10 November 2021
The Agricultural Writers SA Awards are upon us with the winners being announced on Friday evening 12 November. At the prestigious event at Cavalli Estate near Stellenbosch, Western Cape, we will announce the Agricultural Writers SA Farmer of the Year, New Entrant to Farming, and Agriculturalist of the Year for 2021.
Sponsored by Bayer, FNB, Santam Agriculture and Health Squared Agility Agri, the awards honour those who have made a significant contribution to the agricultural sector.
The finalists in each of the categories were announced in October by the AWSA regions of North (Gauteng, Northwest, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo) and !Xhariep (Western, Northern and Eastern Cape) include:
Agriculturist of the Year:
Northern Cape: Dr Andries Jerrick Daniels
Western Cape: Prof Karen Theron
Gauteng: Prof Gareth Bath
KwaZulu-Natal: Dr Francois van de Vyver
North West: Dr Johnny van der Merwe
Eastern Cape: Andrew Jordaan and Sons Farming Enterprise
Western Cape: Jan le Roux of the Le Roux Group in Paarl
Limpopo: Leon Eksteen, Bufland Groep
North West: Grietha van Rensburg, Amulet Vleismerino Stoet
Free State: Gerrit van Zyl, Hanzyl Bonsmaras
New Entrant to Commercial Farming:
Northern Region: Vutlhari Chauke
!Xariep Region: Chamomile-boerdery
Speaking about the long-awaited awards, Agricultural Writers SA chairperson, Liza Bohlmann said that it was with much gratitude and excitement that the awards could take place this year. Due to COVID-19 restrictions the awards ceremony could not take place last year for the first time since its inception. Instead, a Tribute to Heroes in Agriculture was held virtually to honour those who kept the wheels of the sector turning during the pandemic.
“As we stand on the cusp of the 2021 Awards, we are grateful that agriculture has again proved resilient in difficult times. While our farmers and industry role players have and continue to face many challenges, we need only look at the high calibre of finalists in this year’s awards to know that the industry and food security is in capable hands,” said Bohlmann.
At the event, several awards and cash prizes for excellence in journalism and communications will also be announced. These competitions are open to all members of AWSA and include: Bayer Best Technical Article; BKB Photographer of the Year; FNB Communicator of the Year and CropLife Best Articles on biotechnology and crop protection.
AWSA will also announce a special award, Agricultural Personality of the Year, to one of the great contributors to the agricultural industry.
More about our candidates:
Farmer of the Year:
Leon Eksteen, Bufland Groep
The Bufland Groep is a diversified farming company situated on the farm, Buffelsfontein, just north-west of Mookgophong in Limpopo. Bufland produces stone fruit (peaches and nectarines), citrus, avocados, and pecan nuts. The agronomy division, all under irrigation in a crop rotation system, consists of seed maize, wheat, dry beans, lucerne, and potatoes. They also have a livestock enterprise that includes a Bonsmara stud, commercial feedlot, and a game and hunting division. Bufland’s operations are further supported by the other divisions including Bufland Seed Treatment and Buffalo Cargo.
Despite the land once being written off by agricultural consultants as being too marginal to be profitable, this diversification has increased the farm’s yield per hectare and reduced its risk. Key to increasing the farm’s viability and success has been their biological approach to farming practices. The farm has a full compost manufacturing site that provides for the whole farm’s composting needs. The brand is well known as a supplier of safe, quality food, and the farm’s produce is marketed both locally and abroad.
Grietha van Rensburg, Amulet Vleismerino Stoet
Grietha van Rensburg dared to dream and she has reaped the rewards. Since 2005 she has been running the successful Amulet mutton merino stud on the farm Taaibospan near Sannieshof in North West province. Here she farms 300 stud and 300 commercial ewes, achieving a lambing percentage of 187%.
Despite not having any formal farming education, she has worked her way to become a successful farmer and judge at livestock shows. She is also the only woman to have served on the SA Mutton Merino Society’s board, and is also chairperson of the SAMM club in North West.
Gerrit van Zyl, Hanzyl Bonsmaras
Gerrit van Zyl started his farming enterprise nearly 30 years ago with a mere R30 000 loan to acquire a few lambs from his father-in-law’s estate. A few years later the herd grew to 300 ewes but due to the labour intensity were sold to acquire commercial cattle instead. From this small start he eventually went on to become the winner of the ABSA-ARC stud herd of the year in 2007, 2009 and 2011.
