You may have heard of the next best thing in agriculture, or the future of agriculture – that is the efficient way to adapt smart and modern farming practices.

While there is a lot of technology in use to make modern agriculture more efficient, the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming more popular and relevant to African farmers.

Vula Telematix, which is building an IoT-focused wireless network using technology from US-based specialist Ingenu, is running several projects around the country to deliver precision farming.

The firm says the goal of precision agriculture is to define a system to support whole farm management with the goal of optimising returns on inputs while preserving resources.

“We did an installation this week in Mkuze on a farm, where the farmer wants to put moist sensors and monitor nutrients in the soil. It’s a sugarcane farm,” Agnat Max Makgoale, CEO Vula Telematix, told Techfinancials in an interview.

“They are doing precision agriculture.”

Agnat Max Makgoale
Agnat Max Makgoale, CEO of South Africa’s first IoT network, Vula Telematix

Mkuze is a small town in Northern KwaZulu-Natal and located about 350 km from the city of Durban. It is a farming community with concentrated sugar cane crops as well as isolated forest plantations.

He said the aim of precision agriculture is to help the farmer, in this case, sugar cane grower, to gather information about when to irrigate and not to irrigate, and it also gets more complex.

Vula Tematix is following opportunities to connect customers to its network.

He also said that Vula Telematix also got a request to do the same thing in Rawsonville, a small wine growing and farming community in the Breede River Valley of the Western Cape.

“We’ve got a pilot we are running at a wine farm in Cape Town at Vredendal,” said Makgoale, without disclosing further information.

Vula Telematix is owned by Vula Investments, a company chaired by Mark Headbush – an authority figure in the telecoms space behind the launch of Wireless Business Solutions and iBurst that powered the country’s first lottery network that supported Uthingo National Lottery machines countrywide.

Cape Town-based 100% black-owned Unipalm Investment Holdings is also invested in Vula Telematix.

Unipalm was established in 2001 by a group of South African professionals and entrepreneurs who believed that a broad-based empowerment company could attract and secure investment opportunities which could allow for strong and sustainable growth.

Farmers use tablet background green leafy vegetables
Farmers use tablet background green leafy vegetables (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

Vula Telematix engages Land Bank

Makgoale said Vula Telematix was also exploring growth opportunities into precision farming with the Land Bank.

Land Bank is a specialist agricultural bank guided by a government mandate to provide financial services to the commercial farming sector and to agri-business.

The Land Bank wants to copy the process of buying a car facilitated by banks where a motor vehicle would not be released to the new owner with no insurance. The insurer would also not cover the car until it has a tracker installed by an accredited installer.

“The Land Bank is now looking at it and saying: If we give money to farmers we should also give them tools or recommend tools to them. That will make them more efficient to give us a better chance to get our money back,” said Makgoale.

He added that the tools provided by precision agriculture give farmers an opportunity to be more competitive.

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