Agricultural growth solutions

AgriLab IS AN FES INITIATIVE, DESIGNED TO HELP FARMERS INCREASE THEIR YIELDS, IMPROVE THEIR CROP QUALITY AND BUILD A SUSTAINABLE FOOD SUPPLY FOR THE REGION.

FES, Malawi’s leading farming mechanisation supplier and agricultural solutions partner, has launched AgriLab to help agribusinesses, farmers, smallholders and outgrowers test, manage and control their soil, leaf and water quality. Through this initiative we expect to see improved yields and crop quality, increased revenue, reduced input costs as well as reduced crop failure.

AgriLab not only performs valuable research and testing, but also provides advisory and consultancy services to ensure the regional agricultural sector has the equipment and scientific data to close the gap between optimal yield and realised yield.

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HOW WE ADD VALUE

AgriLab has the capacity to undertake a comprehensive range of soil, water and leaf analyses to an extremely high level of accuracy. The purpose of the soil, leaf and water testing and analysis for agricultural enterprises on all scales is threefold:

  1. It facilitates effective decision-making as to which crop diversification options are appropriate and viable ‒ and in which localities ‒ improving resilience to climatic and market shocks.
  2. It gives critical information on the appropriate use of agri-inputs which deliver cost savings and improved yields and crop quality, resulting in improved profit margins and incomes.
  3. It reduces the impact of agricultural activities on ecosystems as it optimises the intake of nutrients, thereby reducing leaching and the emission of methane and nitrous oxide; two large contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions of the agricultural sector.

Aside from soil testing, AgriLab offers the analysis of plant material for quality parameters, such as pesticide and herbicide residues.

Our future plans include disseminating the results from agricultural testing via a mobile app. We are in a position to offer technical support to agricultural operations on all scales to assist in the uptake of specific recommendations.

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Globally, the demand for both agricultural production and farm productivity has increased, and FES recognises the importance of optimising productivity through precision agriculture. To promote technologies which contribute to productivity and growth, FES has launched an agronomy department. This department bases its activities on a scientific approach to agricultural management and production, in line with global trends for food production. FES’ ability to offer our customers the services of a laboratory enables us to provide the best possible farm management, mechanisation and irrigation solutions. As with all of FES’ uniquely integrated services, AGRILAB works in synergy with FES’ other divisions and promises to be key to the growth of the Group.

Part of the FES Group

ESTABLISHED IN 1967, WE HAVE BEEN PROVIDING OUR CLIENTS WITH A FULL RANGE OF WORLD-CLASS PRODUCTS, EXPERT TECHNICAL SERVICES AND PRACTICAL KNOW-HOW FOR OVER 50 YEARS.

The FES team prides itself on long-standing relationships with its clients. Sole distributors of several well-known and trusted mechanised agricultural brands and high-quality precision technology. Offering our clients in-depth technical, industry and managerial skills, innovative turnkey solutions, maintenance and spare parts, as well as full after-sales, maintenance and backup support services.

MEET THE TEAM

Luca Desideri

Agronomy Manager

Luca is a professional agronomist and agricultural development expert with over 10 years’ experience in Malawi and the region. Luca has a degree in Agricultural Science, Co-operation and Rural Development and is currently studying towards an MSc Sustainable Development at SOAS. His unique skillset and his experience in working in the regional context will help Luca driving the department and the laboratory towards success.

Helena Herrmann

Scientist Consultant

Helena is pursuing a PhD researching plant acclimation to changing environments in order to understand how we can ensure an adequate food supply in today and tomorrow’s environment. She has extensive wet-laboratory experience combined with a background in statistics and data analysis. Ensuring rigor and accuracy in biological data is of high importance to her. She has completed a CQI/ICRA certified course to act as a lead auditor for ISO 17025.

Munason Munthali

Laboratory Manager

Munason has a MBA and a BSc in Chemistry. He has over 13 years’ experience in analytical chemistry and laboratory development. Other areas of competency include standard development, quality assurance and auditing, and technical barriers to trade. Munason has worked for the Malawi Bureau of Standards and a range of private sector companies, including, Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company, Carlsberg Malawi, PressCane Limited, and Kentam Products Limited. At Limbe Leaf Agricultural Laboratory, he was the Quality Control Manager for four years, responsible for work-plan development, budget and human resource management, development and implementation of SOPs, and conducting a range of chemical analyses.

SERVICES

SOIL HEALTH = SOIL PRODUCTIVITY

Soil fertility management is critical to the regional ‒ and the world’s ‒ food security. In the Southern African Region however, there is a pressing need for improved soil fertility management to ensure the region's agricultural productivity can reach optimal yields of quality produce.

With the help of AgriLab:

  • Regional agricultural farmers and manufacturers can compete in local and international markets. Our aim: to contribute to increased agricultural production and productivity of export crops, while reducing production cost per unit, creating thriving agroecosystems for our clients.
  • Our customers can expect to see increased agricultural productivity and quality, and reduced testing costs for export products.

THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL

At present, soil testing services similar to those offered by AgriLab are almost exclusively provided by international suppliers. This makes it difficult or prohibitively expensive for local farmers and especially small enterprises to take advantage of this valuable tool. AgriLab not only makes it possible, but we are actively involved in making farmers aware of this service and ensuring they get quick, accurate and cost-effective feedback and advice.

