PE innovator takes farming solution to US

Bandile Dlabantu
Picture: Eugene Coetzee

Mobile fly farm to compete at global forum

A Port Elizabeth-born innovator will take his “African solution” for sustainable farming to the world, when he travels to Silicon Valley to compete with entrepreneurs on a global scale.

This is after Bandile Dlabantu, founder and owner of Khepri Innovations, was crowned the winner of the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme of South Africa earlier this month.

Now Dlabantu, along with runners-up Sara Andreotti and Euodia Naanyane-Bouwer, will take part in the Cleantech Open Global Forum in the United States in January.

The award, presented to Dlabantu by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, was made in recognition of his mobile fly farm.

The project used black soldier flies to convert organic waste into animal feed, which brought a sustainable feeding solution for rural farmers across the continent, Dlabantu said.

“Africa is an interesting continent with positive growth, but we are increasingly dependent on exports,” he said.

“The global population is increasing and by 2030 the majority of this population will be in Africa – so we need an alternative [solution] to feed them.”

That is the problem Dlabantu – who grew up visiting farms around the Eastern Cape when his mother taught in these communities – identified through his experiences.

“My grandfather had a chicken farm where he ground bones to supplement the animals’ diet.

“We have big factories in South Africa producing feed to sell overseas, but there is no benefit for local farmers.

“Instead of creating a competitor, we wanted to do it the South African way and decouple feed from the control of large companies – so every farmer can produce his own feed.”

With this in mind, Dlabantu created the fly farms.

“Basically, it consists of container housing units with temperature control [that] triggers reactions in the insects.

“The system is 80% automated and uses a logarithm to offer the right stimulation at the right time,” he said.

The units operate with little human intervention.

“[It is designed to] send information via SMS if there is any issue, and we are working on a second line of remote support, which lowers the cost and introduces modern-day technology to rural farmers.”

The company currently operates a unit at an abattoir, with plans to expand with a further 10 units in Bronkhorstspruit.

“[We want to] build at least six units in six provinces, and I also want to come to Port Elizabeth next year,” Dlabantu said.

“We need partnerships, including hotels, where waste is being dumped, because we want to use it to boost farmers.

“I’ve seen the same situation in several African countries, but we want [to build] a feed-independent Africa.”

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