Systems Engineering for Earth’s Future

Keynote Speakers

  • Bernie Fanaroff

    Bernie Fanaroff

    Former Director Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Project Office

    Speaking Topic: System engineering and society

    Biography & Abstract

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    Dr Bernie Fanaroff was the Director of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Project Office through 2015 and as strategic advisor for the SKA South Africa Project from 1 January 2016 to December 2017.
    Dr Fanaroff began his academic career in 1965 as an undergraduate at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he obtained a BSc and a BSc (Hons) in Theoretical Physics. He later obtained a PhD in Radio Astronomy from Cambridge University in 1974. It was at this time that Fanaroff, together with a British astronomer, Julia Riley, made a breakthrough in the classification of radio galaxies and quasars when they identified two classes of radio sources which now bear their names – Fanaroff-Riley class I and class II sources, or FR-I and FR-II as they are now universally known. Dr Fanaroff’s paper on the Fanaroff-Riley classification has been cited well over 2000 times.
    Upon his return to South Africa, Dr Fanaroff dedicated 19 years to the struggle against apartheid as an organizer and national secretary for the Metal and Allied Workers Union, which became the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) in 1987. After the first democratic election in 1994, Dr Fanaroff was appointed as the Deputy Director-General in the Office of President Nelson Mandela, and as the Head of the Office for the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). He also served as the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Safety and Security, the Chairperson of the Integrated Justice System Board and the Inter-Departmental Steering Committee for Border Control.
    After a distinguished career in public service, he was asked by the previous NRF CEO, Dr Khotso Mokhele, and the previous Director General for Science and Technology, Dr Rob Adam, to set up the South African SKA Project Office (SASPO) at the beginning of 2003, with the vision of bringing the largest radio telescope in the world to Africa. Together with Dr Mokhele and Dr Adam, and renowned scientists Dr George Nicolson and Prof Justin Jonas, Dr Fanaroff worked towards the vision of not just hosting SKA, but becoming a leading partner in the development of cutting edge technology for the SKA telescope and playing a leading role in SKA Science.
    As Director of the SKA SA Project, Dr Fanaroff led the conceptualisation, development and construction of the South African SKA precursor, the 64 dish MeerKAT telescope array, which was completed in March 2018 on schedule, on budget and within the prescripts of the PFMA. This project included the construction of the prototype telescopes XDM and KAT 7 and the infrastructure to establish to huge observatory site at Losberg in the Karoo. A key part of the project has been the development of the SKA South Africa’s highly-respected Human Capital Development programme.
    Despite his retirement at the end of 2015, Dr Fanaroff has continued to work as an advisor to the SKA SA project, as well as an advisor to the Ministry of Science and Technology. He has been appointed co-chair of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Working Group on Information and Communication Technologies and High Performance Computing, and as member of the Advisory Committee of the Breakthrough Listen project. He is also a founding member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf); a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society; and was a Visiting Professor at Oxford University.


  • Dr. Ronnie S. McKenzie

    Dr. Ronnie S. McKenzie

    Managing Director, WRP

    Speaking Topic: Water Supply Systems : A Broad Overview


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    Ronnie is well known as a specialist in the fields of Water Demand Management, Hydrology, Water Resource Planning and Systems Analysis, with more than 30 years of experience in these fields. He has been involved in the analysis of many large water resource systems, particularly in Southern Africa where he is currently based. He was a key member of the Vaal River System Analysis team which pioneered the water resources systems analysis techniques now used throughout South Africa and many other parts of the world. Other major projects in which Ronnie has been involved include the Orange River System Analysis, the Namibian Central Area Water Master Plan and the verification of the Lesotho Highlands hydrology for royalty calculation purposes.
    He has developed and presented more than 100 papers, courses and workshops in many parts of the world, and was responsible for introducing the internationally recognised Burst and Background Estimate (BABE) water demand management techniques to South Africa and numerous other countries. Ronnie also developed Leakage Benchmarking software for the South Africa Water Research Commission as well as the Australian Water Supply Association and the New Zealand Water and Waste Association.
    In the past few years, Ronnie has initiated several large leakage reduction projects throughout South Africa including the Khayelitsha Advanced Pressure Management Project and the Sebokeng/Evaton Advanced Pressure Management PPP, both of which won several national and international awards for technical excellence (SAACE, SAICE, IWA and IMESA). He was responsible for the development and presentation of many training courses in Water Resource Systems Analysis and Water Demand Management and has personally presented more than 50 courses throughout South Africa as well as in Ethiopia, Brazil, Australia, Puerto Rico, USA, New Zealand, Namibia, Botswana, and Lesotho. He is a fellow of the SA Institution of Civil Engineering, IWA and WISA and is a past Chairman of the IWA Water Loss Specialist Group.


  • Jakob van Zyl

    Jakob van Zyl

    Co-founder and CEO - Hydrosat, Inc.

    Speaking Topic: System Engineering of Low-Cost Earth Observing Systems

    Biography & Abstract

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    As a Principal for Physical Sciences, Jakob oversees the diverse portfolio of investments across the spectrum of physical science disciplines; each holding the promise of providing fundamental advancements to everyday life. His responsibilities include the end-to-end cycle of technology development and transition–from the identification of cutting-edge, new technologies with high impact potential to working daily with new companies as they transition from a possible incubation to a Series A investment.
    Prior to joining Kairos, Jakob spent 33 years at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California where he started as a researcher in 1986. He joined the JPL Executive Council in 2002 where he served as the Director for Astronomy, Physics and Space Technology, the Associate Director of JPL responsible for Project Formulation and Strategy, and the Director for Solar System Exploration. He was instrumental in the development of innovative technologies during his time as Associate Director, including the first deep space small satellites to launch and operate all the way to Mars (2018) and the demonstration of a small helicopter for increased mobility on Mars, to be launched in 2020. He concluded his career at JPL with the spectacularly successful landing of the Insight lander on Mars in November 2018.

    Jakob is the coauthor of the texts Introduction to the Physics and Techniques of Remote Sensing: Second Edition and Synthetic Aperture Radar Polarimetry. He has contributed to eighteen other books and published more than 60 papers in peer-reviewed journals and gave numerous keynote speeches at technical conferences. Besides being a Principal, Physical Sciences at Kairos Ventures Investments, he is also the CEO and co-founder of Hydrosat, a data analytics and space remote sensing startup company and a Senior Faculty Associate at Caltech where he teaches the graduate course Physics and Techniques of Remote Sensing and an Extraordinary Professor at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.