Agriculture entrepreneurs innovate to take awards

1st September 2016 By: Megan van Wyngaardt - Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

Agriculture entrepreneurs innovate to take awards

Agricon owner Johan Eksteen

Innovation in the local agriculture sector was highlighted at this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, with pelleting solutions provider Agricon owner Johan Eksteen named the overall winner.

Pelletising is used globally by manufacturers of animal feed or at recycling facilities that specialise in processing materials for reuse, with Agricon, established in 1993.

In addition to the manufacturing of pelletising machines and equipment, the Bloemfontein-based company provides training and on-site installation for clients, as well as ongoing support following a sale, such as the provision of spare parts.

The awards, which were held in Johannesburg on Thursday and were sponsored by Sanlam and Business Partners, also lauded George-based grow-your-own-plants services provider Sow Delicious’ Vanessa Jacobs and Paarl-based wholesale tree nursery Just Trees owner Carl Pretorius.

Receiving the 2016 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Jacobs launched her Slab of Seed invention in 2014. Edible plant seeds are sold in a chocolate slab form, with each slab containing a mix of three different Heirloom varieties, including cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes and other mixtures.

The prefertilised slabs germinate twice as fast and hold water three times longer than soil and can be planted in pots.

Jacobs told Engineering News Online on the sidelines of the awards that the company was in talks with major retailers to roll the product out across the country. She also believed the slabs had significant export potential.

Just Trees received accolades in the Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year category. The company supplies specimen container grown trees to the trade throughout South Africa, as well as certain export markets.

The company, centred around creating a greener South Africa, initially donated one tree for every 20 sold. Just Trees now donates one tree for every five trees sold and has already donated in excess of 30 000 trees.

Since officially opening its doors in 2005, Just Trees has grown its stock to over 150 000 trees on a 42 ha farm, made up of 58 species sold in a variety of pot sizes, and is today the supplier of choice to landscape architects with repeat business making up about 75% of total orders.

The awards, which celebrate excellence in entrepreneurship and aim to serve as an inspiration to others, received 215 entries this year – a 40% increase from the prior year.

Also praised at the awards was Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year winner Meisie Nkosi, owner of four-star graded Bella Bonni Guest House, in eMalahleni.