24th – 28th June 2024   •   Durban, South Africa

SAI Platform Annual Event 2024

Building climate change resilience through regenerative agriculture

24th – 28th June 2024   •   Durban, South Africa

SAI Platform Members Only   •   #SAIPlatform2024
SAI Platform Members Only #SAIPlatform2024

Option 1: Sugar cane Farming with Illovo Sugar

Join Illovo Sugar for an exploration into sugarcane farming in Kwazulu Natal with a visit to the Jobs Fund Project, Ashbrook Farm and the South African Sugarcane Research Institute

The Jobs Fund Project

The Jobs Fund Project is an innovative small-scale grower development project that has created more than 1 590 jobs and brings upwards of R65 million (EUR3 million) in sustainable annual income to a small, rural community not far from their Sezela sugar factory.

Focusing particularly on employment and the empowerment of rural women in the local sugar supply chain, Illovo Sugar South Africa signed an agreement with the South African National Treasury’s Jobs Fund in 2017 to secure a R63-million grant in order to plant 3 000 hectares of sugar cane on communal land over three seasons, and to provide training and support to all of the growers involved in the scheme.

Matching the funding to create a R126 million development package, lllovo Sugar’s joint project with the government is an example of how public private partnerships can be successful in creating direct jobs in rural communities, spurring on the implementation of other socio-economic initiatives, and transferring valuable farming and business skills to local people.

Ashbrook Farm

Ashbrook Farm is a large sugar cane operation spanning 600 hectares on the Kwazulu Natal South Coast. Join Illovo Sugar and Richard Cole for an insightful on-farm experience to explore the environmental and economic benefits of improving soil health and building resilience through regenerative practices.

Participants will learn how by focusing on macro elements like building soil organic content and minimising chemical inputs, Richard achieves higher yields and reduced costs, while mitigating environmental impact. See firsthand the long-term effects of thrashing, meticulous nutrient management and the integration of multi-species cover crops and livestock grazing, on soil health. Richard’s holistic farm management approach emphasises the importance of nurturing healthy ecosystems for long-term viability.

From a social perspective, participants will learn how transparent performance tracking systems and incentives for improvement create a culture of continuous learning and shared goals among farm staff, resulting in a loyal workforce with very little turnover.


The South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI) was established in 1925 to produce new disease-resistant varieties of sugarcane to support a growing sugar industry. Today, the institute is world-renowned for its research into the development of new sugarcane varieties and improved crop management and farming systems that enhance profitability and sustainability.

A guided tour of the Research Institute will introduce delegates to the modern biotechnological approaches used to enhance SASRI’s Plant Breeding Programme, as well as the integrated pest and disease management research used to support a network of biosecurity teams engaged in surveying the industry for pests and diseases. Delegates will have the opportunity to visit the NovaCane® tissue culture facility for the propagation of new varieties released to growers and the quarantine glasshouse where molecular techniques are used for the detection of the most important sugarcane diseases.

In addition to providing sound research outcomes, much emphasis is placed on transferring agricultural knowledge to the industry. This is achieved through a well-established network of Extension Specialists based in the various regions of the sugar industry. Delegates will have the opportunity to engage with these specialists about how they use research, trials such as BT1, the ongoing and long-term sugarcane trial established in 1939 to investigate the effects of trashing versus burning on sugarcane yield, to educate farmers about the benefits of regenerative farming techniques