Standard Bank Partners Rhiza Africa On Data-Driven Agricultural Technology
Abrie Rautenbach is the Head: Agribusiness, Business Banking for Africa Regions at Standard Bank.

Standard Bank has partnered Rhiza Africa in a bid to boost Agricultural produce and increase famers’ yield, through innovation, driven by digital intelligence.

Standard Bank’s satellite hosted-remote sensing innovation is delivered in partnership with service provider RHIZA Africa and backed by Origin Enterprises PLC and the European Space Agency.

About 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land presents is situated in Africa, which presents a major opportunity to meet the 70 per cent increase in global food demand expected by 2050. Africa also has potentials to grow through dramatically increasing its agricultural yields. However, Africa’s current dependence on traditional small-scale farming techniques returns the lowest yield per hectare globally.

While fertilizer, improved agricultural cultivation and livestock practices as well as better seed (biotech) can help improve yields, by far the biggest opportunity within the grasp of African agriculture lies in ‘agritech’, the intelligent use of data enabled by new digital technologies.

Data therefore presents an opportunity to further boost the yield for African agriculture.
According to Abrie Rautenbach, Head, Agribusiness, Business Banking for Africa Regions at Standard Bank said: “Information is the key to realise Africa’s vast agricultural potential. Digital technologies are merely the tools that will deliver the information.”

As a result of the partnership, farmers and agronomists can take advantage of digital tools developed for the agricultural sector.

Speaking on the tools, Danie Swart, General Manager for RHIZA Africa said: “Contour is an aggregated remote sensing information platform with a complete suite of farm monitoring tools for farmers, whereas GRID is a digital service for financial partners and farmers that helps them grow together.”

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Using algorithms to analyse and interpret images, Contour and Grid share data on; local weather, soil moisture, field accessibility and leaf wetness, while also providing optical satellite monitoring of area planted, germination and growth progress. This enables growth stage assessments, yield prediction and ultimately yield-enhancement.

Available on mobile and desktop, Contour is a digital platform and mobile app providing precision farming tools enabling; customer creation, field mapping, agronomic planning and recording, and crop and input allocation.

“Clients can use the information to understand the health of a crop; do fertilizer and spray planning; identify flooded areas; understand ground conditions – such as soil health and moisture levels – and monitor historical weather” Swart added.

The data that Contour provides clients enables farmers to make better decisions while mitigating risks and improving yield through optimised operations. Through soil sampling farmers can also understand in-field conditions and apply inputs to accommodate the specific needs of the soil requirements using fertilizers and lime.

This ‘agritech’ innovation allows farmers and Standard Bank to monitor crop performance on all sizes of farms and fields in all geographic regions. Both Contour and Grid also provide monitoring on an aggregated basis across regions, enabling portfolio tracking on; total hectares under a specific crop and total tonnes of inputs used.

“It is important for Standard Bank to be able to assist farmers to improve yield through relevant information that can provide a view on plant health or development issues with a specific crop. These technologies ensure that the crop is protected and, from a bank perspective, allows any yield (and thus income) increases to be used for either credit repayment or expansion of the agricultural business” Rautenbach stated.

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While this information is of huge value in driving the efficiency and productivity of individual farmers, Contour and Grid also enable Standard Bank to identify which fields in a farming area are the best performing. While this allows the bank to asses budgeted against actual yield predictions, it also allows the bank to aggregate this information across wide areas – and work this back to the portfolio of clients that we are supporting.

Contour and Grid also enables Standard Bank to manage the financial risks associated with delivering agricultural finance. Real time visibility of crop performance affords constant updates of all Standard Bank agricultural clients and potential clients, including detailed information on crop development. This builds trust and transparency between the bank and customers, empowering farmers and enabling the bank to correctly asses risk and accurately allocate capital and cover.

Beyond this, however, “information can also inform appetite,” says Mr Rautenbach. For example, if banks and agricultural equipment sellers, know what, of how much, is planted when and where, banks can extend loans, predict income, manage risk and insurance. “Similarly, agricultural suppliers can target informed equipment or irrigation product offerings, at the correct time, to the right farmers at the right price,” he says.

While the current technology appears sophisticated, it is very easy to use. Rautenbach continues: “As our experience in Africa has shown, there is a big opportunity for small scale farmers in out grower programmes supplying large corporates. The corporate that has signed up for the service simply opens the service to all their small-scale suppliers who are then easily able to access all the information required via their mobile phones.”

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Even without changing existing value chains in Africa, merely having more and accurate information on what is going on in these chains, presents an immediate opportunity to service, fund, support, risk-manage and supply Africa’s small-scale farmers with a range of services, insights and networking opportunities. From the farmer’s perspective, “the data will dramatically increase yield and boost off take while enriching the efficiency and relevance of Africa’s entire agricultural supply and value chains,” says Mr.

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