On June 29th, many hopeful tech-entrepreneurs walked into the lion’s den to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges during AgriTourZA’s Limpopo Innovation Platform Demo Day.
AgriTourZA’s Limpopo Innovation Platform is an innovative start-up programme that sets out to identify young businesses that can make a true difference in the agricultural and tourism sectors.
Each hopeful company had the opportunity to convince the panel that they had a tech-savvy solution that will elevate the agricultural and tourism sectors in the Limpopo province, South Africa.
The pitch sessions follow months of hard work in which the entrepreneurs workshopped, streamlined and optimised their ideas into workable, real-life solutions under the guiding hand of mLab, who specialises in supporting early-stage businesses.
The solutions that were pitched varied from smart irrigation systems that save water and help maintain soil quality, to food security and agro-processing initiatives that create jobs within local communities.
The pitch panel then set to select the four pitches that showed the best business potential and reward them with a basket of support aimed at helping their businesses thrive.
This includes R100,000 ($7003,44) in early-stage seed funding, close mentoring, digital and innovation support, networking opportunities and skills development from the specialists at mLab and its network of partners and collaborators.
“The start-ups have been working very hard to get to this point,” says Choene Makhasa, AgritourZA Coordinator, “they’ve endured hackathons, bootcamps and many workshops to prepare for their pitch sessions. They know that their time in front of the judges is their time to shine and communicate their concepts using the skills they have recently gained.”
Like many industries, the tourism and agricultural sectors have been hit hard by the prevailing socio-economic environment that has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, despite these hardships there remains immense potential locked within these industries. It is widely believed that technology has the potential to unlock and drive widespread positive change by improving yield, efficiency, and profitability.
AgritourZA forms part of the Regional Innovation Support Programme (RISP) grant by the CSIR.
The programme sets out to establish an AgriTech and TravelTech regional innovation network in the Limpopo Province. Project partners, the Department of Science and Innovation, the CSIR and mLab envision the project as a catalyst to engage the community, create relationships, and promote networking in the Limpopo Province, eventually unlocking the potential of AgriTech and TravelTech.
“The unique challenges faced by these sectors call for homegrown solutions. And this is why mLab believes that our youth is the answer to unlocking the potential,” says Palesa Antony, mLab provincial coordinator.
“No one is better placed to overcome the region’s unique problems and opportunities than its local youth. They not only have a unique understanding of the environment, but they also have the desire to see their province flourish,” Antony concludes.
AgriTourZA Demo Day
17 companies participated in AgriTourZA’s Demo Day on 29 June. Innovators and technopreneurs from all over Limpopo’s TravelTech and AgriTech spheres joined AgriTourZA to pitch their unique tech ideas to the panel of esteemed judges.
Judges included Nyiko Mhinga, Agriculture Economist for the Limpopo Economic Development Agency (LEDA), Rorisang Tabane, Technology Portfolio Manager at Wesgro, Thabo Mogaswa, Consulting CTO from the University of Limpopo, and Sthembiso Xhakaza, Digital Education Specialist for YEM Online Education.
Rounding out the panel were Komsasa Mokaba, Senior Business Analyst of Limpopo Connexion, and Tyson Mothlabeng, Technical Skill Accelerator at mLab.
Finally, after deliberations, 4 winners were selected from amongst the participants.
These include an innovative soil fertility, smart irrigation and data collection system from Farmru, and a tourism marketing system that uses drone technology to conduct virtual tours of locations that potential tourists would like to visit from Drone Eye Technology. The company has also created a software system for bookings from local and international tourists.
The other winners were PhathuR Holdings for their Click Victory App – a solution for local farmers to access an online market using a fast delivery system. This new solution will also supply jobs to many young people in the community.
And finally, Mangau Animal Feeds – a company that offers an array of products and services including livestock feed, as well as veterinarian and security services. Their app is called MAFATs and it drastically reduces costs to farmers by producing products in close proximity to the farming community.
“This saves the farmers a lot of money in transportation, and contributes to food security,” says CEO, Matome Motalane.
By Staff Writer.