Farm of the Future launched in SA

Johannesburg, South Africa, 7 June 2022 - McCain Foods Limited has unveiled plans for its second Farms of the Future, which will be located near Lichtenburg in South Africa, and will form part of its ambitions to advance, showcase and roll out regenerative farming practices. Regenerative agriculture seeks to rehabilitate and enhance entire farm ecosystems through soil health enhancement and effective water management, amongst other activities. The announcement follows the launch of the company’s pilot farm project in Canada, in 2020.

Farm of the Future Africa totals 465 ha irrigation and 90 ha dryland on which McCain will grow 125 ha potatoes, per year. Through partnerships with various sector experts, it will focus on enhancing productivity, while prioritising soil health, water efficiency, the reduction of agro-chemical impacts and the introduction and preservation of biodiversity. Resulting crops from the farm will be used to create some of South Africa’s favourite McCain products.

McCain CEO Max Koeune says the Farms of the Future project is vital in trying to make the global food system more sustainable: “This is a critical moment. The strain that global supply chains are under right now is shining a stark light on how exposed we are, with a food system that requires a radical transformation to address the challenges of our century.

“Farmers are on the front line – they see the impacts of climate change every day, with extreme weather wreaking havoc on the growing season. The new farm will allow us to build a better understanding of regenerative agricultural practices, enabling McCain to work with our farm partners to re-imagine the way we grow a potato that is better for both their farm and the planet.”

“According to the 2021 Global Food Security Index - a benchmarking tool developed by Economist Impact and supported by Corteva Agriscience - South Africa’s global performance over the last decade, amongst 113 countries, declined substantially (dropping eight places, from 62 in 2012 to 2021’s 70),” says Unathi Mhlatyana, Managing Director, McCain Foods South Africa. “This has shown us how important it is to look at hunger from a food-systems approach. This not only involves the availability of food but also how equipped we are as a country to mitigate climate change risks and keep producing food now and in the future.”

The South African location serves as the second of three Farms of the Future McCain plans to open, across different growing regions around the world, by 2025. The company has also made a global commitment to implement Regenerative agricultural practices across 100 per cent of its potato acreage by 2030, a vegetable crop that is a popular staple for many across Mzansi.

According to Wandile Sihlobo, the Chief Economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa (Agbiz), the current conflict in Ukraine has put increased pressure on SA farmers in terms of fertiliser and fuel hikes, and the requirement to boost local production against the backdrop of extreme weather events and rising electricity costs. “Now is the time to focus on close collaboration, and embrace state-of-the-art crop protection solutions and suitable and innovative agricultural practices to empower farmers to continue to feed our nation, whilst still being profitable.”

Adds Mhlatyana, “We are proud to be the centre of mealtimes for South African families, helping our customers celebrate real connections through delicious planet friendly food. We are confident that smart and sustainable farming will help growers future-proof their operations ensuring that both McCain and our farmers have a business for generations to come.”