Forward thinking: Why Sharks’ Meier, Labanc signed new contracts so early

first_imgSAN JOSE — Timo Meier was the first player in his group to take the ice on the opening day of Sharks training camp. Kevin Labanc, in the same cadre of players, joined him shortly after.Both Meier and Labanc then took spots alongside center Logan Couture in what has the makings to be the Sharks’ top line for the start of the regular season.That, in and of itself, was noteworthy. While so many players who were in their position earlier this summer as restricted free agents remain unsigned, …last_img read more

Long-life flowers a blooming success

first_imgAfrican Floralush, which trades as Iluba, is headed up by South African entrepreneur JJ Viljoen and his son, Fanie. The flower head and stem are preserved separately. Once preserved, trained staff carefully join the two parts again, using stitching and glue. Iluba is creating both direct and downstream employment opportunities for South Africans. African Floralush buys roses from contract growers at a certain size and stage of development. Most of their customers prefer traditional colours, but some market segments enjoy enhanced bloom colours. Iluba flowers are treated with natural dyes to reinforce their colour and ensure that they remain crisp and beautiful for months. (Images: Iluba Long-life Fresh Flowers) MEDIA CONTACTS • Fanie Viljoen   Export manager  Iluba Long-life Fresh Flowers  +27 11 662 2225 RELATED ARTICLES • Floral wealth in caring hands • Six decades to survey East Africa’s flora • EC to get first botanical garden • Teaching people to work with natureWilma den HartighInnovative technology to preserve and extend the shelf life of fresh flowers, developed by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), is helping to boost job creation, develop skills and establish new market opportunities for South Africa’s flower industry.People have tried for centuries to preserve the beauty of flowers, but now local research at the NMMU’s Institute for Chemical Technology, InnoVenton, has perfected a technique that makes it possible to produce a natural alternative to artificial flowers.A Gauteng-based company, African Floralush, which trades as Iluba, is using the patented treatment process to preserve fresh roses and foliage.The company is headed up by South African entrepreneur JJ Viljoen and his son, Fanie.“Innovation is what this business is about. It is new and that is what excites me,” says JJ Viljoen. “It is a new floral sub-sector in South Africa.”Commercialising academic researchThe company’s Iluba roses are fast gaining local and international popularity, and show how academic research combined with business acumen can make a positive impact on society.The university is a shareholder in both the patent-holding company and in the manufacturing company, African Floralush, which licenses the technology. The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) provided the bulk of the investment to start the business.Viljoen says it was a rose grower from Addo in the Eastern Cape, Tinie Maske, who first approached the university with her idea to preserve roses. She experimented with various preservation methods in her kitchen at home, and believed that she was onto something with great promise.The NMMU took the idea, conducted further research, development and extensive testing, to develop the technique which is used today. Maske, InnoVenton’s director Professor Ben Zeelie, and Dr Shawn Gouws also of InnoVenton, can be credited as the inventors of the long-lasting rose.Viljoen says one of the biggest challenges of the new business was to refine the laboratory-scale technology to be suitable for processing at an industrial capacity.Jaci Barnett, director of the NMMU’s technology transfer office, explains that this is not unusual if new technology is commercialised.