By Mosa Mojonothoane
The emerging indoor farming technology is said to be the hope for sustainable farming in the challenging era of climate uncertainties.
On the highlight is Hydroponics, the process of growing plants in water by placing them in a growing media such as rockwool, clay pellets, foam, recycled foam, gravel, peat, sawdust, or coconut fibres, then feeding a nutrient solution to make them grow.
The local Hydroponics farmer Mochesane Mpali affirmed that this type of farming can secure the food sector amidst the current global challenges affecting food security.
After four years of study and practice, Mpali is convinced that he has found treasure for Lesotho. He shared that he discovered this technology in 2019 as he actively searched for alternatives to beat the rising food prices by producing vegetables instead of buying them. “Among all other urban farming technics, I was interested in hydroponics and invested more time in learning how it works. The challenge was in the material and resources used, which are very rear in the markets around the world. This meant I had to innovate my own system, and step by step, I was able to figure out how I can make a complete field to grow vegetables,” he said.
He reassured that this is the most sustainable way of farming, saying apart from being another way to escape climate change effects, it provides year-round production and yielding opportunities that double with other types of vegetables.
“Growing food indoors or in a greenhouse can allow growers to better optimize the environment such that they produce all year long despite climate conditions. Again, with hydroponics, yield for some products can be significantly higher as compared to the traditional farming method because the roots in a hydroponics system are well-rated and there are ample nutrients, which are readily accessible,” he explained.
Mpali, who is also the founder of Lema Agrivest, further informed that this technology saves time for harvest, therefore, providing sustainability. Emphasizing on the sustainability benefit, he mentioned that all the water used in a hydroponics system is bound to be consumed by the products while the access water moves to the reservoir.
Another key benefit is that of avoiding pesticides, which he explained that most of them come from the soil. He said a soil-free method of farming guarantees pesticide-free vegetables, adding that if otherwise needed, it can only be in rear times.
This method of farming also saves space as it requires vertical farming which provides 90% access space. He said this allows over 100% of yield, which would otherwise demand large space.
He revealed that it is his hope that the county can manage to capacitate the local farmers to boost this resolution to the food security. He explained that hydroponics is a bit expensive in terms of resources, saying it is a challenge in an underdeveloped country, he, however, expressed hope that easing the means for international trade can alleviate the challenges. He also guaranteed that taking up the space in hydroponics can help overtake the fresh produce market, especially because the system is viable in urban areas where there is high consumption rate.
Mpali announced that they will venture into agritourism in a bid to bring home the concept and its useful resources on top of the ongoing capacity-building sessions. “What we are trying to do is to capture the hydroponics ecosystem in the country and beyond.
We have a vision to actually provide easy access of sustainable farming tools like Hydroponics systems, so we shall realize this vision from locally. He explained that there is a need for capacitation on various products in order to venture into commercial farming and thus announced their commitment to helping those who may want to venture into hydroponics.
Located at Khubetsoana, Bochabela, Lema Agrivest aims to accelerate Africa’s transition to sustainability and self-sufficiency through innovative farming techniques. It is a complete solution for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) providing services from capacity building to setting up of highly productive models and helping modern-day urban farmers sell their produce as a collective to avoid many common bottlenecks.
They will host their next training on March 04.