The South Africa Innovation Summit in partnership with wine industry body, Winetech awarded the finalist of the Winetech Pitching Den competition whose aim was to search for innovators, providing unique solutions and products which can be commercialized to wine producers and the Agri-tech industries.

The competition was focusing on the following areas: – climate change, water reclamation and resourcing, genetics and AI innovations which increase efficiency, profitability and environmental sustainability.

The top 15 competitors delivered their pitches at the 2019 SA Innovation Summit on Thursday 12 September 2019 who were assessed by a team of eight judges comprising industry experts and investors.

This saw three innovations being selected as winners for the prizes sponsored by Winetech and Distell Group, South Africa’s leading wines and spirits producer.

In third place was Nema Bio Ltd from South Africa focusing on the innovation of entomopathogenic nematodes as possible bio-control agents in the field.

These are pathogens of insects that occur naturally in the soil. In combination with their symbiotic bacteria, they can be used in an integrated control programme against many insect pests. They can actively search for their host, while remaining harmless to other organisms and the environment.

The innovation is by Sheila Storey who has an MSc (Agric) in Nematology with undergraduate studies in Entomology and Plant Pathology. She received R50 000 (about US$ 3,403) for business development. Nema Bio sells indigenous species of Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs).

In second place was UV Boosting, a deep tech start-up developing a clean alternative to pesticides.

UV Boosting is the first non-chemical, effective solution for stimulating plant defense. It does not have a negative impact on fauna and flora, nor on soils or groundwater

 It was founded by Yves Matton who graduated from the Ecole Polytechnique in France. He received R100 000 (about US$ 6,807) for Business Development. 

In first place was Vegetal Signals. They develop sensors and analysis methods that allow continuous monitoring of plant activity to identify needs in terms of water, fertilization or phytosanitary treatments.

The information produced by plants makes it possible to reach an unequaled level of precision in order to optimize the management of agricultural inputs, both in terms of quantities and positioning over time.

The project is by Fabian Le Bourdiec, an engineer and former researcher in chronobiology and neuroscience. He received R150 000 (about US$10,211) for business development. 

The selection from the judges was centred on the high quality of applications, particularly the impressive innovations birthed on South African soil that exhibit world-class potential.