DuPont invests R100 million in African tech hub

by Holly Demaree
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Dupont Pioneer Selmas South Africa Tech Center
The Delmas Technology Center in Delmas, South Africa.
Photo courtesy of Dupont Pioneer.
 
DELMAS, SOUTH AFRICA — DuPont together with public, private sector and government leaders officially opened the Africa regional technology center in Delmas, South Africa. The technology center will accelerate new product development across multiple crops for farmers. With construction recently completed, the center comprises a network of strategically placed research facilities and testing locations across the continent.

“The global network of research facilities and testing locations demonstrate DuPont’s ongoing commitment to research and development to accelerate seed product development for African farmers, helping them better manage pests and crop disease, climate volatility and soil fertility,” said Alejandro Munoz, vice-president of global commercial business at DuPont Pioneer.

DuPont invested R100 million ($7.789 million) in the Africa technology center, which currently employs African scientists and skilled technicians to support local research efforts, across testing locations in South Africa and, for the continent. DuPont’s investment in R&D in Africa includes:

  • The Delmas technology center; which focuses on major Eastern region research activities, with breeding programs in maize and sunflowers, that incorporates key Pioneer and PANNAR research and testing locations, combined germplasm, talent and experience to improve cultivar breeding and development for Africa.
  • A multi-crop research center in Hoogekraal that will conduct multi-crop research for DuPont Pioneer and PANNAR with a focus on drought tolerance.
  • Africa’s biggest private insectary, critical to the development of traits to combat local yield robbing pests, some of which are unique to the continent.
  • Training and education opportunities for staff and academic institutions every year to host a plant breeding symposium to foster research skills development and to work with smallholder farmers to improve the livelihoods of families in rural communities.

DuPont has similar technology centers in the United States, Brazil, India and China as part of the company’s global research network. Delmas will serve as the central hub of the Africa regional technology center, which is comprised of a network of existing research facilities and testing locations throughout Africa. The network of research centers will enable collaboration between crop researchers, maximize resources and advance research locally. South African research information adds to the global DuPont knowledge while the facilities in Delmas, Hoogekraal, Greytown, and other locations in Africa also draw on the global DuPont expertise from colleagues in other parts of the world.

“Better-performing seed products will lead to greater yields for farmers, including small holder farmers — and will help enhance farm productivity,” said Prabdeep Bajwa, regional director for DuPont’s agricultural business in Africa and Middle East. “Africa has untapped potential to boost its agricultural output if the continent increases investment in agricultural research and development to adapt global technology to local needs.”

The regional technology center has advanced technologies, such as doubled haploids, ear photometry and the proprietary Pioneer Accelerated Yield Technology (AYT), as well as marker-assisted selection. These technologies help shorten crop breeding cycles and improve accuracy toward breeding targets — including improved drought tolerance, insect and disease tolerance, as well as improved yields with limited inputs.

“With nearly 35 million hectares available with grain yields of less than 2 tonnes per hectare, Africa is a key agricultural growth area for DuPont, and with sufficient investment in technology, represents tremendous opportunities for productivity gains," said Bajwa at the official opening of the Africa technology center in Delmas.

DuPont said the technology center incorporates key research and testing locations, combined germplasm, talent and experience to improve cultivar breeding and development in Africa.

“Africa will be a major contributor to feeding the world population and the technology center will increase our breeding and testing capacity, as well as enable the continent to leverage the most advanced breeding technologies and germplasm pool to develop a high-performing maize, sunflower and soybean products for farmers,” Bajwa said.

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