Moloko and Manaswe strive for new alternative farming
An alternative but sustainable method of growing vegetables and fish without the need to discard any water nor add chemical fertilisers is being practised by entrepreneurs in the North West.
Goodwill Moloko and his business partner Michael Manaswe founded Pureponics-Aquaponics in 2017, and are already suppliers of fish and vegetables to restaurants, supermarkets, grocers, schools and other health and eco-conscious institutions and consumers in and around the Moruleng area in Rustenburg, North West.
"We established the business in 2017, with the purpose of growing and selling organic vegetables and fish. We are basically in the healthy food industry space.
"Pureponics-Aquaponics uses lesser space compared to traditional farming and we don't use chemicals as fertilisers," said Moloko.
"It is amazing how far behind SA is in this type of farming.
"Crop farming requires vast tracks of land and lots of water, which has become a scarce commodity.
"But with this sustainable agricultural practice, combining hydroponics, which is the growing of plants in water, with aquaculture, the farming of aquatic organisms, we use less water and we don't need hectares of land."
Moloko, 22, a BCom honours student in economics at the University of North West, further elaborated that aquaponics is the combination of "aquaculture", the rearing of aquatic animals such as fish, lobster, snails and "hydroponics" is the - growing of plants in a soil-less environment.
"Aquaponics uses the natural bacterial cycle to convert fish waste into plant nutrients without the need to discard any water or add any chemical fertilisers."
To set up the farm, Moloko and his partner Manaswe, 32, an industrial engineering graduate, roped in the expertise of aquaponics engineer Benjamin Butler.
"We contracted Benjamin to assist us to scientifically set up the whole structure and show us how it should be operated and maintained on a daily basis."
To get the farm off the ground, Moloko said, as he was still a student, he had to rely on the employed Manaswe and both their families to raise R110,000 and Butler, as a partner, contributed the balance of R500,000 towards financing the project.
"There is a universal need for healthy food that is affordable and aquaponics is the best method to provide exactly that, and it uses 10% of the water used by traditional agriculture," said Moloko.
"Water is never dumped or lost; instead, from the aquaculture system, water is fed into a hydroponics system where the by-products of the fish are broken down by bacteria into nitrates used by plants as nutrients.
"The roots get dipped into the water using the rafts.
"In the water there are fish, providing nutrients into the water for the plants to grow without the need of chemical fertilisers," he said.
He said they aim to grow big and supply organic vegetables and tilapia fish to restaurants, grocers, wholesalers and hotels in the province.
"Our veggies and fish are harvested and supplied to our clients on the same day, we basically ensure it is fresh produce."
Moloko said they have three part-time workers in their employ to help during harvesting and in maintaining of the farm.
Last year, Pureponic-Aquaponics was enlisted for mentorship in the Business Partners SME Toolkit.
The programme is an online portal offering financial tools, online training, and information resources and is developed specifically for aspiring and existing small businesses.