds per head and weight per seed, are determined during these phases.

GS1: planting to floral initiation
This begins when the seed is planted and ends when the floral parts of the sunflower are initiated. Floral initiation cannot be observed directly; it occurs between the 10-leaf and 14-leaf stages. In GS1, sunflower is at its most delicate and is highly sensitive to stress. Fortunately, stress occurring during this period has little effect on yield. The plant must remain alive only to maintain the yield component of heads/ha.

GS2: floral initiation to bloom
Although the start of this growth stage is not readily recognisable, it determines the final yield. The floral parts, which later become the harvested seeds, are formed during this phase. After the seeds are initiated, they expand to form the visible bud and, eventually, the sunflower head, which blooms and thus completes GS2.

The head size, or the number of seeds/head, is established during this stage. Any stress that limits growth rate during GS2 will result in a reduced number of seeds/head.

Drought stress during this stage reduces yield more than at any other phase of sunflower development.

GS3: bloom to physiological maturity
The final stage of development begins when flowering is completed and the plant reaches physiological maturity.

During GS3, seed size and weight are determined. As physiological maturity approaches, the sunflower can utilise progressively lower temperatures for seed growth, while also becoming increasingly drought-tolerant.

Stress during GS3 can reduce yield, but not usually to the same extent as the reduction during GS2, as seed weight is a relatively smaller contributor to yield than seed number under most conditions.

Ultimately, soil moisture, the most limiting yield factor, determines the planting date. Obviously, it’s difficult to predict when and how much rain will be received, so long-term averages are important (see Figure 1).

It should be pointed out, however, that such data and yield are often unrelated. Even moderate amounts of rainfall received at critical stages of growth, such as the first phase of GS2, can stimulate yield potential.

All the same, the graph clearly indicates that yield generally decreases the later the crop is planted after the period of maximum rainfall.

Another factor affecting sunflower stand is poor germination due to excessive heat at the time of planting.

Sunflower sometimes has to be planted in January or even early February, and temperatures 2017during this period often reach 32°C to 35°C.

Temperatures in this range are not ideal for sunflower seed germination. Even when seeds germinate, high temperatures may cause them to wither and die.

In addition, topsoil tends to dry out rapidly in the heat, so farmers are forced to plant the seeds slightly deeper when soil moisture content is higher. This can be risky, however; a single hard shower of rain after planting can cause a thick crust to form and the seedlings will be unlikely to emerge.

The right time
To reiterate, it’s important for producers to choose the planting time carefully and ensure a good plant population.

For the past 10 cropping seasons, seed yield from 38 national sunflower cultivar trials planted by ARC-GCI in Potchefstroom has been evaluated under three separate planting dates (1 to 30 November, 1 to 30 December and 1 to 30 January).

The results indicated that seed yield was reduced by approximately 0,21t/ ha for each 30-day delay in planting after November (see Figure 2).

The yield probability percentages for the different planting dates were subsequently calculated at different yield threshold ranges (0,5t/ha to 3t/ ha).

The results showed that the probability of obtaining higher yield under a specific yield threshold (>1,2t/ha) was lower when the crop was planted after December (see Figure 3).

Put another way, sunflower planted later in the season, especially during January, will have a lower yield potential. A farmer planning to plant sunflower as a main crop should consider planting during November and no later than the end of December in order to reach the target yield of more than 2t/ha.

Phone Dr Safiah Ma’Ali on 071 520 2745, or email her at [email protected].

Source: Farmer’s Weekly

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