He believes in accurate measuring and careful observation is critically important to make the necessary adjustments. Regenerative agriculture forms the foundation of his drive towards sustainability and he decided to rather expand vertically than horizontally. Today, after six years of implementing this system, he produces 65kg of beef per hectare. Although he has a lower individual reproduction rate, he generates far more profit in terms of interest on his capital investments.
Andrew Jordaan and Sons Farming
The Andrew Jordaan and Sons farming enterprise near Cradock in the Eastern Cape is one of the most innovative livestock the region. Andrew sr laid the foundation for his sons Wilhelm, Ginkel and Andrew jr to become leaders in their fields.
Wilhelm is in charge of mechanisation and the planting of crops and pastures, while Ginkel manages the dairy and Andrew jr the sheep division. The Merino stud consists of 300 ewes, and the farm has an additional 5000 commercial Merino ewes and 350 Dormer ewes. The dairy has expanded over the last few years from 900 to 1600 dairy cows. The farm is a forerunner in the use of data collection, thanks to RFID technology in the sheep herd.
They also take their responsibility towards the environment very seriously and Ginkel was selected as a finalist in the Milk Producer’s Organisation and Nedbank Stewardship Award in 2020 for his use of renewable energy in the dairy.
Jan le Roux van die Le Roux Groep in die Paarl
Jan le Roux’s business encompasses 654 hectares of table grapes and 192 hectares of prunes and nectarines. The Broodkraal farm is the biggest single table grape unit in the Southern Hemisphere, of which all production is under shade netting.
The Le Roux Group’s export company, LeRoux Fruit Exporters, exports more than 3,2 million cartons of grapes, nectarines and prunes each year. Markets include the EU, UK, US and the Far and Middle East.
Farming methods enhance sustainability on all levels, which includes the welfare of the surrounding community. The business employs 6200 workers and through the worker’s trust, employees own a 32% share in Broodkraal.
Le Roux serves on many a committee and played a crucial role in the deregulating of the agricultural markets in the 1990s. His ‘thinking out of the box’ attitude has stood him in good stead and he is well known for believing in the impossible.
New Entrant to Commercial Farming
Vutlhari Chauke is the founder of VT Harvest (Pty) Ltd, specialising in the production of vegetables, herbs, and high-value crops. She holds an MBA from the Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership, and was a finalist in the SAB Urban Agri Programme in 2019.
She calls herself an agri-peneur and supplies restaurants and big brands like McDonald’s with tomatoes, thanks to her Global Gap Certificate awarded based on how she is preserving and protecting the environment.
She sees her farm as a business and invests further in her farm after every harvest. Vutlhari embodies the saying, “Help a woman, and you help her family,” and she is intentional about hiring women in her line of work.
She left a Sandton corporate job at one of the Top 10 JSE-listed companies for farming, trading in her high heels for gumboots. Although she laments that this was considered a regression, she notes that farming has allowed her to test some of the theories in a real-life context and use the financial and stakeholder management modules to optimally run her operations and grow the business.
Some empowerment projects are loudly announced but die a quiet death. Chamomile-boerdery has however stood the test of time and is testament to the success that can be achieved through hard work.
Chamomile-boerdery in Philippi near Cape Town is owned by Agmat Brinkhuis and his wife, Wadea Jappie. Their sons Tawfeeq and Nabeel Brinkhuis are also involved on the farm. They produce herbs, vegetables, and eggs.
Agmat was the first black chairperson of the South African Poultry Association in 2017, while Wadea was crowned the Western Cape’s Department of Agriculture’s Female Farmer of the Year on 2006, 2009 and 2010.
Agriculturalist of the Year
Prof Gareth Bath has made consistent contributions to his profession through the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) over the years. Nationally, he has acted as consultant or advisor to the SA Wool Board, National Wool Growers’ Association (NWGA), Red Meat Producers’ Organisation, RPO), and the Red Meat Research and Development Trust (RMRDT), guiding policies and the funding of research. As convenor of the Small Stock Health Advisory Body, he established livestock industry support for rational, defensible control of ovine paratuberculosis, and designed the first vendor declaration system to help farmers assess the risks of buying sheep.
