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  • Writer's pictureAisha Playton


Updated: Nov 11, 2023

The current race to buy up Africa’s vast lands is a modern-day iteration of the gold rush of the late 1800s, and as the campaign for STEM development in Africa continues, many of the most wealthy citizens and conglomerates outside the continent are buying up hectares of African land at a song. It is no secret as to why. Global population growth is expanding at an exponential rate, a fact that stands to exacerbate our current food insecurity issues and means there will be big money to be made in food production in years to come. While powerhouse African cities in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria continue replicating the Silicon Valley model by focusing on traditional sectors of technological innovation such as software, AI, fin-tech and other largely digital-based inventions, I wonder if we, as Africans, should not also be turning our focus toward tilling our own (literal) soil instead by creating cutting-edge agri-technological innovations such as those currently coming out of Seed Valley.

Seed Valley is a colloquial term used to refer to a fabulously fertile area in the northern region of the Netherlands that is home to a revolutionary cluster of organisations and companies focused on developing the most exciting and revolutionary IP relating to agri-technology. A mix of the most successful seed companies, research institutions, and exciting startups in the world are all present in Seed Valley, working in a coalition to drive forward necessary advancements in the agricultural sector. The region has emerged as a global leader in sustainable farming, continuing to churn out innovation in fundamental areas of the industry, such as crop breeding, seed production, precision farming methods, genetic research, digital farming solutions and sustainable agricultural practices.

With swaths of fertile and largely untouched land ripe for farming, it is clear that Africa's needs and strengths closely align with the objectives of an organised group such as Seed Valley. Due to the ecological diversity of the continent, it would be prudent for Africans to band together and create an agricultural technology cluster of its own, which will focus solely on developing and promoting technologies to optimise the African agricultural landscape. These innovations could be geared more towards addressing the needs and challenges facing the unique African farming culture, which primarily consists of smallholding farms and farming communities, in addition to creating solutions to combat food insecurity and promote agricultural productivity. Another factor to consider when contemplating the need for an African Seed Valley is the threat of climate change. The creation of Seed Valley has placed great emphasis on engineering technology that will promote sustainable farming practices. Sustainable farming is an especially urgent topic in the African context since climate change continues to yield substantial risks and challenges to the local agricultural sector. Considering the impressive advancements that Seed Valley has already produced in engineering climate-resilient crop varieties, developing precision farming techniques, and resource-efficient farming methods, should Africans open the door to collaboration and requisite licensing efforts with Seed Valley's constituents, Africans could have a healthy base of Intellectual Property from which to begin developing Africa-centric solutions that promote long-term environmental sustainability and mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.

Smallholder farmers are the backbone of the African farming industry. By aligning our efforts with the collaborative nature of the Seed Valley model, African farmers will have access to specialised Africa-centric technologies, knowledge banks, think tanks and adapted seed strains. By owning this innovation ourselves, countries can foster beneficial relations between African farmers and the seed companies and research institutions they rely on to produce this valuable resource. This unprecedented access to support, resources, ownership and vital innovations will empower African growers to provide food to those who need it most and drive these burgeoning economies forward.

This economic benefit is where the real meat lies. The qualities that make Seed Valley such an inspiring success story are not found solely in the technological advancements its members have engineered but in the economic growth that it has facilitated. The creation of Seed Valley successfully birthed a thriving industrial ecosystem in the Netherlands that paved the way for new employment opportunities, foreign investment and economic development. Should Africans adopt the Seed Valley model, it will undoubtedly enjoy similar benefits in the regions surrounding these innovation clusters, promoting entrepreneurship, efficient business practices and driving economic growth in an essential sector.

From an ethical perspective, another benefit to an African Seed Valley is the opportunity to have a hand in preserving the continent's diverse indigent flora population. Africa is rich in genetic resources and traditional knowledge related to agriculture, and as Africans, we are best equipped to create the necessary innovation to protect this genetic heritage. By collaborating with foreign experts to marry our generational knowledge of the land with cutting-edge scientific innovation from abroad, we can effectively preserve and sustain this vast and diverse set of genetic resources for the world to appreciate.

The miraculous innovations of Seed Valley offer an aspirational model for Africa to contemplate as we seek to pursue economic growth by harnessing innovation and technological advancements in the agricultural sector. Through securing foreign investment, fueling job creation and providing foundational education surrounding informed agricultural practices in our climate-challenged environment, we could revolutionise African economies and correct bottlenecks in the food production chains of the poorest and youngest continent in the world.

No matter the region from which these inventions originate, this kind of life-altering ingenuity deserves hearty celebration. We hope to see more of our African minds turning towards the agri-tech industry and partnering with the great minds of Seed Valley to create an African iteration of this transformative and necessary hub of ingenuity soon. Whether this concept comes to fruition or not, we can be sure of one thing – a promising era of agricultural technology and sustainable development lies ahead. As a firm, we are passionately committed to using our expertise in IP to continue promoting and protecting these vital technologies.


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