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The Southern African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (Savca), in collaboration with Investec and supported by Sanlam Investments, announced the four category winners of the second annual Savca Industry Awards at a gala dinner in Johannesburg last week.

The 2019 category winners were:

* Best Start-up/Venture Capital Company: Aerobotics. Aerobotics is a South African AgriTech company that builds advanced analytics on top of aerial drone and satellite imagery to deliver precision farming tools for clients. In 2018, Nedbank partnered with Aerobotics to conduct an initial experiment by flying drones over pecan nut farms of a prospective agricultural client at the time. This experiment won The Banker Tech Projects Awards 2018 for Best FinTech Partnership. Since then, Aerobotics has managed to grow significantly, having reached 33 million trees processed and about 80000 hectares covered, up from 5 million trees a year ago.

* Best SME: DSES Project Solutions. Operating in the engineering sector, DSES Project Solutions is a Level 1 BBBEE, 50 percent woman-owned company that delivers large-scale projects in the areas of mechanical and piping, tank manufacturing, structural steelwork fabrication and erection. DSES’ story is one of a small business that was given the chance to prove itself in 2015 when it was awarded a contract at Engen Refinery. In 2017, the company was offered funding through Engen with Edge Growth that afforded them the opportunity to purchase their own equipment and increase profit margins. In May 2019, having grown to support a staff compliment of 250, DSES was the top achiever in Health, Safety, Environment and Quality out of hundreds of other contractors that have been servicing Engen.

* Best Mid-Market Company: Real Foods Group. The Real Foods Group owns several food brands with a focus on health and wellness. Kleoss Capital bought into the group in 2016 when it was still relatively small and had significant risk attached to it, taking a view that the health and wellness sector offered high-growth and resilience, and while backing the vision to consolidate the food side of this sector. Through active investor involvement and the introduction of experienced business leaders to the board, the Real Foods Group has experienced significant expansion. Today, the group consists of six different business units.

* Chairman’s Award: Meridi- an Consolidated Investments, an African agricultural inputs business that manufactures, distributes and trades agricultural commodities in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Phatisa invested in Meridian in late 2014 and exited in the first part of this year. During this period, turnover grew at 15 percent compound annual growth rate, employees grew from 1900 to 2300 and Ebitda margin improved with operating efficiency improvements across six business units.

The Chairman’s Award, says Savca chief executive Tanya van Lill, is awarded when there is an exceptional portfolio company that has not won its category, but deserves to be specifically recognised. 

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