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Volkswagen, Rwandan govt to establish ‘modern farm with electric tractors’

21st July 2023

By: Irma Venter

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Volkswagen has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government of Rwanda to establish “a modern farm with electric tractors”.

The MoU was signed by Rwandan Agriculture and Animal Resources Minister Dr Ildephonse Musafiri, Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda CEO Serge Kamuhinda and Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) MD Martina Biene.

As part of the MoU, the government of Rwanda has agreed to provide land in Gashora, in the Bugesera district, for the project, as well as to assist with the permitting and licensing requirements of the project.

The objective of what is called the GenFarm Project is to make a positive sustainable socioeconomic and environmental impact on the community by creating a carbon-neutral business ecosystem, says VWSA.

“The GenFarm Project is a holistic ecosystem of electric-powered mechanised farming services for rural areas in Africa that are reliable, sustainable and environmentally friendly.”

The pilot phase of the GenFarm project in Rwanda is being steered by Volkswagen Group Innovation, in partnership with Volkswagen Mobility Solutions Rwanda.

Farmers will be able to book an e-tractor for a short period, including a trained driver, as mechanisation-as-a-service, comparable to the machine ring in Germany.

This makes it much more affordable than owning a tractor.

The use of a battery-swap system is also planned.

This means that, while the tractors are working in the field during the day, the batteries can also be charged through rooftop solar power.

Moreover, if the batteries are empty, they can be quickly replaced.

It is believed that the excess energy used to charge the electric tractors should be able to provide power for post-harvest handling and storage activities.

The project also aims to offer a transport service with e-scooters.

The idea driving the GenFarm project is that increasingly fewer farmers have to feed more and more people, which makes mechanisation more important, especially as 95% of the fieldwork is still done by hand in many African regions.

“The signing of the MoU with the government of Rwanda marks yet another milestone for Volkswagen’s sustainable mobility lighthouse projects in Rwanda,” says Biene.

“Our long-term plan is to build up demand for electric batteries in Africa by introducing locally relevant business solutions.

“The future of mobility in Africa will be determined by the storage and distribution of green energy,” she adds.

Volkswagen aims for the GenFarm ecosystem to go into operation as a pilot phase next year, running until the end of 2025.

Following this, the German automaker will decide whether it wants to take the project further.

Volkswagen is currently developing an electric tractor in Germany.

“It’s not about producing our own tractors in large numbers,” says the carmaker.

“The classic tractor manufacturers can certainly do better. But we may be able to supply group components such as the electric drive or the high-voltage battery.”

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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