Nampo’s 50th anniversary holds clues for agricultural sustainability

28 June 2016

Innovation, networking, strategy development, and resilience have created the southern hemisphere’s largest agricultural event

Nampo’s 50th show, taking place this week, offers pointers to sustainability for all stakeholders in the agricultural sector.  So says the Head of Agribusiness SA at Standard Bank, Nico Groenewald.

According to him, Nampo started out as a tiny event in the Free State, focusing only on the maize industry, and organised by a handful of farmers who understood the value of sharing information and show-casing products.

“Today, the show has hundreds of exhibitors from around the world and more than 100 000 visitors from all over the continent pass through its gates. It hosts trend and issue-based seminars, workshops, and presentations that have the visionary force to change the course of agricultural operations, whether at farm level or at other points in the value chain,” Mr Groenewald notes.

“That kind of success does not happen by accident and I believe that, by applying the principles Nampo has used, individuals and organisations can boost sustainability in their own operations.”

For Mr Groenewald, one of the most important success factors exemplified by Nampo is the vision that its founders had. “They saw an opportunity and grabbed it. In the same way, all of us in the sector should be constantly scanning our environment for new ideas, new ways of doing things, new markets. Standing still is the surest way to fail.”

Seizing opportunities is not for the faint-hearted, however. Resilience in overcoming obstacles and meeting challenges – and in driving for success – is crucial. “Nampo’s founders didn’t rest on their laurels,” Mr Groenewald points out. “They diversified out of the maize sub-sector. They went looking for exhibitors from the value chain beyond the farm gate. They have researched and introduced new trends with every passing year and made the effort to make themselves indispensable as a window into the future of the industry. In the process, they became a change agent, a force for good.”

“Industry players should also be diversifying, participating up and downstream of their own operations, and studying trends so as to be able to adopt the ones that will most benefit their operations – and their particular stakeholders.”

Innovation has underpinned all of Nampo’s growth during the past 50 years. Mr Groenewald believes, however, that innovation should not be thought of only in terms of technology.

“Yes, Nampo stays abreast of technology by ensuring that the equipment exhibitors it attracts are at the cutting edge. It also uses the latest marketing technologies, such as the Nampo app that allows people to experience the show digitally. Just as importantly, however, Nampo has continuously refreshed its own organisational structure and strategies, thereby always being in possession of the latest thinking in the business and politics of agriculture.”

He mentions that agricultural players should also be organising themselves in such a way as to put collective action to work in the best interests of all parties. There is tremendous commercial power in numbers.

Networking is another critical facet of Nampo’s own evolution and its ability to be a change agent for the sector. The discussion forums it hosts enables agricultural players to look at different options, share information and experiences, re-examine their place in the value chain, and access training. Because it is an international event, it enables operations to look beyond their own geographies.

“Nampo is a remarkable networking platform that serves as a base for strategy development, for individuals and the industry as a whole” Mr Groenewald says. “It is also a reminder to all of us that getting a bird’s eye view of what’s happening in the industry is core to developing a successful strategy that can then be converted into relevant innovation.”

Nampo’s increasing emphasis on environmental trends is a case in point. “Agricultural stakeholders are beginning to understand the practical and moral imperatives of moving away from simply being the country’s largest users of land and water to becoming the country’s most important custodians of such resources.

“In doing so, we have to re-strategise. We have to be willing to do things differently. We have to find and use better farming practices. We have to accept responsibility for what happens outside our operation by changing for the better what we do inside our operation.”

“In conducting its own business superbly, Nampo carries agriculture forward, year after year. Each of us, by being superb in our own operations, can do the same. And, if each of us does, agriculture will be transformed naturally, organically, and automatically,” Mr Groenewald concludes.

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