Joint venture to launch Africa’s first research and training feed mill in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA – The Animal Feed Manufacturers’ Association (AFMA) of South Africa is launching the continent’s first research and training feed mill to be located at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Miertjie le Roux Experimental Farm near Bronkhorstspruit.

The research and training feed mill is an initiative of the AFMA board of directors, driven by the AFMA/UP Research and Training Feed Mill Project committee.

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“This is one of the end products of years of challenges and innovation that would not have been possible without the industry’s input or our partners,” said De Wet Boshoff, executive director of AFMA. 

AFMA entered into a joint venture with the University of Pretoria when they signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on 11th December, 2018.

According to the MoA to the value of R50m (US$3m), AFMA will, via its members and industry role-players, contribute towards the construction of the research & training feed mill and the laboratory, as well as purchase of other equipment necessary for the establishment and ongoing operations of the mill on the principle of ‘for the industry, by the industry.’

UP will contribute the site and infrastructure and will handle the operation of the mill, assisted by AFMA specialists.

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Other partners of the project include Learning Pathways, which created the e-learning platform that forms part of the training, and AgriSETA, which has assisted AFMA for many years.

AFMA has also partnered with Agri Jobs, the online platform that helps find candidates for jobs in the agri industry.

Herman van Deventer, who serves on AFMA’s skills development and training committee and is the founder and director of Learning Pathways, said the venture started in 2008. In 2015 the final application was submitted, and approval was only granted in 2017.

Van Deventer said the biggest challenge was establishing recognition for the occupation of a feed miller. He said that government has an occupation framework document which stipulates the different types of occupations.

According to a report by AgriOrbit , feed miller is not recognised as an occupation by the Department of Higher Education and Training – they recognize miller but not a feed miller, whose field of specialisation lies within the livestock industry.

Thus the objective of the joint venture is to establish a research and training feed mill to close the gap that currently exists in the skill set of most animal nutrition students who are finishing tertiary education.

The report further highlighted that this skill sets are only developed during employment in the formal feed industry and can take up to three to four years of in-house training.

The reason for the gap stems mainly from the fact that students finishing their degree or post-graduate studies have little to no practical experience of the actual feed milling environment.

Post-graduate students, furthermore, do not have a practical feed milling environment to conduct proper, practical and innovative research and development.

Due to the lack of physical infrastructure and means to give shape to the practical side of theory in the past, tertiary academic institutions could not include this in their under-graduate or post-graduate curriculums.

According to the 2020 Alltech Global Feed Survey, Africa registered a strong overall growth of 7.5% in feed production in 2019 with South Africa leading the charts followed by Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco and Algeria.

According to the report, South Africa with 74 mills recorded an estimated feed production of 11.7 million MT under the year of review despite the industry facing struggles with the farming workforce.

The top nine feed-producing countries are the U.S., China, Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico, Spain, Japan and Germany.

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