With many regions feeling the pinch of water shortages, it is apparent that water scarcity is a problem in South Africa and more ways to save water need to be implemented.
Understanding this dilemma, and doing their bit to use water sparingly, are two agribusiness entrepreneurs who chose a revolutionary approach to farming by building a hydroponic farm. Hydroponics is a type of farming system where plants are grown in water with nutrients solution instead of soil. This method saves about 85% of water compared to conventional farming methods.
Speaking to us about their hydroponic farm, 29 year-old entrepreneur, Thabo Momoti says that himself and high school friend, Kgoto Khumalo ventured into this agribusiness in 2014 when they started installing green houses and irrigation systems. The idea of going the hydroponics farming direction was birthed after Momoti got inspired by Khumalo who enjoyed planting and nurturing beautiful plants. The pair then decided to turn these skills into a business, thus their brainchild, Nature Growers.
Located in Dobsonville Soweto, Nature Growers currently owns two farms which harvest green vegetables such as lettuce, pak choi (a type of Chinese cabbage), and herbs. The vegetables are then sold to local restaurants, farmers and grocery stores. Other services include: pest control management, compost production, livestock farming, and site preparation.
Explaining how the hydroponic system is built, Momoti says that they start by building a vertical or horizontal stand that will hold the pipes and install a drainage system beneath the stand. A reservoir is then placed next to the stand in which a pump is submerged. The last step is to place pipes in equal spaces on top of the system, and VOILA!, the process is complete.
Momoti holds a qualification in Construction Management & Quantity Surveying, and another in Business Management. Khumalo, on the other hand, is an expert in tunnel structuring and has vast experience in Agriculture. In addition to this, they have attended several programmes that include incubation and urban farming, which often come in handy when running this type of business.
Highlighting the benefits of this unique farming method, Momoti explains that it plays a great role in water preservation because the plants don’t require much water. As a result of growing in a climate controlled environment, the plants grow throughout the year and they grow 30% faster in comparison to soil based yields.
With these benefits, Momoti is resolute in his belief that South Africa should invest more on this type of farming, especially in regions that have water shortages. Although a major disadvantage about hydroponic farming is that it can only grow green vegetables, he adds that there is hope as university students across the globe are looking into developing the system further.
The pair plans on installing more tunnels and also expanding business into the agro processing industry. They want to educate and train the masses on hydroponic farming, and this is already enact as the team has conducted workshops for more than 150 school children in Soweto.
“South Africa is a water scarce country and traditional farming methods are putting a strain on our water resources. Educating our farmers about hydroponic farming will not only save us water but it will also ensure food security in cases of drought,” Momoti concludes.
To see more of the pair’s amazing green work, visit their website: www.natureg.co.za or email Thabo Momoti at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Instagram @thabomrtouch and Twitter @THABOMRTOUCH
~ Thabile Shange