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17 May 2019 | Story Eloise Calitz | Photo Charl Devenish
Agribusiness Transformation Programme
At the launch of the programme during Nampo 2019 were, from the leftt: Anton Nicolaisen, Provincial Head: Free State and Northern Cape, Standard Bank; Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS; Mangi Ramabenyane, General Manager, Farmer Support and Development at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; Nico Groenewald, Head: Agri-Business at Standard Bank; and Bigboy Kokoma, farmer from Bothaville.


Bigboy Kokoma, a 33-year-old ‘young’ farmer, speaks with confidence and pride about his family farm in the Bothaville district. One hundred and forty-two hectares of land that has been in the Kokoma family since 2005 when his father established the farm. The farm specialises in livestock, mostly Bonsmaras, and vegetables. “I want to set an example to other young farmers and, through this, become an ambassador of inspiration to my generation.”

Bigboy has a Diploma in Financial Management. “Having this qualification is a step closer to understanding the financial management of the farm, but if you want to take the leap to become a commercial farmer, you need greater knowledge and understanding to get you there.”  He is excited to have been selected for the Agribusiness Transformation Programme, because this will bring him closer to his dream of becoming a commercial farmer, to contribute to the economy of South Africa, and it will assist him in taking his family legacy further.

He is one of 25 farmers in the country who was selected to take part in the Agribusiness Transformation Programme. The programme’s main objective is to develop black emerging farmers through structured, accessible, and relevant agricultural and entrepreneurship training in order to become economically viable commercial farmers that will have greater impact in the agricultural sector in the Free State.

Importance of agriculture

Globally, the agricultural sector faces multiple challenges: it has to produce food to feed an exponentially growing world population, with a smaller rural labour force, adopt more energy-efficient and sustainable production methods, manage limited natural resources and climate change, and contribute to socio-economic development. 
 
Agriculture is of fundamental importance, not only on a global scale, but also on the African continent; therefore, we are especially proud of the Agribusiness Transformation Programme that will, in the long run, enable 25 farmers to become productive and well-functioning agri-business contributors that provide solutions for the much-needed challenges in food security, job creation, and the development of agricultural products.
 
Value of strong partnerships

The programme is an initiative of the University of the Free State (UFS), Standard Bank, and the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. They believe that strong partnerships are needed in the development of black emerging farmers, and to drive change in the sector. What makes the partnership successful, is the multiple strengths and expertise that each partner provides.

The UFS has a strong Agricultural Sciences division, with experience in training farmers in formal undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, as well as short courses.  The UFS Centre for Development Support has a solid record of developing entrepreneurs and university’s Innovation Office is at the forefront of technology transfer.

“The UFS is applying its strengths in education, training, innovation and technology transfer to ensure the development of these 25 farmers. We are excited to take the lead in this program and to ultimately contribute to a productive and well-functioning agri-business sector in South Africa. The impact of the programme is wide and the future brings possibilities of developing a model that will be replicated in the rest of South Africa and Africa,” says Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS.

Standard Bank has strong expertise in financing the agricultural sector, stimulating enterprise development and SMMEs, and providing financial services to the public sector.  The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development provides services to farmers who have access to land.

Programme launched at Nampo 2019

The programme was fittingly launched at Nampo on 15 May 2019, bringing together leaders in agriculture, business, the media, and influencers in the sector to engage and meet with the 25 farmers. The discussion at the launch again reiterated the importance of this programme and the level of skills transfer this partnership will mobilise.



News Archive

UFS researchers are producing various flavour and fragrance compounds
2015-05-27

 

The minty-fresh smell after brushing your teeth, the buttery flavour on your popcorn and your vanilla-scented candles - these are mostly flavour and fragrance compounds produced synthetically in a laboratory and the result of many decades of research.

This research, in the end, is what will be important to reproduce these fragrances synthetically for use in the food and cosmetic industries.

Prof Martie Smit, Academic Head of the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology at the UFS, and her colleague Dr Dirk Opperman, currently have a team of postgraduate students working on the production of various flavour and fragrance compounds from cheap and abundantly available natural raw materials. 

Prof Smit explains that most of the flavours and fragrances that we smell every day, originally come from natural compounds produced mainly by plants.

“However, because these compounds are often produced in very low concentrations by plants, many of these compounds are today replaced with synthetically-manufactured versions. In recent times, there is an increasing negative view among consumers of such synthetic flavour and fragrance compounds.”

On the other hand, aroma chemicals produced by biotechnological methods, are defined as natural according to European Union and Food and Drug Administration (USA) legal definitions, provided that the raw materials used are of natural origin.  Additionally, the environmental impact and carbon footprint associated with biotech-produced aroma chemicals are often also smaller than those associated with synthetically-produced compounds or those extracted by traditional methods from agricultural sources.

During the last four years, the team investigated processes for rose fragrance, vanilla flavour, mint and spearmint flavours, as well as butter flavour. They are greatly encouraged by the fact that one of these processes is currently being commercialised by a small South African natural aroma chemicals company. Their research is funded by the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation through the South African Biocatalysis Initiative, the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Catalysis and the Technology Innovation Agency, while the UFS has also made a significant investment in this research.

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