Scientific, Independent, Precise
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Joshua Mann
Agrimotion has grown from its core vision of setting the standard for best practice in both fruit production and soil management on a global scale. Since its formation in 2013 by a team of soil scientists and horticulturists it has been providing innovative consulting solutions to aid sustainable growth.
It has always been important for the Company to take both its leading players and associations in the field of fruit production very seriously, and subsequently the main driving force behind its work is built upon sound scientific recommendations.
“We have very good relationships with global universities, research institutions, labs and other independent consultants,” explains Coenraad Fraenkel, Chief Executive Officer at Agrimotion. “Each one of these relationships acts as a sound-board to ensure that our recommendations stay scientifically significant, without losing the practical application that is needed at base level.”
In order to ensure perfect working order when it comes to practical application, all of Agrimotion’s services go through a trial period where they are used by the leading clients, therefore improvements can be made consistently until the service is ready. It is vital that its product range evolves with its clients’ needs and market demands, subsequently their feedback will impact the Company’s strategic improvements.
“As consultants in the ever-changing fruit industry, we need to constantly be ahead of the game with new technologies and the application of scientific principles,” continues Fraenkel. “In the past three years, our biggest area of success was in the area of new orchard planning and irrigation scheduling.
“When it comes to designing the orchards, you have to constantly remind yourselves that the orchard itself will be there for the next 30 to 40 years, therefore the design will need to endure the test of time in the constantly changing markets. However, one thing will always remain constant: there will always be a good price available for good quality fruit.”
In order to realise the true potential in each project, Agrimotion spends time planning and compiling a blueprint for the developments, including soil classification, rootstock and cultivar selections and irrigation designs. Once the orchard or farm has been designed according to the natural resources, the tree orders and irrigation designs can be planned in fine detail.
The secondary service in the Company that has developed extremely fast is its irrigation scheduling service, after the realisation that the producers monitor different parameters to determine how much water is needed and when they should apply it.
“The parameters that we monitor include field observations, soil moisture probes readings, crop factors, fruit size measurements and the use of remote sensing data,” affirms Fraenkel. “Agrimotion has developed an application called IRIS (integrated response irrigation scheduling), which uses the previously mentioned parameters and integrates them to produce a single orchard specified crop.”
Combining this technology with a seven day weather forecast prediction, the clients are given an accurate prediction of the amount of water required and when it should be applied; over time it is expected that this model will revolutionise the way producers use water and work to build the Company’s reputation worldwide.
At present Agrimotion is involved in eight of the nine provinces in, and twelve countries outside of South Africa, being fortunate that in most cases its existing national and international client base is constantly expanding; this has provided the Company with the opportunity to grow with them.
“It is particularly important for us as a Company to associate with producers both nationally and internationally that share our vision of setting the standard for best practices when it comes to fruit production,” Fraenkel adds. “Our associates in the fields of soil science, analytical labs, irrigation design, irrigation monitoring and the production of plant material, have previously been able to assist us in the expansion of our footprint which has inevitably made where we are now a possibility.”
As in any industry, monitoring market trends is pivotally important to staying ahead of the curve, something that Agrimotion prides itself on.
Fraenkel explains: “At present there are three main trends that we are focusing our energies on, which include creating more produce in a smaller area, using less water, and identifying geographic areas where exclusive plant material will be able to supply the market with produce at a time when demands are high in areas which were not previously seen as a viable option, due to various reasons.
“Lastly, farming commercially is no longer a family business, but instead a global investment opportunity, which will be very important to remember moving forward.”
Agrimotion ensures it adapts its product offering and operational services in order to adhere to these trends, a prime example being the recent expansion of its irrigation scheduling service meaning that saving water becomes second nature and high value crops can be produced with less.
Fraenkel describes: “We established associations with national and international climatological experts, maintaining these important associations affords us the capability to identify areas in which specific crops naturally grow to optimal levels, while also being able to supply the demand in market segments when the demand is high and prices are naturally significantly higher than normal.”
The ability to remain focused on the core business plays to the strengths of Agrimotion, therefore when it comes to making vital capital investments on new technologies for example, the Company is particularly calculated. At present it is honing in on technology that all its clients could realistically use, exploiting the potential value in basic and relatively cost-friendly technology.
“We have found the use of Ello Technology - a locally based IT company - has enabled us to streamline both our processes and systems significantly,” adds Fraenkel. “They have provided us with the ability to access our server and documentation globally. For a team that often has to work in the middle of nowhere, this is a huge step in being more efficient in what we do.”
Expertise in the field
Obtaining the highest level of expertise in Agrimotion’s work with soil management and fruit production is a high priority, mainly employing consultants in the field of soil science and horticulture. At present it has a plethora of skills available to tap into, including soil science, horticulture, viticulture, GIS, environmental management and hydrology.
“At the Company we believe that true knowledge will be gained by sharing information and therefore, consultants are regularly trained by various trusted external experts,” affirms Fraenkel. “However, being a happy and effective family begins with getting the right people on board in the first place.
“Our hiring process is thorough and entails a two week shadowing period, serving in part as an interview process, as well as the quarterly KPI reviews implemented by our General Manager, enabling us to review and evaluate consultants and see how they are developing in a well managed and sustainable way.”
The complexity in the skillset required for success is particularly difficult to come across in the industry, making it rare for Agrimotion to find quality scientists that it can invest in. Therefore a strategy has been formulated to adjust to this, centralised around building good relationships with universities in order to bolster the next generation of soil science and horticulture specialists.
“Agrimotion is used as a lecturing tool on industry trends two to three times a year, we also offer students the opportunity to take part in an internship during their studies, providing us with the opportunity to identify the top candidates and begin investing in them,” concludes Fraenkel. “It is very exciting for us to be a part of this sort of programme and support the creation of the future of the Company and industry as a whole.”