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AFGRI partners Synthesis to unlock agricultural innovation

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Danielle Kruger
Danielle Kruger
Daniëlle is an IT and tech journalist focused on gaming, gadgets and emerging technologies in a number of key industries.
AFGRI partners Synthesis to unlock agricultural innovation
Michael Shapiro, MD of Synthesis and Chris P. Venter, Group CEO of AGH after the signing of the Joint Venture agreement

Leading agricultural services company AFGRI Group Holdings and specialised financial technology company Synthesis Software Technologies are proud to announce the conclusion of a joint-venture (JV) agreement.

The relationship between the two companies began in 2014 when Synthesis was approached by AFGRI Group Holdings to develop the ground-breaking e-Accounts platform for their financial services division, UNIGRO.

AFGRI e-Accounts, which was released in 2015, is a transactional online system which lets farmers manage their entire operation – from loans, forex and payments, to grain storage and contract management, retail purchases, invoices and farm management, as well as insurance – from a user-friendly platform that’s secure, instant, convenient and accessible from a variety of devices.

e-Accounts evolved quickly from a relatively simple transaction portal into a sophisticated, multi-purpose digital channel. Over 2 000 registered users made R4.5 billion in payments on the platform in 2018, reflecting growth in payments of 25% over 2017. The e-Accounts platform has been a major differentiator and competitive advantage for AFGRI Group Holdings, which is now viewed as a leading technology innovator.

The development of the e-Accounts platform was a combined effort by AFGRI Group Holdings and Synthesis, and the strength of the relationship that emerged encouraged the two companies to think of ways in which the intellectual property associated with that and future innovations could be jointly held. This was one of the reasons for the formation of the JV.

AFGRI Group Holdings also announced in March 2017 that they had acquired the South African Bank of Athens. The Synthesis JV will allow them to use advanced technology to unlock further potential in the banking sector. These and other strategic projects, including the development of multiple use cases for mobile apps in the AgTech sector, benefit from the long-term partnership that the JV allows.

As Peter Mülders, Synthesis’ AFGRI Group Holdings Account Manager, explains, Synthesis was initially unaware of the potential that exists for innovation in the AgTech space. “We had no idea how vibrant this industry was, and the scale of opportunity that it holds for innovative financial and other platforms. We have learnt a tremendous amount from our work with AFGRI Group Holdings over the past four years, and have discovered that the agricultural sector is becoming rapidly digitised and is very open to high-tech solutions. We want to become experts in the AgTech field, and this JV is a fantastic opportunity to get us there. It’s an exciting place to be.”

The JV is expected to expand Synthesis’ potential client base, and support its current strategic expansion into the rest of Africa.

Through the JV, AFGRI Group Holdings and Synthesis will be able to take a longer-term approach to further development of the e-Account platform, and customers can expect to see more features, more innovation, and more value from the platform through strategic updates.

Tjaard du Plessis, Head of Digital at Synthesis, said of the announcement: “The venture between AFGRI Group Holdings and Synthesis is a perfect synergy of expertise in agriculture and digital innovation to reap the high potential of the AgTech space. Synthesis and AFGRI Group Holdings hope to enable farmers in SA and eventually Africa to enhance their operations with digital innovation. The partnership has already added huge value to the farming community and a joint venture means even more innovation at an accelerated pace.”

Johan Barnard, Chief Operations Officer at AFGRI Group Holdings, was similarly enthusiastic about the potential unlocked by the JV agreement: “We see the leveraging of financial technology as one of most important competitive advantages in the agricultural sector going forward. We’re not aware of any other company – in South Africa or the rest of the world – that has integrated this technology so tightly with their other offerings. Advanced technology is going to increasingly be the single biggest differentiator in the agricultural sector, and this JV with Synthesis further cements AFGRI Group Holdings’ position as leaders in this regard.”

Edited by Daniëlle Kruger
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