Technology that can be used by the agricultural industry plays an increasingly important role, as has recently become evident in the efficiencies it can drive in the food industry as Covid-19 disrupts various businesses, says startup tech business AgrigateOne CEO Greg Whitaker.
He says the agricultural industry is the lifeblood to keeping people fed.
"Although South Africa is a relatively food secure nation, managing risk and ensuring efficiency in the produce we export is paramount," notes Whitaker.
Founded in 2018, AgrigateOne launched its seamless trading platform, which integrates all aspects of the fresh produce value chain into an easy-to-use technology. Whitaker points out that it has a proven capability of bringing sellers and buyers into a closed loop ecosystem, while driving transparency and accountability and creating cost efficiencies for all parties involved.
According to Whitaker, the software matches supply and demand, integrates compliance and logistics and summarises all data into one dashboard.
“Trades are private. Only involved parties have sight of those between one another.”
From his experience in growing up on a citrus farm in Limpopo and spending eight years working for a logistics company, Whitaker says he noticed efficiencies in other industries that were not apparent in agriculture.
“[The software] creates a space where farmers and buyers can focus on building trusted relationships with one another and rely on the platform to ensure operational administration runs smoothly.”
In developing the software, AgrigateOne focussed initially on the citrus industry, with a long-term view to bring all perishable produce on board. In year one, 12 farmers, together with leading international citrus buyers and retailers, were invited to sign up, connect and pilot the service.
The dashboard can provide a clear audit trail and a variety of functionalities including live tracking of fresh produce from farm gate to customer, legislative documentation and food safety protocols, to shipping requirements and invoicing, in the near future.
The system can parse documents and relate them back to specific orders. Whitaker explains that it works in the same manner as a social media platform, where stakeholders can view one another, request to connect and accept accordingly.
Limpopo Citrus’ Justin Whitaker says that, as a farmer, AgrigateOne has offered him “unrivalled clarity and productivity”. He adds that the software's benefits have become even more apparent during the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“The software offers consistency of reporting and complete line of sight across the board notwithstanding our business operating with a serious shortage of staff. It drives responsibility and assurance throughout the order cycle and places relevant onus for a quality product on me as a farmer.”
Historically, Greg Whitaker says growers have taken on a lot of the risk. “As all commercial and quality claims ultimately come back to the farmer, it seems sensible that they are empowered to understand better what happens beyond their packhouse.”
Going forward, he says the AgrigateOne technology is reviewed as often as possible, to ensure that it remains relevant.
“Our future sights are set to tap into aspects like accreditations (ethical trading), tracking chemical use, creating a rating system, predictive analytics and decision-making, that, based on historical data, can anticipate potential pitfalls and opportunities.”
In addition, Greg Whitaker says AgrigateOne is also considering an exception management tool to improve food security, smart sourcing and waste.