Internationally, he guided the establishment of the International Sheep Veterinary Association, wrote its constitution and served as its first president. He is a co-developer of the internationally acclaimed FAMACHA system of identifying animals for selective treatment, adding to it his Five Point Check and Big Five methods for sustainable parasite control.
Prof Bath’s focus is on effective production, and optimised health and welfare of sheep and goats in appropriate farming systems, especially concentrating on disease prevention and control.
Dr Francois van de Vyver
Dr Francois van de Vyver is well-known as one of the country’s most respected animal feed nutritionists. He is profoundly involved in managing, maintaining, and developing quality animal feed products to enable producers to strategically feed their ruminant livestock.
Dr Van de Vyver grew up on a farm on the Highveld of Mpumalanga, where his interest in animal nutrition was initiated. After completion of his BSc degree, he registered for an MSc degree at the University of Pretoria. He did research towards this degree in the Alltech Biotechnology Centre located in Nicholasville, Kentucky, USA, for almost two years. This is where his interest in fibrolytic enzymes to improve fibre digestion in ruminant feeds started, and this is still one of his research focus areas today. His interests have further evolved to include the use of natural feed additives to promote healthy animal production without the use of medicaments (Namibia and Botswana), or in addition to medicaments, as is the case in South Africa.
Dr Van de Vyver shares his knowledge and experience with farmers and other industry role players through various media platforms. He is highly regarded as scientific purist, but he is often lauded for his ability to unpack complex nutritional themes in a very easily understood language.
Dr Johnny van der Merwe
Dr Johnny van der Merwe is currently a senior lecturer in agricultural economics and a member of the Trade and Development Economics (TRADE) research entity at the North-West University. His PhD focused on analysing the impact of wheat grading, pricing, and innovation on the competitiveness of the South African wheat industry. Results from that study had been used by Grain SA as a key element in negotiations aimed at creating a more competitive environment for wheat producers in South Africa. Another major focus area for Dr van der Merwe is his involvement in sustainable profitability studies in the grain and horticultural industries of South Africa.
He is also the managing director Agrimark Trends (AMT) and Agri-Optimum which offers a unique consultation service (Agri Optimum Model) for financial precision planning with the main focus on risk profile management of grain and oilseed production.
Since timing and accuracy of information is vital for profit-making decisions, AMT publishes weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual industry reports. Dr Van der Merwe’s video briefings, podcasts, and commentary of various digital platforms summarising these reports are extremely popular. Dr van der Merwe is also involved in numerous development projects focused on social upliftment in a economically sustainable way.
Dr Andries Jerrick Daniels
Dr Andries Daniels is a senior researcher at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) Infruitec-Nietvoorbij. In 2020 his evaluation work of the past 13 years on raisin grapes led to the release of the very first uniquely South African bred raisin grape cultivar known as Sundowner. This was done in collaboration with Raisins SA and CULDEVCO.
In 2021 he obtained his PhD in Viticulture making him the first black male to obtain such a degree in South Africa and only the second person overall. He is also serving his second term on the Board of the South African Society for Enology and Viticulture (SASEV).
Daniels’ PhD work focussed on different technologies such as near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy that can be used to determine the quality of whole table grape berries and bunches in the vineyard and the packing shed before packing. Recently Daniels has also taken over the project funded by Winetech to provide comprehensive agricultural support for the Eksteenskuil and Releaboga farmers with on-farm training and technology transfer.
Prof Karen Theron
Prof Karen Theron is an emeritus professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at Stellenbosch University. Her research focuses on pre-harvest processes for deciduous fruit. In 2015 she received the Chancellor’s Medal from Stellenbosch University and in 2014 she was appointed as the chair for applied deciduous fruit research which is funded by Hortgro Science and Stellenbosch University. She is therefore seen as having an impact both locally and internationally within this industry.
Her scientific output is remarkable, as proven by her C1 and C2 category grading by the National Research Foundation. She is still active in undergraduate teaching and post graduate supervision and has published 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers and graduated 74 Masters and 10 PhD students.
Issued on behalf of the Agricultural Writers SA
Liza Bohlmann – chairperson AWSA (National)
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