UP student shines at 2018 Agbiz Congress

Posted on June 18, 2018

Khanimamba Hlungwani, a postgraduate student in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development at the University of Pretoria (UP), and her team mates from other universities emerged as the winners of the prestigious 2018 Agbiz Student Case Study Competition.

The competition, which was part of the recent Agbiz Congress held in Port Elizabeth, was co-ordinated by Prof Johan van Rooyen, President of the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association. It biennially brings together top-performing university students in agribusiness-related fields of study. This year’s challenge was to improve the performance of the Sundays River Citrus Cooperation (SRCC) based in the Eastern Cape, which has been experiencing serious problems in the area of labour relations.

UP postgraduate students Dipuo Boshomane, Paige Bowen and Ms Hlungwani were sponsored by Monsanto, Kaap Agri and Afgri to attend the congress. Students from all the universities that participated in the competition, which also included Stellenbosch University, the University of the Free State and North West University, were divided into teams of four members each. Each team received an information pack and was allowed five hours for strategising.

The presentations by Ms Boshomane and Ms Hlungwani’s teams were well received by the panel of judges and they progressed to the final round, during which they had to present their ideas to the conference delegates, who voted for the winning team.

Ms Hlungwani’s team was voted the winners. She said: ‘I happened to be the only female in a group consisting of two Agricultural Economics students from the University of Stellenbosch and the North West University respectively, and an Industrial Engineering student from UP. From the time I was introduced to the other members of my group, I wondered how the team dynamics would play out and actually feared that as the only female I might not have a voice in the team. However, my fears were soon allayed because I automatically assumed the leadership role and managed to get the team organised.

‘We chose the name “More than fruit” for our team. Our advice to the SRCC was that it should position itself in a way that would make it very clear to consumers that it not only provides good quality products, but also has a positive social impact. Consumer trends show that consumers are moving away from viewing food as merely something we eat when we are hungry and that the European market to which SRCC exports their product, in particular, views the consumption of food as an experience.’

The team further recommended the implementation of a traceability system that takes advantage of technology and taps into the big data space. ‘We encouraged the SRCC to take their consumers on a journey to follow their food from the farm to the supermarket. This could be done by printing a QR code on the packaging of their products which, if scanned via the SRCC website, would transport them to the farm on which the fruit was grown.’

This would then enable consumers to read the stories of the people who actually work on the farm (growers, pickers and packers) and to access information about the quality and nutritional value of particular fruits, Ms Hlungwani explained. ‘This not only educates consumers about the product, but also puts faces to the value chain. Consumers learn that by consuming products from SRCC, they are helping to improve the lives of real people, such as the grandmother we used as an example during our presentation.’

She added that the experience had shown her the opportunities that are available when people open themselves up and are willing to learn from others and become immersed in the process and concluded: ‘I would like to thank Dr Melissa van der Merwe and the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development for affording me the opportunity to participate in the Agbiz Case Study Competition. Without their assistance and belief in my ability I would not have been able to participate and become a member of the winning team.’

          Team members Theunis Oberbolster, Khanimamba Hlungwani, Damien Sousa and Almeru Van Wyk

- Author Melissa van der Merwe

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