Research and job creation focus at agro-processing gathering

A variety of speakers shared their experiences in the sector at a two-day Technology and Human Research for Industry (THRIP) agro-processing symposium. Some highlighted how government funding helped their businesses grow.

agro processing jobs research
Speakers at the Technology and Human Research for Industry agro-processing symposium on 24 and 25 October 2017 include Sammy Phalane, Dr Yonela Njisane, Bongani Ndimba, Elisabeth Goyvaerts and Luvuyo Simakuhle. (Image: Melissa Javan)

Melissa Javan
More than 450 villages are producing and selling nuts to the company Everpix, an African Oil partner. This company is a beneficiary of the Department of Trade and Industry’s Technology and Human Research for Industry (THRIP) funding programmes.

At a THRIP agro-processing symposium, Elisabeth Goyvaerts, founder of Everpix, spoke about how the company had grown with the help of the department.

The two-day symposium was held on 24 and 25 October 2017. Its aim was to create a conducive environment in which government-funded research was showcased to the relevant industries for possible exploitation and industrialisation, as well as to discuss critical issues in the agriculture and agro-processing value chain.

A highlight was 12-year-old Zaria Rule explaining how she conducted research on her dog by using Rooibos tea to treat his diabetes condition.

Another highlight was Luvuyo Simekuhle of Woodlands Dairy, which was supplied by 75 commercial farmers. The company is in Humansdorp and supplies not only milk but milk powder.

Creating sustainable jobs

Sipho Zikode, the deputy director-general responsible for special economic zones and economic transformation in the Department of Trade and Industry, said programmes such as THRIP could be used to strengthen public-private partnership (PPP) initiatives.

“As you know, THRIP brings together the government, industries, universities and science councils focusing on innovation, technology and scientific development.

“This is what we call a PPP initiative, and with this THRIP symposium we are targeting the agro-processing sector, which is one of our Industrial Policy priority sectors that we have to develop and promote for reasons of beneficiating our produce and ensuring that we create sustainable jobs in South Africa,” said Zikode.

“We also need to ensure we bring in and support other science and innovation institutions, universities, technical colleges and students in the rural and poor areas.”

Everpix

In 2008, Goyvaerts began researching the resources impoverished communities had, and how to use these to benefit those communities, such as the marula tree.

In 2010, she started oil pressing and by November 2011 the company was making two tons of oil in Pietermaritzburg.

Applying for funding through the department in 2012 was “the best thing that happened to me”. After getting the money in 2013, she was able to buy an automatic stirring pot.

“I did more than a ton of oil after getting the [department’s] pre-payments [funding money].”

In 2013, a customer paid 50% upfront so that she could create refined oil. Although it was her first foray into refined oil, she sold 330kg of it.

Shortly after receiving the funding, she got an order from the US worth R1-million. “I didn’t have premises, so everybody was helping out. I would store here and there, not paying for storage.”

She said that sustaining a business was a path that could not be done alone. “We got help from everyone.” The company also invested heavily in the villages from which it bought the raw resources.

Other beneficiaries

Students at the University of Fort Hare also received funding from the department for their research into animal welfare and meat science.

Dr Yonela Njisane, one of the students, spoke about the effects stress had on animals. “Stress affects the pH in the animal. That is the darkness in the meat colour.”

One of the things that caused stress in animals was travelling long distances.

The productivity of an animal could also affect your production, she said. A way to measure whether an animal was stressed or had low production levels was to monitor its behaviour.

Source: Department of Trade and Industry

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