“The business has taken a long time to get off the ground,” Barnett says. “But it is gratifying to see one of our technologies really making a difference to people’s lives by providing employment.”The business has been in operation for just over three years, but through trial and error and hard work their efforts are paying off.The long-lasting roses are now distributed throughout 30 countries including Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, the US and Canada, European countries and South Africa for use in the gifting and décor market.Sales of the roses are mostly to wholesalers for onward distribution in retail stores and directly to the hospitality industry. Unlike freshly-cut arrangements, Iluba roses don’t have to be replaced and this is why the product is popular with home decorators, hotels, ocean liners and long-distance train operators.Research and development is underway to determine if the same techniques could be applied to preserve proteas and other varieties of flowers.As no cold chain is required, the company can also help to estab­lish emerging growers in rural areas to participate in the Iluba supply chain.Providing employmentIluba is creating both direct and downstream employment opportunities for South Africans. The business employs 90 workers, most of whom were previously unskilled, and Viljoen says they expect to employ a total of 120 people next year.More than 30 new and independent business enterprises were established in 2011 alone as a result of Iluba’s activities. They include enterprises that use the products to create new value-added décor and gifting floral products, as well as new specialist retail and distributor outlets.“There is so much that one can do with our product that one cannot do with either fresh flowers or artificial flowers,” Viljoen says. “We expect a new industry will soon emerge around preserved long-life flowers.”Viljoen also encourages staff to think innovatively about the production process. “We make a point of telling our staff members to come up with solutions for challenges that emerge in production,” Viljoen says. “One of our best employees has no formal education but is head of quality control.”What is the secret?Creating a single long-life rose is a highly technical process as workers have only a few hours, while the roses are absolutely fresh, within which to complete the preservation process.African Floralush buys roses from contract growers at a certain size and stage of development. The first step is to remove the flower head from the stem, as each part is preserved separately. Once preserved, trained staff carefully join the two parts again, using stitching and glue.Dr Shawn Gouws of InnoVenton explains that the water in the cells and tissues of the flowers and foliage are replaced with natural eco-friendly preservatives. This allows the flowers and foliage to last for six months without water.Viljoen adds that the chemicals and preservatives are similar to those commonly used in the commercial manufacture of cosmetics and processed food.The technique makes it possible to add natural perfumes to strengthen the fragrance of the roses, and the colours can also be adjusted.Fanie Viljoen says although 80% of their customers prefer traditional colours, some market segments enjoy enhanced bloom colours, including deep brown, black, blue and purple.The natural pigment in fresh cut flowers fades and becomes brown with time, but Iluba flowers are treated with natural dyes to reinforce their colour and ensure that they remain crisp and beautiful for months.Iluba flowers also have a very low carbon footprint, as they do not need refrigeration and can be shipped as opposed to air freighted, offering major environmental benefits.Changing demand for flowersAccording to JJ Viljoen there is a growing market for long-life flowers, particularly as the cost of replacing fresh flowers has become so expensive.As a result of the tough economic climate, consumers are spending less on luxury items such as flowers, which has caused the fresh cut flower market to decline locally and globally in recent years.However, in South Africa alone, the import of artificial flowers has grown by an average of 38% per year.“More consumers are buying these flowers as the quality is improving so much that it is often difficult to distinguish them from fresh flowers,” Viljoen explains. “Long-life flowers are positioned somewhere in between.”He says market research has shown that despite the move away from fresh cut flowers and more consumer interest in artificial flowers, the market would still prefer natural flowers, if they offered a much longer vase life.Awards to inspireAfrican Floralush has also won a few awards for its unique product and business concept.Recently the company was named the winner in the small business category for innovation in the 2012 IDC Business Partner Awards.The awards celebrate IDC-funded businesses that have contributed to commercially sustainable industrial development in job creation, innovation and sustainability.“Awards serve as recognition for all our tribulations,” Viljoen says. “It gives the business credibility.”last_img read more

