I grew up on my family’s farm in a village, Pandamatenga, near Kasane, Botswana. Farming is never easy, but it’s even more difficult when you can’t find the equipment you need to cultivate your crops. And when you’re a long way from a port, as we were, you have to overcome the high costs of shipping and navigate the challenges of importing to get the equipment you need for a vibrant farm.
Several years ago, my family bought our first machine at auction in the United States. Our persistence throughout the purchase process paid off: We were able to obtain a product that was of a greater quality – at a fraction of the price – than the other equipment available to us. With better equipment, we had an advantage.
We began seeking opportunities to develop relationships with dealers and suppliers across the United States. To do so, my father participated in a reverse trade mission sponsored by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency in 2011, and my husband joined one in 2013. The visits hosted by USTDA introduced them to leading U.S. companies who offered the kinds of equipment we needed.
Chantelle Minnaar and her fellow RTM delegates learn about Raven Industries’ computerized spraying system.
Upon returning home, my husband and father requested my help in purchasing the equipment they had seen in the U.S. I began coordinating the wire transfers, shipping and logistics necessary to get that equipment from the American Midwest to our farm.
Our experience led my family to consider how we could help other African farmers in a similar position. We decided to start a company that could do just that. When I heard that USTDA was hosting another agribusiness reverse trade mission, I seized the opportunity to join the delegation. I knew the RTM would help me build our business and purchase quality equipment manufactured in the U.S.
It turns out I was right – the reverse trade mission was a life-changing experience for me and for our company. I made valuable connections with my fellow delegates. I also developed relationships with several U.S. manufacturers that were interested in selling their high quality, used production equipment across the African continent.
Within a year after the RTM ended, I had purchased fourteen pieces of equipment that was delivered – and some that are on the way! – to farmers in Botswana. In all cases, I also acquire standard parts, so that my customers are able to maintain their equipment with minimal disruption in the remote areas where they farm.
My company, Petrichor Agri Trade, now offers both new and used U.S.-manufactured equipment. After this year’s harvest, I will be returning to the U.S. to visit a number of suppliers in the Midwest and to look for more equipment to place with my customers.
We named Petrichor after the wonderful scent that rises from dry earth after the first rainfall. Whether you farm in southern Africa or South Dakota, you feel connected to that scent – it is a part of you, and it reminds you why you chose to farm in the first place. No matter where you are and what type of agribusiness you operate, Petrichor can connect you to solutions. Thanks to USTDA and its partners, we now have the tools we need to do so.