Shané Rudolph is an Agricultural Economist and the Head of Market Research at Agri Enterprises. She is passionate about sustainable, regenerative and organic agriculture and shares her journey with us on inspiring innovation through food security. In this interview, she talks to us about her work, her passion, and the lesson we can all learn from her work. 

CH: Give us a background about yourself; why agriculture?

SR: Growing up, my dream was to be a businesswoman with a closet full of designer clothes; the picture in my head was Meryl Streep in the movie “devil wears Prada”. So, agriculture was not initially part of the plan. When one thinks of agriculture, the picture that is created is: Vellies, – Khakis and a John Deere tractor. I am not making the industry very appealing. The more exposure I got to the industry, I realized I had to consider the whole food and fiber value chain – I realized agriculture offers an opportunity to learn different skills. It creates a platform to apply creative and analytical thinking. It’s an industry that has the potential to create a platform for driven young women to be part of the shaping of agriculture and a different perspective to the table.

CH: How can Israeli Agritech help South African Farmers?

SR: Food security is one of the country’s most critical focus areas. Natural resources are becoming scarcer and pressing issues such as climate change should be considered throughout the planning, production, and processing phase. Israeli Agtech provides the South African industry with numerous opportunities to utilise scarce resources optimally to increase production, reduce costs and improve profitability – ensuring food for tomorrow and looking after the future. Israel turned the desert into a blooming food basket utilizing minimal natural and human resource – “Soos n Boer maak n plan” “Israeli’s skrik vir niks”.

CH: Please tell us about your relationship with the Trade Mission in SA and your experience doing business with Israel.

SR: The trade office bridges the gap between the booming start-up scene in Israel and the growing Agri-sector in South Africa. The dynamic Agri team, under the leadership of Charmaine Hirshowitz, has established strong relationships with numerous commercial farmers and producers. I appreciate the experience I have gained from working with the Israeli trade office and the JDC Innovation Journey team. We were introduced to the Innovation Journey Team through the Trade office, where we (Agri SA Enterprises) conducted a research study on climate-smart technology used by smallholder farmers. Further, we identified suitable counterparts that could walk the journey with Innovation Journey. Our team is excited to see the project’s outcome, and we are honoured to be a part of the journey.

CH: What do you think the Israeli Agritech companies need to know to succeed in SA?

SR: South Africa is a developing economy that faces challenges not experienced in developed economies. Investment in Agriculture is recognized as a key precondition to achieving food security, creating jobs and wealth to reduce poverty. The emergence of the mobile phone as a popular communication tool, coupled with internet-based solutions, could significantly boost access to financing for agricultural inputs across the value chain. However, one needs to be aware of connectivity constraints such as the high cost of data, poor reception in certain areas and that the majority of the population don’t have smart phones – opportunity to adapt solution to fit a basic mobile.

In terms of business culture – Do’s South Africans are formal and polite and like to build relationships with prospective stakeholders first. They are extremely cautious and want to first see if the solutions and or product onsite in action before they implement it in their business. Don’t – pressurize the client Patience, Patience and once more Patience – things are slow in SA; adopt one-fit-for-all approach; Overlook the opportunity to identify and engage smaller companies with a significant presence and don’t disregard feedback and criticism from potential clients they are familiar with the eco-system and their feedback is valuable.

CH: Would you recommend other entities in SA to work with the Trade Mission?

SR: Definitely, the Trade Mission is result driven, ensuring that the best solutions are provided to improve the industry’s performance.