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Monday, 27 November 2017 10:43

Urban Grown Mastering Hydroponic Farming Deep in the City

South Africa has an unemployment rate of 27.7% with young people making up the majority of that number. Endeavor believes in developing high-impact entrepreneurs is the best way to promote an economy in South Africa that is sustainable.

This is why we replicated the success achieved globally with the Endeavor model through our unique Excelerator programme, which is aimed at black-owned businesses that are at an earlier stage of development and are showing high-growth potential.

We believe in pushing these earlier stage entrepreneurs to take their businesses to the point where they not only become Endeavor entrepreneurs, but also role-models who are building meaningful businesses.

A key component of our continued success is brought about through the generous support of our partners, sponsors, donors, and entrepreneurs.

Endeavor SA interviewed Simbarashe Chimhandamba and Nonhlanhla Mokoena-Chimhandamba, husband and wife duo and co-founders of Urban Grown, a hydroponic farming start-up based in Diepsloot.

Urban Grown, launched in 2015 with a desire to leave a lasting legacy, and to contribute to and impact sustainability in the South African market. The team envisioned a traditional farm setting, but lacked the capacity, and thus looked into ways of farming sustainably within the city. They purchased 2 hectares of farming land in Diepsloot and employed nine youths (between the ages of 18 -35) to work on their hydroponic farm.

The Chimhandambas get to farm exactly where the product is consumed within a 50km radius, and they also get to process their produce all within an 11km radius of each other. The Urban Grown farm is completely off the grid and is a 100% green farm relying on solar energy to run the greenhouses.

The organic hydroponic start-up currently consists of a 2-hectare farm situated in the heart of Diepsloot and a pack house located at Riversands Incubation Hub. The Urban Grown team consists of ‘Master Farmer’ Simbarashe (Simba), ‘Master Grower’ Nonhlanhla, and 7 support staff who assist with farming, packaging and delivering the marrows, spinach, and other delectable vegetables.

“Key values for Urban Grown is about quality, sustainability but most importantly, it’s about skills development.” Says Nonhlanhla. Urban Grown believes that empowering and giving back to the community within which they operate is very important. It builds trust and forms lasting relationships and bonds between the start-up and the people they employ and their families.

“When we got onto the Excelerator Programme, holes were punched in our model, [the question was asked;] “is it viable?” We have now been looking at ways to better improve our efficiencies, how to get the right clientele, and to stick to them,” says Simba.

The mentorship and access to markets Simba and Nonhlanhla have received through the Excelerator programme, will assist in creating opportunities for skills and wealth development in the Diepsloot a densely-populated township and community in the north of Johannesburg. “I think more than anything we are very excited about the mentors we have access to. They have many mentors that small business such as ours and yours can benefit from.” Says Simba.

Urban Grown is the first agricultural business to benefit from the services offered by the Excelerator Programme and as such holds the key to Excelerator’s own development in this sector.

“Having your eye on the prize, and just taking it, and going with it is really what it’s all about.” – Nonhlanhla concludes.

 

Pete Benedetto and Tarisai Nyamandwe

Simbarashe Master Farmer Chimhandamba

Pete Benedetto and Tarisai Nyamandwe

Nonhlanhla Master Grower Mokoena-Chimhandamba