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Seeing RED – but not like that

The signature red cap that Austrian motor racing champion Niki Lauda sported after his horrific accident in 1976 was reportedly given to him by his physiotherapist, to keep his bandages in place. But Lauda, who died in 2019, kept wearing the cap beyond that. Why? To divert people’s attention from his scars to his eyes, when talking to him.

Since our last edition of the SA Fruit Journal to writing this column, SA had gone from tightened level 1 restrictions to adjusted level 3 (announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 28/12/20 and 11/01/21 respectively). The announcements were necessitated by a spike in daily infections that exceeded 17 000 at the time.

Similar to the scars from Lauda’s accident, the more aggressively the pandemic presents itself, the more inclined we are to be transfixed by its “scars” (inflicted on our industry and in general). It’s much like a morbid fascination. So, when thinking about what our industry “red cap” could be, “prosilience” came to mind – a term allegedly first coined by Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was recently echoed by Futurist Dr Morné Mostert, whereby he advocates for a shift towards crafting a suited “recovery plan” that aligns with our new circumstances, rather than simply bouncing back. It’s a much-needed paradigm shift for effective navigation of the unknown.

Amidst the pandemic technology has certainly shown itself to be a resource with limitless potential for the fruit industry and the agricultural sector at large. And the strategic adoption of technology undoubtedly lies at the core of changing the growth trajectory of our industry. Yet, historically, agriculture has lagged other industries globally when it comes to digitisation. Instead, the sector’s areas of advancement have largely been mechanical (sporting powerful and efficient machinery) and genetic (with more productive seeds and fertilisers). Agriculture must “embrace a digital, connectivity-fueled transformation in order to overcome increasing demand and several disruptive forces,” advises McKinsey & Company. According to their research agriculture could secure “$500 billion in additional value to the global gross domestic product by 2030”, if connectivity is successfully implemented.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the demand for food, and highlighted the compromised global capacity to maintain food security. And the agricultural sector is looked upon to respond to this growing need, with tremendous pressure to innovate swiftly.

McKinsey & Company further highlights that by 2030 the water supply will stand at -40% in proportion with global water needs, with rising energy, labour and nutrient costs already placing profit margins under pressure.

Ultimately, the new post-COVID world will be here to stay. Therefore, let’s start “seeing red”: focusing on continued proactive plans to be able to thrive far beyond the pandemic, with particular emphasis on a transformative, inclusive plan that integrates technology sustainably. It’s a real-time need for our industry growth.

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