University of Johannesburg: All female UJ team win big at the Public Sector Innovation Awards

The UJ Technopreneurship Centre Hack-A-Ton team recently made the university proud with their win at the Public Sector Innovation (PSI) Awards that took place last month (25 February, 2022).

Hosted by the Government office Centre for Public Service Innovation, the awards are now in their 19th edition.

The UJ female trio, Lerato Tlhako, Lethabo Makopo and Angelic Mokoena, are third year Business Information Technology students who love to solve societal issues with technology.

The team took part in a 36-hour hack-a-thon as part of the PSI Awards, where they solved a problem for farmers who are located outside of market places, resulting in logistical problems among other issues.

They developed a website, Agri-Ecco, an agritech solution matching farmers with potential sectors, markets, and necessary resources.

“Agriculture has flaws when it comes to connecting with the 4IR and technology can be used to its benefit,” said Angelic Mokoena.

She added that most rural farmers, outside of market places, do not have resources and their platform aims to encourage the farmers to learn more about technology and to connect them with logistics companies and quality goods.

The students’ lecturer Koena Mabokela, Head: Technopreneurship Centre for the School of Consumer Intelligence and Information Systems (SCiiS), said they had been working on the Agri-Ecco project that started last year at a Business Start-Up hackathon. The students had done some research and conceptualised an idea around the agricultural space to help farmers.

“The solution is an eCommerce platform with a number of applications where machine learning algorithms and AI technologies were integrated into the system. There is also a form of IoT where they are using temperature and moisture sensors to detect and scan the soil to inform farmers what may be wrong with the soil and what supplements to add to the soil.”

Mokoena added: “We have the soil scanner, livestock scanner and crop scanner that will enable the farmers to know what directions to take when they are doing quality control in their products. We help them see if their products are good enough to go into the marketplace,” added Mokoena.

Farmers can register on the website to get specific information they can use towards their farming. The farmers can also have conversations with each other through an integrated chat.

The Hackathon Award means the students’ project will be taken further into incubation in collaboration with the Geekulcha organisation.

“Within the university we have taken further steps to add this project into incubation pipeline with the Technology Transfer Office,” added Mabokela.

The students were also awarded with the Best Female Geek Stars award for the energy, passion, skills and insight they had during the hackathon.

“We are always keen to solve any problems that occur in society. We solve problems using information technology and codes,” said Lethabo Makopo.

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