By DERRICK SILIMINA
The yearly AgriTech Expo is the only professional business-led event servicing the needs of the entire agro-value chain in Zambia and its neighbouring countries.
The 2023 edition held at the Golden Agriculture Research Trust (GART) in Chisamba District from April 20-22, 2023 under the theme ‘Stay Ahead of the Industry’ saw live demos of the latest kit to crop plots profiling developments in agronomy.
There were various informational activities whereby the AgriTech Expo proved to be an important event in Zambia’s agricultural calendar, offering unmissable networking and learning opportunities worth attending among agricultural stakeholders.
Among the state-of-the-art precision agriculture apparatus showcased at the just-ended event were smart agricultural spraying drones from various leading local and international firms.
Sunagri Investment Zambia Limited, a local drone technology firm incorporated in 2017, demonstrated how gadgets in the agriculture sector have evolved over the years in enhancing farmers’ productivity.
“Since five years of our operations in Zambia, our drone capacity was able to accommodate four litres of pesticides to cover one acre of land but now we have the latest drones with 40 litres capacity with the capacity to spray five to six hectares,” company Director Frazer Zhang said after flying one of his prolific drones.
Zhang stressed that the XAG (Xaircraft) drone is one of the effective alternatives to decimate notorious pests quickly because manual spraying during the day is labour-intensive, costly and a waste of chemicals as the worms only come out to feed on the crops at night.
Tata Zambia showcased the John Deere tractors that have been in Zambia for decades and have grown from strength to strength mechanising commercial farmers and large corporations.
“Our strength is in our ability to understand our customers. Our backup service is crucial in ensuring uptime,” stated the official John Deere agriculture, construction and forestry equipment dealer in Zambia.
In the seed agribusiness, Syngenta whose ambition is to help safely feed the world while taking care of the planet was also readily available to display its science and innovative crop solutions.
“Our technologies enable millions of farmers around the world to make better use of limited agricultural resources. Through partnerships, collaboration, and the good growth plan we are committed to improving farm productivity, rescuing land from degradation, enhancing biodiversity and revitalising rural communities,” Syngenta Zambia Managing Director and Southern Africa Head Given Mudenda said.
With new and improved solutions, Syngenta aimed to transform farmer yields at scale and increase their profitability to sustainable value and boost Zambia’s food security.
Saro Agro Industrial Limited Managing Director Ashok Oza said the event enabled farmers to interact with other farmers, suppliers and buyers both from within the country, abroad and overseas.
Local small-scale and medium farmers who trekked the expo from all areas of Zambia were not left behind as they learned how to take agriculture as a business.
“I am really excited to see the latest agricultural gadgets on display here. This experience has re-awakened my passion to go into agribusiness full-time,” said Lackson Mweemba, a small-scale farmer who travelled all the way from Choma in Southern Province.
For this reason, the Government is keen to establish policies that will support innovation to grow the agricultural sector in a bid to make Zambia a regional food basket.
“We have a rare opportunity as a country given our agronomic conditions, given our hydrological conditions despite climate change, this country is a blessed one. All we need to do is to work together to realise this opportunity and this AgriTech Expo is the answer to propel domestic agriculture productivity in a bid to enhance food export to neighbouring countries following food deficit exacerbated by conflicts,” President Hakainde Hichilema said when he officiated at the expo.
The Head of State highlighted a need to formalise the trade of agricultural commodities instead of smuggling, such that whenever a neighbouring country places an order for food exports, local farmers would likely benefit from that export agreement.
ZNFU President Jervis Zimba underscored that the natural resources that Zambia is endowed with must provide employment through value-addition activities, which was not the case as unemployment was still considerably high amongst the youth and women in the farming community.
“As this business-to-business fair belongs to us all, the goods, products, and services exhibited at the fair represent our country and its success rests on the participation of all of us. Agritech Expo aspires to connect all parts of Zambia to deepen economic integration and to boost trade and investment in the agricultural sector—not only in the country but also to serve the export markets in the region and beyond,” Zimba said on the sidelines of the event.
“We believe that by promoting trade amongst African countries, we are strengthening the continent’s industrial base and ensuring that we produce goods for ourselves and each other,” the Farmers’ Union leader stated.
The World Bank’s latest Commodity Markets Outlook warns that the war in Ukraine has altered global patterns of trade, production, and consumption in ways that will keep prices of agricultural produce at historically high levels through the end of 2024.
According to the institution, more than 66 million people are projected to experience food crises, emergencies, and famine due to conflict, climate change, and economic shocks that have converged to prevent food from reaching some communities, depress yields and make staple items more expensive.