By A Correspondent- A German investor, Desert Foods International, DFI has partnered with a South African Farmer to implement a historic Climate-resilient agriculture vegetable and fish farming project.
The project, which will spread to the entire Southern Africa, commenced operations most recently at a farm in South Africa with a foreign direct investor, DFI, as a financial sponsor of a water-saving year-round farming practice that is 10x times more productive than open-field agriculture.
The new farming practice has an annual harvest capacity of up to 200 tons of nutritious, local and organically cultivated multi-crop veggie and fresh-water fish produce.
Hekpoort, Gauteng Province – North-west of Johannesburg, is where the largest and technically most advanced aquaponics facility in Southern Africa has gone into operation.
The project kick-started in early August with the eight-month construction and commissioning phase successfully implemented despite the raging coronavirus pandemic and disruptive frictions.
The team also has in-depth farming experiences with pak choi, kale (flat and curly), celery and almost any fancy lettuce from butter to cos. The weekly harvest capacity is in the range of 20,000 units of organically cultivated greens.
At present, the facility’s resource-saving, regionally farmed, mouthwatering, and all year round produce is mainly sold to local packhouses, retail stores and online shops.
According to the investor, the environmentally friendly production facility will also be running on solar energy shortly.
The founder and CEO of Integrated Aquaculture, Lance Quiding said they agreed with the German investor to combine forces and expedite the paradigm change in South Africa’s agriculture sector in line with the Government’s master plan.
The retrofitting of the existing round tank fish rearing infrastructure at Hekpoort Farm to a state-of-the-art recirculating aquaculture system (‘RAS’) operation was the departure point of the cross-continental co-operation between private-owned Integrated Aquaculture, and private impact investor group backed Desertfoods International.
“There was also agreement reached to expand the hydroponic gmetersg system by duplicating the previous floating raft production capacity. The modular design of the now 3,500 square meter grow bed compartment allows for versatile crop cultivation and quick adaptation to altering market requirements,” said Quiding.
” The installation of an own brooding and hatchery facility formed another centredf the initiative. Special attention in the design phase was centered around the aim to offering high-quality fingerlings to third-party fish farms or backyard aquaponic or pond systems and thus to make an important contribution in further developing South Africa’s land-based aquaculture industry next to mitigating the exposure tight to food value chain sourcing from overseas,” he added.
Today’s scope of the one hectare decoupled multi-loop aquaponics facility has turned the Hekpoort Farm into a self-sufficient food production system at scale.
The farming approach applied fulfills almost all of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (‘SDG’s’)
Aquaponics links the cultivation of green or fruit-crop plants in a water-based (soilless) media that is rich in nutrients with the land-based breeding of fish species such as Nile Tilapia or Catfish.
Raising vegetables and fish in this integrated way is ecological farming in its natural form as the aquaponics cycle replicates a biological ecosystem.
Ninety-five per cent less water and 99 per cent less agricultural land is needed compared to conventional vegetable farming – with a simultaneous 10-fold increase in yield performance due to a much higher density per square meter along with the ability of all-year cultivation in a protected environment.
According to internationally acknowledged industry experts, the aquaponics cycle is the safest, most water-efficient, cleanest and most sustainable way to farm-fresh vegetable produce and fresh fish.
The aquaponics methodology is equally successful in remote and arid countryside as water is used sparingly due to the system only losing water through trans-evaporation through the leaves of the plants.
Hekpoort Farm manager Mapopa Phiri Gwengo, who has been on the project for the past six years, said the German investor has come at the most reasonable time.
” I am very proud to work on the most sustainable farm in Mzansi with the entire team remaining keen to sharing our best practice knowledge with smallholder farmers and young growers. Improving water, land and yield productivity of South Africa’s food production is a matter of heart to all of us. Personally, I cannot wait to smartly monitor key metrics of our aquaponics farm on my handheld device with the data soon to be captured by a state-of-the-art sensor kit which I find extremely exciting. With our most recent efforts, Hekpoort Farm manoeuvres itself to the forefront of the ‘farming for the future initiative.”
Karsten Jansen, co-founder and managing director of Desertfoods International, said they would be spreading their footprint to the entire SADC region.
“We are incredibly pleased about the accomplishment Lance and his entire team have achieved during the last couple of months and look forward to the most exciting journey that is jointly ahead of us.
” Based on the milestones achieved at Hekpoort Farm, representing the debut project for us in Southern Africa, we are also busy incorporating South Africa- based FinLeaf (Pty) Limited with the implementation of multi-faceted aquaponics farming and training projects in other parts of the country,” he said.