SA team develops new rabies antidote

first_img21 February 2013 Researchers from South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have developed the world’s first injectable medicine from a tobacco plant – an antidote for rabies which could change the way the deadly viral disease is treated worldwide. The new liquid antidote, RabiVir, is made from the leaves of the Nicotiana benthamiana plant, a cousin of the commercial cigarette tobacco plant Nicotiana tabacum. Through genetic engineering, antibodies known to work against rabies were introduced to the N. benthamiana tobacco variety. The product is a collaborative effort of CSIR scientists, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Kentucky Bioprocessing and MAPP Biopharmaceuticals. The liquid antidote is a breakthrough in the treatment of rabies, says senior scientist and research group leader of the CSIR Biosciences plant expression group Dr Ereck Chakauya. The product is not only much cheaper to manufacture, but potentially far more effective than current treatments. “This product is a liquid cocktail that attacks the virus more effectively by targeting two different regions on the virus,” he explains, adding that RabiVir reduces the risk of resistance to treatment. “When you expose a virus to drugs, after a while it can become tolerant to it, and the new vaccine reduces this.”Ideal for developing countries Chakauya says the liquid antidote is ideal for treating victims of dog bites, particularly in developing countries. Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted through the bite of rabid animals, most often dogs. According to WHO statistics, about 95% of human rabies deaths occur in Asia and Africa. “Deaths caused by rabies are vastly underestimated, especially since developing countries often have stray dog overpopulation,” he says. “By my approximation there are about nine-million dogs in South Africa, and some researchers say there may be up to 2 000 bites per day.” Many of the victims are children. If victims aren’t treated soon after a bite, before flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and tiredness start showing, the disease is fatal. Many deaths also go unnoticed because rabies is often mistaken for cerebral malaria. Recently high profile rabies cases have helped to bring the disease into the public eye, but more awareness and better treatment solutions are needed to save lives. RabiVir is an alternative to the antibody component of existing post-exposure treatment. When someone is bitten by a rabid dog, what follows is a lengthy treatment process which first involves taking a cocktail of antibodies, followed by a vaccine. However, the problem lies with the antibody treatment as it is produced from human blood. In developing countries not enough human blood is donated to make the antibodies, and the blood that is available is prioritised for life-saving transfusions. Some countries in Africa and Asia use horse blood to manufacture antibodies, but this can cause allergic reactions. The practice of using human blood-based products is also prohibited by certain religious groups. Chakauya explains that the manufacturing process is very cumbersome, which adds to the cost of the product. “All blood donated first needs a complete viral clearance for HIV and hepatitis B,” he says.Cost effective The tobacco alternative can significantly reduce the cost of the antibody component to just R200 (US$23), and still be profitable to make. Chakauya explains the antibody dosage is determined by a person’s weight, and an average adult male would need about five doses of 2ml each, which would cost about R3 000 ($339). Then, a patient has to receive four injections of the vaccine, and each jab costs about R300 ($34). “Instead of an expensive blood-based antibody, RabiVir could replace this, and treat rabies at the same level or even better,’ he explains. All their tests so far have confirmed how well the liquid vaccine works. Locally, the product was tested on animals and found to be successful, and two international tests also confirmed these results. Chakauya says the next phase of the project involves testing the vaccine on humans. “This part of the project will be complex, but it is more risky,” he says. As this is also the first product of its kind worldwide, regulatory procedures are also more complicated. “There are examples of oral medication from plants, but not the injectable kind which makes it an entire new area to regulate,” he explains. If the vaccine is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the WHO, it can be used in other countries too. “Many countries still use very old technologies and this is a major new approach.” Chakauya says the uses for tobacco in medicine doesn’t end with rabies, the technology can also be applied to other areas of human and animal health. He is already working on using tobacco to develop vaccines for important animal diseases such as African horse sickness; pulpy kidney, a bacterial disease affecting young sheep and goats; and blue tongue, a viral disease in cattle. There are also applications for tobacco in the treatment of HIV and diabetes. “This is good technology. It will make a huge difference to health care.” First published by MediaClubSouthAfrica.com – get free high-resolution photos and professional feature articles from Brand South Africa’s media service.last_img read more

Infographic: Budget 2017 in numbers

first_imgA new tax bracket for the super rich, a sugar tax and an increase in the tax threshold for lower income earners: Pravin Gordhan’s 2017 budget was about bringing the marginalised into the economy. Here, we present to you a visual summary of what the budget’s numbers that matter most to you. For more on the budget, check out:VIDEO: Budget 2017- word on the streetBudget 2017: Radical economic transformation for inclusive growthBudget 2017: Where does the money come from? How will it be spent?Full text: South Africa’s 2017 budget speechWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa materiallast_img read more

Odisha continues to remain in poll mode

first_imgOdisha continues to remain in poll mode even though a month has passed since the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections were held in the State simultaneously in four phases in April.Elections were to be held for two Assembly seats — Patkura and Bijepur — and four Rajya Sabha berths in the State. Four Biju Janata Dal members of the Upper House of Parliament have contested and won the recent Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.The Patkura Assembly constituency was first scheduled to go to the polls on April 29. However, polling was adjourned following the death of BJD nominee Bed Prakash Agarwalla on April 20. Mr. Agarwalla’s wife Savitri Agarwalla filed the nomination as a BJD candidate when polling date was scheduled for May 19.Polling in Patkura was deferred again due to Cyclone Fani that devastated many coastal districts on May 3. The Election Commission of India is likely to announce the date of polling for the constituency shortly.On the other hand, the Bijepur Assembly seat in western Odisha has already been vacated by Chief Minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik. The bypoll will be held in Bijepur within six months after the ECI announces the schedule. Mr. Patnaik had won from two Assembly segments — Bijepur and Hinjili — in south Odisha.The Bijepur seat will witness a triangular contest involving the three major parties — the BJD, the BJP and the Congress. A triangular contest is also likely in the Patkura seat.Lobbying for seatsMeanwhile, lobbying has started in the BJD for the Rajya Sabha seats that were to fall vacant before completion of the term. While Rajya Sabha members Anubhav Mohanty and Achyuta Samanta have got elected from Kendrapara and Kandhamal Lok Sabha seats, two other members of the Upper House — Pratap Keshari Deb and Soumya Ranjan Patnaik — have got elected to the State Assembly from Aul and Khandapada seats.While the BJD, with 112 legislators in the 147-member Assembly, is certain to bag three of the four seats easily, election to the fourth seat will be crucial since the BJP, which has become the main Opposition party, does not have the required numbers to win a single seat comfortably. The BJP has won 23 seats in the Assembly and Congress has nine.last_img read more