Construction engineer Khaya Maloney grows hops – the key ingredient in beer – hydroponically on a rooftop in Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.
Maloney, who studied civil engineering, worked in the corporate sector for a year and just knew he didn’t like it. He has always been interested in agro-entrepreneurship and started researching the type of crops to work with. It came after he saw a similar project unfold in New York while watching Carte Blanche in 2017.
Its 300 m2 urban farm, Afrileap, started in 2018 as a leap of faith. Without any training in agriculture or hydroponics, he decided to join an urban agricultural incubator to bring his vision of growing hops to life.
“I joined an incubator called WIBC [Wouldn’t It Be Cool]. They had a New Urban Agriculture Initiative (UAI) where they help budding young farmers to grow or start an agriculture in the city center, ”said Maloney. The program, which plans to have 100 farms on 100 rooftops around Johannesburg, goes through various business models and the ways in which farmers run a farming business, including lessons in hydroponics, among others.
Maloney decided to grow hops because the hop cultivation industry is relatively small in South Africa and because he also wanted to break into the monopoly on hop cultivation. “I chose hops because hops are a region specific crop that only grows in George in the South Cape because environmental factors are beneficial for its growth.”
Thanks to the incubator, Maloney underwent various experimental phases. He was provided with rhizomes to see if it was possible for this crop to grow in a greenhouse in Johannesburg.
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