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January 5th, 2018 /

The idea came to him on a bus in Rionegro, Colombia. Howard Blight was traveling with a delegation of South African avocado farmers when conversation turned to a hotel back home that was up for sale. “We should buy it,” said one farmer. “And turn it into an agricultural college!” said another. What sounded like idle banter, Blight tells OZY, “set lights off” in his head. A few weeks later, he was presenting the idea to Danie Brink, dean of the faculty of AgriSciences at Stellenbosch University, who mentioned the possibility of a cloud-based college to Blight. “The whole horizon opened up to me,” he recalls. “My budget went from $25 million to $6 million in an instant,” Blight says, reflecting the savings from using a cloud-based model.

To feed the world’s growing populations, food production will need to increase 70 percent by 2050, and the numbers are even scarier for Africa, the continent where 50 percent of global population growth will occur and agricultural productivity is lowest. To boost productivity, a 2015 World Economic Forum report highlighted eight areas that must be addressed (updating seed types, irrigation techniques, fertilizer use, etc.) — and all eight start with improved education. The stage is set for a Blight in shining armor: His company, Agricolleges International (ACI), will roll out its first courses in South Africa in early 2018, and in the next few years he plans to have a curriculum incorporating all of the agrisciences and an expanding footprint across Africa. Read more