Drone monitoring crops
“Kenana: An IT Company That Produces Food”
These are the words of KSC’s visionary and new CEO, Abdel Raouf Ahmed, thinking about where KSC will be in the near future: “KSC was founded as a tip of the spear knowledge-driven company,” he says, “and now we’re going on IT steroids.”
The Back Story
KSC’s first sugar products hit the market in 1981. And since then, a knowledge-driven strategy has grown the company into the largest diversified sugar company in the world. Beyond sugar, KSC now produces many food and dairy products and ethanol, wood products and electricity, delivering product to Sudan but also Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe and next, North America.
KSC is the lead producer working on Sudan’s 41 million food-producing acres today. In addition, KSC has access to 200 million more arable acres in the country which Sudan needs KSC to develop.
The company achieved productivity gains and competitiveness right from the beginning though planning, engineering and now information-technology.
KSC employs over 5,000 skilled people in its core business services and 12,000 in seasonal or project workin Sudan, Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. It is prepared for another leap of growth that can help Africa transform to sustainability
In 1986, Kenana Engineering and Technical Solutions, an engineering company skilled in agricultural infrastructure development strategies, began its strategic work to design, construct and operate technical and engineering solutions in the crop-to-shop value chain of KSC products, workforces and communities.
Since its inception, the strategic expertise of KETS in agricultural process, the built environment, the natural environment, and technology, has saved production or operations costs in the 25% to 30% range through applications of Engineering and Project Management processes, a key to corporate competitiveness.
In 2010, Kenana Integrated Agricultural Solutions, a knowledge-management think tank and operations company, was created to leverage the considerable intellectual property of KSC to achieve food security through strategic capacity-building partnerships and projects that will increase food production in sustainable rural environments of Africa starting with Sudan.
KIAS is led by a strategic planning group of 36 experts from multidisciplinary fields and administered by operations groups totaling over 3,000 skilled employees, plus 11,000 seasonal or project employees.
The KIAS mission is to integrate agriculture, infrastructure, construction, community development and enterprise in the context of achieving prosperity at the bottom of the economic pyramid by meeting the challenge of climate change. The tool that makes such integration possible to manage is computer modeling.
Aided by satellite and aircraft telemetry, the complex, dynamic relationships of climate, earth, water, flora, fauna, humans, habitat and the built environment can be understood by digital virtualization for any acre on the planet.
The phenomenon of virtualization – seeing something in exquisite detail before it exists and predicting scientifically how it will operate -- is a highly civilized yet systems-disruptive thought. And true to form, the knowledge gained from virtualization is disrupting obsolete systems, institutions and organizations all around us.
Like all forward-looking entrepreneurs, KSC knowledge managers have chosen to be on the disrupting not disrupted side of the global equation of change.
For any population, managing virtual knowledge for a particular result is now the key to survival or failure, competitiveness or obsolescence.
For the African population, managing virtual knowledge will yield geospatial knowledge that can provide the food, energy, work, income and growth the continent needs to maximize human life on a sustainable continent.
The Impact of Knowledge
It is no surprise that humans are not rational all the time, but having virtual knowledge in advance of taking action certainly helps humans to be aware.
Likewise, collaborative teams are more productive than individuals working alone on complex organizational tasks because teams generate thought.
Of course, there are notable Einsteinian exceptions to that rule, but from a management perspective, productivity is essentially a team exercise
Productivity in Agriculture
World agriculture and manufacturing have increased productivity by 150% from 1990 to 2010, yet both can do better by improving IT capacities. In fact, because of the population bubble of youth in 17 food-distressed African countries, agriculture must aim for a 200% increase in the next twenty years, which is possible through knowledge management.
However, sometimes people learn more from failure than success, providing a teaching moment:
No productivity in construction
World construction productivity did not even rise to 0% from 1990 to 2010: it was in negative numbers for the entire two decades and probably still is. Why?
The construction industry accounted for $10 trillion or 13% of world GDP in 2016, yet is ignoring integrated computer modeling in its building design, construction and operations processes, costing the global economy an astonishing $1.6 trillion in construction waste alone.
McKinsey found that the construction industry has no integrated production system. Construction today is a custom-made agglomeration of siloed, fragmented processes that are not integrated and do not collaborate on producing the building, so the whole is always lesser than the sum of its parts.
Sudan has early pyramids built with more collaboration than some of today’s obsolete buildings.
On the operating side, buildings are the major contributor to global warming. Buildings use 40% of global energy, of which half is wasted. Buildings are a major source of carbon in the atmosphere because buildings are not holistically modeled the way airplanes or ships are. And energy for building operations is not a prime consideration for design and construction. This is a strategic error that Africa must avoid.
Solar villages in Africa
From the start, KSC has been deeply concerned about helping lift its employees and their communities from poverty, insecurity and the lack of modern technology. The challenge is well known: Africa’s farmland populations are scattered in primitive villages where basics like electricity, drinkable water, sanitation, housing, and community are either inadequate or missing altogether, as are decent jobs, small business opportunities, banks, schools, health clinics, cell phone towers and internet access.
To the degree KSC could do so, the company has invested in its employees and communities, experimenting with solar power, housing developments, infrastructure and meeting the challenges of rural life in Africa just noted.
The IT solution to sustainable economies of scale in rural Sudan – and Africa, generally – is solar power: the sun is available in abundance in Sudan.
In a virtual model KSC is analyzing, 600 farmer-partners in a remote but arable area organize a community enterprise to build a solar power plant with private and public-sector funds. Power plant construction finances housing and community infrastructure. Farmer homeowners sell that power to KSC and other buyers in the area of the solar micro-grid. World Bank executives have shown interest in backing this model.
By these means, a modern, green and sustainable community and enterprise can be generated that creates 600 non-farm jobs to service the stable, settled population there. Several of these will be good-paying knowledge-jobs running solar, cellular, banking, security, education, health and IT services for the new village community and enterprise.
KSC believes that hundreds of solar villages of 3,000 persons living in modern homes with markets, a school and health clinic can dot the landscape of the 200 million acres of arable land in Sudan, sustained by 1,200 jobs in farming, energy, and service businesses. Solar villages can lift hundreds of thousands of rural Sudanese people into the middle class in five to ten years, stemming the migration to cities which cannot handle the influx.
KSC plans to be ‘an IT company’ that produces food because that is our business. KSC will also be ‘an IT company’ that produces self-sustainable villages in Africa, because these are the people who make our business possible.