- SU LaunchLab
From a simple student hustle to a successful agritech company
Updated: Apr 5, 2022
When FG Adriaanse designed a solution to a problem on the family farm while doing his Masters in Logistics at Stellenbosch University, little did he know the project would develop into what is now a fully-fledged agritech innovation company serving more than 100 clients across Africa.
Adriaanse, who is founder and joint-MD of Adagin Technologies, says that the product that launched the company was a basic picking harness. “The aim was to solve a simple problem on our family farm with my extra time while studying. I had to find a way to help our farmworkers harvest more effectively and to handle the grapes with greater care, and a picking harness seemed to address both challenges very well. I asked around to see if the harness would help other farmers and received positive market-fit feedback. So I thought let’s make this a nice ‘side-hustle’ to help pay for my Masters and maybe use the extra money to travel a bit after I finish my studies.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Since the initial idea, Adagin has grown from the simple harness solution to a full suite of high-tech solutions to help farmers monitor their harvesting outputs with scanners and satellite technology, manage their workforce and costs with a smartphone app, and reduce packhouse waste and cost with Adagin’s Smart-Scales, which are supplied in conjunction with partner Soft-Pro.
Adriaanse says that, although he knew his ideas were good and filled a niche in the market, he had no idea where to start at the beginning. “Websites, brochures, accounting and networking all need to be in place beyond a company’s unique product or service offering. So I just walked into SU LaunchLab one day and told the first SU LaunchLab member, Johnathan Smit, I could find that this product needs to reach the agri industry but that I didn’t know where to start!”
According to Adriannse, SU LaunchLab shared superb, practical advice and asked if he would like to join their Knowledge Acceleration Programme, which is similar to the current Countdown programme. The programme taught him exactly what he needed to get started and helped him to look beyond the short-term idea of the harness. He also met JD Naude at SU LaunchLab, who is now an equal owner and partner in the business, along with tech venture building specialists, Acumen.Zone, which today is invested in the business.
Another key milestone in Adagin’s evolution was meeting Henry Ford, founder of Soft-Pro scales. “We met Henry for a potential co-working project to take his product to the next level. This existing product acted as a foundation for Adagin to build new modules. Our vision for Adagin and Henry’s vision for his product was really aligned and we are truly appreciative of the opportunity he gave us in partnering with us.”
“The LaunchLab Knowledge Acceleration Programme that I did in 2016 taught me crucial entrepreneurial principles that I still use today. Jonathan and I are currently on the SU LaunchLab Lift-Off programme, which has again been invaluable. Starting a company and scaling a company are two very different sports. The Lift-Off Programme has shown us aspects of Adagin that need improvement and serious attention if we plan to scale up. We also receive indispensable assistance from LaunchLab members on finance strategies, smart cloud-based systems to help with operations, and we benefit from a wonderful mentor who asks us important questions that challenge us to grow in our thinking and customer engagement. Even though the course is not finished yet, our company has changed course to gear ourselves for the next level of growth,” he says.
Joint-MD, Jonathan Naude, says that Adagin aims to be farmers’ preferred partner when it comes to managing their farm’s job-costing, harvesting and packing and that they plan to extend their reach in the South African market while building their systems and infrastructure. “We feel that, because we measure farmers’ largest income (harvest) and largest expense (labour), we have a responsibility to provide accurate and trustworthy data. We just love the challenge of simplifying high-tech solutions to be more ‘farmer friendly’ and to solve burning problems on farms at their core. We continually ask ourselves, ‘how can we simplify this more’, ‘why are users not getting it’, ‘how can we get unschooled users to effectively use our products without intensive training’? The industry’s response has been fantastic and feedback suggests that we are being effective in our approach. Farmers appreciate that our solutions make their lives simpler so they can focus on farming and our technology does the administration they used to spend hours doing long after the sun has set,” he says.
Adriaanse says that SU LaunchLab has played a tremendous role in shaping Adagin from the very beginning. “I would have had little to no direction if I were to start Adagin with my own knowledge and intuition. The courses, networks, support and help we’ve received from SU LaunchLab over the last five years have provided us with the foundation to build an enduring and healthy company. We still have a long way to go to reach our ultimate vision, but the journey is one that the team and I would not trade for anything.”