From rooftop to plate, Sandton hydroponics farmer Zandile Kumalo has transformed part of Morningside Shopping Centre into an oasis of fresh produce.
- Neighbour Roots supplies fresh produce to both the public and the shopping centre’s restaurants.
- The farming project is producing quality produce faster, whilst also reducing the delivery time to restaurants in the mall.
- The project is looking to grow not only in the current location but other Sandton rooftops as well.
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The Sandton Times climbed the stairs of Morningside Shopping Centre to see this remarkable initiative in action – a well-sized greenhouse on the rooftop of the mall, with the gentle sound of water flowing through multiple pipes and faint jazz tunes playing from a Bluetooth speaker. The plants in this farming project are living the Sandton life.
There is certainly nothing more exciting than to see life brought to the concrete rooftops of Sandton, especially if it is in the form of fresh vegetables growing, using the latest hydroponic farming technology. The initiative known as Neighbour Roots is a partnership between Flanagan & Gerard, co-owners of Morningside Shopping Centre, and the 29-year-old farmer, who began her farming journey after completing her qualification in analytical chemistry at the Vaal University of Technology.
Zandile went on to plant crops on a 2000m² space in her own backyard, creating awareness of zero hunger in her community. The final 300m² hydroponic farm is as a result of Flanagan & Gerard partnering with neighbouring Redhill School, to formalise a business plan for what would be Neighbour Roots.
Having conceptualised the entire idea on paper, Redhill School, Flanagan & Gerard, together with Brendan Martens from Impact Consulting, set out to find an Agri-entrepreneur who could bring this ambitious idea to life – Zandile Kumalo topped the list!
In an interview on the Sandton Times Podcast, Zandile shared some of her thoughts.
Our big picture is to get the whole rooftop to be a vegetable farm so that we can supply the restaurants with whatever vegetables they may need and they can buy them right from the rooftop.
// Neighbour Roots Agri-Entrepreneur, Zandile Kumalo
Hydroponic farming consists of growing crops, using a water-based, nutrient-rich solution as an alternative to the soil used in conventional farming and this is monitored and adjusted on a regular basis. Although seemingly water-intensive for the untrained eye, hydroponic farming has proven to be an excellent solution for the environment, saving on space and reducing water consumption by up to 80%.
Hydroponic farming allows for a highly scientific approach to farming, without chemicals or pesticides and eliminating the many variables found in traditional farming. The harvest is almost predictable and the crops bright in colour, bountiful and rich in flavour.
At a time where climate concerns, land availability, food security and job creation are all hot topics, this exciting solution solves multiple issues whilst also being a sustainable business. The vision for Neighbour Roots is far bigger than the current first phase, as the project hopes to expand both in product range and with that, take up more space, transforming a dull and grey rooftop into a semi-tropical green oasis.
Neighbour Roots is proving to be a win-win for all parties involved and should form a blueprint for more rooftops in Sandton, to turn concrete into jobs, skills and flourishing farms. Those wanting to order Lettuce, Baby Spinach, Cherry/Roma or Large Tomatoes from Neighbour Roots, can do so on 076-566-3054 either by calling or sending a WhatsApp.
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