Hydroponic Rooftop Farming

Posted by Flux on 

4 May 2023

Interview with Zandile Kumalo – Agripreneur

This interview is with Zandile Kumalo co-founder of Neighbour Roots, a hydroponic farm located on the rooftop of Morningside Shopping Centre in Johannesburg. Zandile started her farming journey as a youngster and is currently an employer of a team of Generation Zs. She will be part of our Generation Z Immersion Experience, taking place on the 15th June this year. 

Tell me a bit about yourself and your background
ZK: I am the co-founder and CEO of Neighbour Roots. I am an agripreneur and a young African woman who has an avid interest in the environment. I started my farming journey by planting crops in a 2000 square metre backyard space in my neighbourhood creating awareness for zero hunger in my community. I then acquired a National Diploma in Analytical Chemistry. I also received training in Hydroponics through ARC and did business training with North-West University and GIBS. My interest in agriculture then led me to a project through a company called We Cultivate Africa where I qualified as an analytical chemist for bamboo and indigenous plants. Through that I then became an accredited carbon sequestration footprint analyst and spearheaded the research and development department for bamboo. Then in 2017 things started changing when I started researching about the conditions that keep on affecting farmers because through my research I then founded the first company where I built a vertical hydroponic farm. In that farm, I share my knowledge and skills with surrounding townships in Sebokeng. In 2020 I formed a partnership with Flanagan & Gerard to build an agri-farm on the rooftop of Morningside Shopping Centre. As a hands-on farmer, I enjoy farming as well as educating students at various schools and I value giving back to the community and the experience of working with nature and teaching others about the agri-tech industry.

What is your connection to the Redhill Grade 9 pupils?
ZK: The cofounders of Neighbour Roots we actually love the creative thinking from the young kids at school. We met up with the Redhill School executive to allow the students to put together a business plan with the aim of establishing an urban farm on the rooftop of Morningside Shopping Centre. The plan needed to be guided by principles of sustainability, environmental consciousness and social upliftment. The Grade 9 pupils submitted their business plan and as a token of appreciation we named the business after the class that won.

What did you find about the youth perspective coming from these school kids?
ZK: The enthusiasm from these youngsters that we were working with and the interactiveness that they had with us was one of the greatest. We enjoyed working with them. We enjoyed seeing the creativity because some of the concepts that we have here in Neighbour Roots were in the business plan and we are making a sustainable business out of it today. 

You employ young people. What do these young people have in common?
ZK: We wanted to expose and give skills to young people under the age of 29 years. These youngsters will be able to understand hydroponics from the technical side to the business side. We look for youngsters who have a passion for farming and the eagerness to learn more. Most of them have an agricultural background where they used to have backyard gardens and now they are learning new technologies that they can take back to their communities and upskill others through their learnings.

By Faeeza Khan

Flux Trends is proud to announce the launch of the Flux Innovation Tour 2023: Meet the Solution-Based, Future Innovators Defining the New World Order.

Join us for this unique full-day tour that is designed to simultaneously shift your thinking and challenge your perceptions of the innovation process by – literally – introducing delegates to the future. Specifically, by introducing you to the young innovators, creatives and entrepreneurs building the future of South Africa, Africa, and the world. 

CPD Points and level: 5 CPD POINTS at MPSA Level Designated Members
AMSA Designated Members can attend the Gen Z Immersion Experience and claim these CPD points as well.

Category:  Non-Marketing and Marketing

CPD Approval Number: MA FT 23003

Certificate of completion to be loaded onto MarkEdonline to claim CPD points.

Image credit: Pragyan Bezbaruah

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