MBB’s Parallel Growth with Engineering in the Agricultural Sector

The theme of MBB’s 50 years in South Africa is paralleled in many ways by the rise of Agricultural Engineering as a recognised sector in our economy.  In the past 50 years, our company has grown alongside the agricultural sector, and we are now known as leaders in agricultural development across the continent.

The emergence of agricultural engineering in South Africa began in the 1960s, focussing on mechanisation and the efficient use of farm equipment, together with the improved performance of irrigation systems.  Agricultural Engineering was formally recognised by the establishment of the South African Society for Agricultural Engineers in 1963, paving the way for professional services to be offered within the next decade.

MBB’s role in this profession saw fruit through the establishment of firstly, J.K. Murray Consulting in 1973 and then shortly thereafter the incorporation of Messrs Biesenbach and Badenhorst to form MBB.  This is the core of the business that now employs close to 100 people and spans a half-century of work across more than 9,500 projects in over 24 countries in Africa.  No other agricultural engineering consultancy can boast this sustained effort in Africa.

The roots of our growth were sown in the southernmost regions of the continent through the design and optimisation of wine cellars in the Western Cape, whilst irrigation design and optimisation strategies were being developed inland to take advantage of the new irrigation processes being developed, including micro sprinkler and drip irrigation.  Computer modelling was offered for the first time as a professional design service through Water Research Commission (WRC) grants that promoted the development of software for more accurate and efficient designs, paving the way for today where many repetitive tasks and calculations can be automated.

Today our projects cover an incredible scope, from civil and structural undertakings to agro-processing and food handling, energy planning, hydropower generation, irrigation optimisation, operation and maintenance and the management of sustainable environmental processes in all phases of natural development.  While Much has been said in recent times about climate resilience and sustainable strategies, everything we do works towards realising that objective that will ensure that our projects will remain long after our children have had their say.  Our motto “Making a Difference. Changing Lives,” spells out our desire to ensure that what we do builds a better future, , not only for our clients, but for the environment around us.

In 1998, a published MBB news article stated the vision that “a new millennium dawns on Africa – the continent of the future.”  25 years later we can affirm that Africa remains the continent of the future.  We are the world’s youngest population, with a median age under 20 years and 60% of Africa’s population being under the age of 25.  By 2050 Africa is predicted to hold one-third of the earth’s people with the population doubling from its 2016 estimate of 1,2 billion.  Undeniably, this is a huge challenge, as it means a gigantic pressure on all resources.   But at the same time, the opportunity presented by this massive pool of human resources must not be forgotten.  With education and development, sitting inside a rapidly growing consumer base, much bodes well for the continent.

Natural disasters plague the news.  Raging fires, killer storms, huge waves, and intense temperatures conjure images of Armageddon.  Few would argue that we are intensely challenged by global warming.  However, simply folding under pressure will not help us.  We believe that a confluence of ideas across hard disciplines and key environmental tenets can result in a better future.  MBB harnesses these skills, and we look forward to working out a future with you that enables us to breathe freely in a better future.