Imagine - THE VISION
As you exit the stairwell and you adjust to the outside light, you are greeted by an avenue of lemon trees lined up on either side of a wooden deck that you begin your journey on.
Behind the lemon trees are 60-degree vertical planted walls so that the glare is reduced. And as you walk down the wooden path in front of you, there is a large lightweight greenhouse awaiting your arrival.
Inside the greenhouse there are a variety of produce in all stages of growing. Spinach, beetroot, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions to name just a few.
The scent of basil, coriander and mint engulfs you as you saunter past the herb garden.
Information boards detail the produce, type of farming and the benefits of the produce. You are guided through the greenhouse with directional signage and boards informing you as to what is planned for the future.
Phasing the implementation of this project will allow progress within possible initial financial constraints. It was Richard Branson that said, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later”.
This is the Morningside Neighbour Roots vision.
A REDHILL COLLABORATION – A STORY OF SUSTAINABILITY, ENVIRONMENTAL CONCIOUSNESS AND SOCIAL UPLIFTMENT
The concept of a rooftop garden or urban farm is not new to South Africa. The team at Flanagan & Gerard (F&G), co-owners of Morningside Shopping Centre (MSC), have been looking to establish an urban farm on the roof of this shopping centre based in Morningside, Sandton. With some creative thinking from the Redhill School executive, F&G partnered with Redhill School to allow their students to put together a business plan with the aim of establishing an urban farm on the rooftop of MSC.
The Redhill School grade 9 pupils were tasked with the job of preparing a business planto pitch to F&G as investors; to establish an urban farm on the roof of MSC. Each urban farm plan needed to be guided by the principles of sustainability, environmental consciousness, and social upliftment. For these business plans to align with this vision, the focus on these principals were extended to:
- Return on the capital investment - sufficient for it to be attractive to an investor.
- brace new technology by investigating various methods of urban farming techniques.
- Job creation and community involvement.
The urban farm would bring about many positives for the community, including the reduction of time from the goods produced to the consumer, primarily the restaurants and certain retailers at MSC. This helps reduce the carbon footprint as no vehicles would be required to deliver produce to these stores and the customers of MSC. The educational side of the project has made it unique for interested scholars, as they embarked on a curriculum set aside for real world project-based learning.
Redhill and F&G engaged with some of the specialists in establishing an urban farm, together with the professionals required to design and engineer the roof for this purpose.
With the collaboration of Redhill, F&G, together with Brendan Martens from Impact Consulting, a rigorous interview process was created by interviewing Agri-entrepreneurs to establish the best farmer candidate for this rooftop garden vision. The entrepreneur shortlisted to lead this vision is Zandile Khumalo.
MEET OUR NEIGHBOUR ROOTS FARMER
At the tender age of 29, Zandile has already accomplished much in the world of farming.
After completing her qualification in analytical chemistry from the Vaal University of Technology, Zandile started her farming journey by planting crops on a 2000m² space in own backyard, creating awareness of zero hunger in her community.
Throughout her varsity life, Kumalo spent a great deal in the conventional farming space, where she learnt a lot about how to run a successful farm, dealing with nature’s unpredictability and gathering the necessary experience that groomed her into the farmer she is today.
Hydroponic farming refers to the growing of crops, using water-based, nutrient-rich solution as an alternate to the soil used in conventional farming. Contradictory to what one may think about using water to grow crops, hydroponic farming is an excellent solution for the environment, saving on space and reducing water consumption by up to 80%.
Dedicated to learning Inspired by the Agri-tech sector, Zandile started her research by creating an edge to supply clean fresh produce all year through hydroponic farming. She founded her first Hydroponics business based in Sebokeng and formed a partnership with Flanagan and Gerard by creating and installing a 300m² hydroponic farm on the rooftop of Morningside Shopping Centre.
The primary focus has been to supply all MSC restaurants and retailers who include The Refillery, Wellness Warehouse and Pick n Pay who have all climbed on board to support this initiative. With this overwhelming support, Neighbour Roots has been able to grow in strides and provide the many benefits that include:
- Produce that is free from chemicals.
- Harvesting lead times reduced by up to 40%.
- Soil-less farming - Produce is always clean.
- Uses less energy.
- Water efficient by using 90% less water than conventional farming.
- Can grow in small spaces.
- Reliable and consistent produce.
- Locally produced fresh, high quality and flavourful options that retain their freshness for longer periods.
- Harvest from farm to plate.
As a hands-on farmer, Zandile enjoys spending time at both farms as well as educating students at various schools. Zandile values professionalism, giving back to the community and the experience of working with nature through learning and teaching others about the Agri-tech industry. Zandile’s husband shares her passion for farming and works alongside her at Neighbour Roots and they have two daughters together.