During my research for the Agritech ecosystem, I discovered a revolutionary method for farming called hydroponics. Farming without soil. A rather difficult concept to explain to many African farmers. How can you farm without soil? It’s not possible.
Agriculture has been the backbone of many African economies and the livelihood of many. But there’s also the issue of land and resources. This method however, promises to be cost-effective, easier, to improve yields and provide healthier produce. It’s not limited to just vegetables, which many have focused on, but it could fill the gaps facing Zimbabwe’s supply chain.
So I discovered 160 HydroFarm run by a Zimbabwean women and her daughter. I had a chat with her daughter, trying to better understand their business and here is their story:
Venensia Mukarati, the founder of 160 Hydro Farm, has always had a passion for farming and wanted a new method that could be easy to run and commercialise. After some research they stumbled upon Aquaponics and later discovered Hydroponics. Venensia first ran the idea past her family who, as family, were supportive but probably thought ‘there goes mum again’. Venensia says, “There is something addictive about planting a seed, watching it germinate and grow” and it was the only way to show them that the method worked. Her girls have since grown into farming. Together with her daughters, Rufaro and Tino, they have managed to turn a backyard hobby into 160 HydroFarm.
She describes the journey as “thrilling”. They now have 3 running systems and are expanding in their backyard. Everyday is a new learning experience as well as an experiment. It started with only iceberg lettuce and they now have 5 lettuce varieties, herbs, tomatoes and coming soon, micro-greens. They have been supplying a few shops including Willowmead and some really supportive individuals who are in love with fresh greens. “Social media is an amazing platform. It has helped in getting our product out there.”
The benefits of their products? Well.. Hydroponics provides the exact needs to the plants appropriately. This means that plants will grow faster and healthier as compared to a plant grown in the soil. More benefits:
Can grow plants all year round, both indoors and out;
Conserves water and plant nutrients are controlled;
More plants can be grown in a given area;
No weeding needed;
Soil borne pests are eliminated, leading to the reduced need for pesticide.
NFT Hydro Solutions supplied them with the first system that they set up. NFT has been a supportive investor to 160 HydroFarm and have supported them greatly every step of the way, which has made it easier for them. They are confident that one day they will have a financial investor, and a lot of people are interested in knowing what they are doing.
As a pioneer in Hydroponics in Zimbabwe, run by women, 160 HydroFarm has learnt that it is not a challenge to build up an idea. Women in farming need new innovative ideas and this project is heading in the right direction. It’s easy to set up and run. A great way for females that need their own project and income. 160 HydroFarm will be having training for females who want to learn how to do this. “Hopefully with Zimbabwe implementing this urban agricultural method we will definitely feed the 9 billion by 2050!”
“It’s safe to say 160 HydroFarm’s journey is only just beginning and we are ecstatic.”
Hydroponics sounds AMAZING! No weeds? No pesticides? Organic and healthy! Why aren’t we all running to adopt hydroponic farming? It’s innovation in agriculture. Who would have thought we wouldn’t need soil to farm? I believe this is the step in the right direction and it’s a way to empower women. No tilling away at dry land in the sweltering heat. It’s revolutionary!
P.S. Support local.
Thank you to Tinoda Mukarati and her mum, Venensia, for allowing me the opportunity to share their story! And for the great photos! 🙂