DELIVERING POSITIVE IMPACTS

Africa’s farmers are faced with two challenges: ensuring sufficient food production while minimising the impact on the natural environment. Through Agrilab’s testing and advisory services, farmers can engage in more effective and efficient soil fertility management plans, dramatically reducing soil nutrient loss, as well as other positive environmental benefits. Thanks to the improvement in production cost-efficiencies and productivity rates, the farmers in the region could see unprecedented growth.

AGRONOMY

Healthy, balanced, fertile soil ‒ the most important ingredient for ensuring crop success.

This agronomy division of AgriLab analyses soil and plant material for agricultural use and produces analysis of soil and leaf nutrients, water retention capacity and various other soil characteristics. With this information at hand, the AgriLab team can advise farmers on their fertiliser, watering and planting requirements and schedules.

In order to assess soil and crop health the laboratory will have the following wet chemistry analyses available:

  • Soil texture analysis: General soil property analyses include a visual screen, gravimetric soil sample density, particle size distribution using a fraction analyser, titratable acidity, pH and EC. The particle size distribution, pH and EC measurements are fully automated utilising cutting-edge robotic analysers.
  • Organic matter analysis: This important indicator of soil fertility will be measured using a high temperature combustion analyser which can produce fully automated examination of total nitrogen, protein, total carbon, inorganic carbon, elemental carbon and organic carbon. These analyses can be done on soil, leaf and crop samples.
  • Elemental analysis: Individual elements, including metals, can be important indicators of micronutrient availability in the soil and micronutrient uptake of the crop and water quality and will be measured using inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES).
  • Nutrient analysis: A study of the nutrients cannot always be conducted using single element analyses as they require a combination of elements to be examined in conjunction. The laboratory will have a specific Continuous Flow Analyser (CFA) dedicated to the precise evaluation of ortho-phosphate, total phosphate, nitrate, nitrite and also potassium, sodium, sulphates, chloride, ammonia, urea and boron. This equipment provides state of the art colorimetric methods for determining key soil and fertilizer ingredients essential for healthy plant growth and maximum crop productivity.

In order to ensure homogeneity and accuracy across all tests, all of the laboratory analyses have been automated in line with global best practice standards. AgriLab’s multiple robotic analysers ensure that samples are prepared and analysed in a consistent manner, free from human error. The laboratory prides itself in conducting frequent and real-time quality control analyses along with all of its client requests.

PRODUCT QUALITY

Using a sophisticated blend of liquid- and gas-chromatography mass spectrometry and other scientific techniques, our food quality division assesses the chemical compounds in soil and vegetative samples, ensuring that both the soil and the produce grown in it are healthy, free of toxins and comply with the required safety standards.

Testing for the presence of:

  • residues from pesticides and herbicides in consumer goods
  • aflatoxins content
  • purity of other molecules of interest in products meant for market consumption

Our one-stop soil quality testing shop and advisory services ensure farmers ‒ from small-scale to commercial ‒ have access to cutting-edge information and testing.

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CERTIFICATION

AgriLab is a member of GLOSOLAN, the Global Soil Laboratory Network. This network is aiming to strengthen the performance of laboratories in support of the harmonization of soil data sets and information towards the development of global standards.

We aim at being ISO 17025 certified by the end of 2020. ISO/IEC 17025 sets the requirements for technically competent testing and calibration laboratories world-wide. By achieving ISO 17025 accreditation, AgriLab will join an international community of laboratories which stand out in their rigor and accuracy.

Part of the ISO 17025 requirement is to conduct regular inter-laboratory comparisons and proficiency testing. CORESTA, AGRILASA and WEPAL are organisations which facilitate such inter-laboratory analyses to ensure that the laboratories’ accuracy is to a universal standard. They further allow AgriLab to remain up-to-date on all of the latest developments in all laboratory activities and to remain at the forefront of science.

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Firm opens K2.2 billion laboratory, Business Malawi, November 2019

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Soil Fertility Testing Market Insights: Growth Factors, Market Drivers, Segmentations, Key Players, Analysis & Forecast by 2021, Digital Day News, June 2019

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New technology helping farming in soil testing - Next Frontier, KTN News, July 2018

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Impact of soil loss in Malawi: microeconomic effects of soil and nutrient loss. Profitability and mitigation measures, FAO, UNEP and UNDP, 2018

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Soil and nutrients loss in Malawi an economic assessment, FAO, 2018

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FES helping smallholder farmers adapt to climate change, Climate Smart Agriculture supplement - The Daily Times, August 2019

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CAREERS

AgriLab is an equal opportunity employer and will select the best candidate for the job without regard to gender or race. Our people shape the future.

Our talent lies in our collective determination to find the best new ways of doing things and implementing them with passion and excellence. If you see the world as it could be, and have the passion to perform, we invite you to join our team. Together, we can shape tomorrow.

VACANCY – AGRONOMIST

Please send us your CV and letter of motivation by email to be included in our reference database for future opportunities.

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CONTACT US

Need more information or have questions about how we can help your farming operation?

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+265 1 812 070/061

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Find us
Kaohsiung Road,
Mandala
PO Box 918
Blantyre
Malawi