Yesterday, Western Cape Minister of Agriculture Dr Ivan Meyer welcomed delegates to the 2nd Drone Users Conference: Agriculture and Conservation at Elsenburg.

Hosted by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture (WCDoA), the United Nations Development Programme-GEF5 Sustainable Land Management Project, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the Department of Environment, Fisheries and Forestry, the three-day hybrid conference attracted 200 attendees.

Speakers on the first day of the conference included Western Cape Head of Agriculture, Dr Mogael Sebopetsa; Dr Janice Golding, UNDP; Prof Serge Wich, Liverpool John Moores University; Tamiko Sher, African Institute for Entrepreneurship; Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer; Dr Ilse Trautman, Deputy Director-General, WCDoA;  Terriann Thaver, Pretoria University; Mbulisi Sibanda, University of the Western Cape and Kyra Lunderstadt, UNDP.

In his address to delegates, Dr Ivan Meyer challenged the audience by asking whether embracing 4IR technology can innovatively increase the size of the food basket, grow the economy and create jobs.

According to Meyer, the government can act as a catalyst in “landing” 4IR technologies within the sector and its departments.

Meyer: “Our decision to embrace new technology to improve service delivery and support to farmers have resulted in the Department playing a leading role in adopting, promoting, and stimulating drone use.”

In 2018 the WCDoA commissioned the University of Stellenbosch to develop a view on agriculture in the Western Cape and the 4IR, which led to the publication of a report entitled The future of Western Cape Agricultural sector in the context of the 4th IR.

Meyer: “The report highlighted seven key technologies that will transform agricultural practices. Collectively, these technologies will catalyse Western Cape agriculture.”

Meyer continues: “This event is one of the many actions of the Department to give effect to the 4IR and its exciting opportunities for the agricultural sector.”

Dr Janice Golding, Programme Manager: Nature, Climate and Energy, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) South Africa, noted that technology could play a key role in advancing sustainable socio-economic development.

Golding: “ Innovation technologies such as drones are tools that can help to increase the food basket, support sustainable land management and help to build the environment. The  UNDP encourages the scaling up and expansion of technologies such as drones in agriculture and conservation. The agricultural sector is vulnerable to ecosystem degradation and climate change. Drones could increase the food basket, and the partnership with the Western Cape Province could fast track the scaling up of technology to do more for more people.”

“The use of technology smart research and production and monitoring methods such as drones, sensors, real-time data probes and camera technology will benefit the agricultural sector. It will also open new opportunities to attract and equip youth with the necessary skills to pursue careers in 4IR related businesses,” concludes Meyer.

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