Omnia built over 70 years of impact
7 decades of Omnia. Each one more progressive, more intensive than the last. 70 years of operation is a rare achievement for any organisation, but for our ambitious team at Omnia, it’s just the beginning.
However, we still have to recognise our history, our transformation, our success – because that’s what will inform the next 70 years of innovation. For us, every decade we’ve been in existence has been a learning opportunity, shaping our values, systems, and capabilities. It is this longevity that has allowed us to evolve as a business, traversing a series of interconnected, vitally important sectors: agriculture, mining, and the chemical industry.
Every achievement, every pitfall, every bit of knowledge gathering still influences the way we work today – helping us to be a leader in our sector and an organisation with its people’s best interests at its nucleus. Each decade of learning has become a pillar of our identity, giving us the descriptors that define our 70 years of innovation.
Omnia was founded in 1953 in Johannesburg, South Africa and has grown into a formidable organisation on the African continent. It was the ambition of our founders, Dr Joachim Winkler and Mr Willie Marais – and their legacy – that have ensured Omnia’s exponential growth. Even with a market capitalisation of around R12 billion today, we are still striving for success, expanding our reach across the globe.
When we established the first granular plant in Sasolburg, South Africa, we already knew the power of agriculture and its interconnectedness with local lives and livelihoods. What began as bridging gaps in the 1960s fertilizer market has evolved into our patented Nutriology approach, a nuanced, highly scientific crop management system that continues to help farmers across the globe. There are so many aspects required for agricultural success, which is why we believe in the holistic approach.
When we spread across South Africa in the 1970s, we saw the potential to create jobs, build communities, and make a real impact on the country’s economy. It was also during this time that we realised our services were needed in other territories – expanding into the United Kingdom and America. This desire to make real change is still reflected in our current global expansion, but impact is so much more than reach. For those closest to us – the people of Omnia and their communities – we want to provide the opportunities they need to grow. Whether it’s investing in education, developing our employees’ skillsets, or through groundbreaking research, our impact will always be tangible and people-centric.
Stagnation is the antithesis of our identity. We’re always changing and looking for new opportunities – whether that means developing innovative products, entering new markets, or investing in the latest tech. This spirit was embodied in Omnia’s strategic decisions in the 1980s, from listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, making an explosive entry into the mining sector, and identifying a niche in global seed markets. Today, it means being leaders in Agri-tech, harnessing the power of A.I., robotics, and biochemistry to positively shift the future of agriculture.
Omnia’s expansion into new territories happened early in our development and understanding the nuances of international markets – from Brazil to Australia – is central to our growth. But we have always had a clear love of the continent on which we were founded, and to which we owe so much. In the 1990s, we extended our operations deeper into Africa – Zimbabwe and Zambia – and are still building new hubs across the continent. Even today, we maintain our headquarters in South Africa. Because we see the potential of Africa, and believe we have an important role to play in the continent’s success.
We were once a small-scale fertilizer business in rural South Africa, but as the political, social, and scientific landscape has shifted, we have transformed into a holistic, international institution with a positive impact across several sectors. We’ve been privileged enough to witness 7 decades of history and adapt not only for the good of the business, but for the good of our people. Omnia continued its journey of transformation in the 2000s. Since then, we’ve recognised the need for management and employee ownership participation within the entire Omnia Group and want to give our employees the opportunity to grow alongside us. Because nothing is more important than building a more diverse, equitable future.
2010 – present: Sustainable
The chemical sector has the potential to lead the way towards a green economy. We’ve known this for years, and in the 2010s, began investing heavily into decarbonisation. We found a new purpose: innovating to enhance life, creating a greener future together. While our Environmental, Social and Governance efforts are underpinned by this, we also recognise that sustainability isn’t something we should strive towards in the future – we urgently need it today. For example, we already plan to provide 100 MW of solar energy to South Africa’s constrained power grid, helping to alleviate the country’s power crisis. We want to protect the things we care about most, the lives and careers of our people, their environment, and their future. In 2020, we were honoured with the Global Award for biological programmes supporting Africa’s agricultural development research – largely due to our sustainable approach.
As we celebrate the start of our 8th decade, we’ll continue to find new ways to transform the agricultural, chemical, and mining landscape wherever we operate. We’ll harness groundbreaking, sustainable technologies to create value and drive transformation, internally and in the communities we serve, to build our impact – for our people, our business, our world. Because no matter how successful we become, at Omnia we always have room to grow…
Celebrating 70 Years of Impact: Fueling Growth Through Knowledge