Planning and ahead considering are vital in farming, says Kobela Mokgohloa, the proprietor of Korema Farm in Winterveldt close to Pretoria. He spoke to Magda du Toit about how he grew his cucumber manufacturing, in addition to his plans for the longer term.
Korema Farm was established by Kobela Mokgohloa’s grandfather in Winterveldt close to Pretoria in 1995 with the principle concentrate on rising cabbage and spinach.
By 2002, his father was additionally concerned within the enterprise, and the household expanded right into a extra various operation and began planting tomatoes and peppers on the farm.
Round 2004 the farm employed 17 folks and its major produce had been cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. Korema equipped mainly the Tshwane and Joburg markets.
Mokgohloa matriculated from the Potchefstroom Excessive College for Boys in 2005 and went on to work for 5 years at plane producer World Composite Options at Wonderboom Airport.
His employer inspired him to be taught to fly, and he obtained his personal pilot licence in 2008 via an aviation college in Pretoria. Nevertheless, all the fervour that Mokgohloa had for flying was placed on maintain when he received the SAB KickStart entrepreneurship programme round 2009.
“They awarded me R100 000 in the direction of an idea I had offered to them on feedlotting cattle,” he recollects. “I then left aviation to pursue my profession in agriculture on our household farm in Winterveldt.”
Mokgohloa farmed tomatoes and inexperienced peppers hydroponically in tunnels in 2010 and likewise began working a small feedlot.
He quickly realised that it didn’t make enterprise sense to supply the greens in solely three tunnels. He needed to compete with farmers producing on a big scale in open fields, and when the market was flooded, he took a knock. The answer, as he noticed it, was to modify solely to cucumbers and develop into the cucumber specialist within the space.
By 2012, his operation had grown to fifteen tunnels. He says his enterprise was recognised by the Nationwide Youth Growth Company for the fast progress it was making.
The excessive maize costs of 2012, when a ton price over R5 000, pressured him out of the feedlot enterprise.
In 2014, the cucumber yield on Korema Farm was about 17 fruits per plant. This has since elevated to twenty fruits per plant, which Mokgohloa attributes to higher administration.
At present, he has 5ha beneath cowl. Every tunnel homes about 600 vegetation, and beneath superb circumstances ought to yield about 12 000 cucumbers in a five-month cycle.
“My purpose is to supply no less than 25 cucumbers per plant, as a result of it’s potential,” he says.
Mokgohloa started by bettering the tunnels. After noticing that the outdated tunnels had poor air flow, he made positive that the brand new ones had been correctly ventilated. As a substitute of getting just one door at both finish of every tunnel, he has two. He additionally elevated the roof peak from 4,2m to five,2m.
“Poor air flow permits warmth to construct up and the fruit loses its authentic form. Crop yields additionally drop. The air flow within the new tunnels is significantly better,” he says.
He tries to keep up the temperature contained in the tunnels at 25°C. In summer time, he opens the tunnel flaps and doorways at 6am and closes them at 6pm; in winter, he opens them later and closes them earlier.
As a result of greenhouses are costly, the farm manufactures its personal greenhouses. This permits Mokgohloa to have greenhouses that meet his required specs. On this manner, he has additionally eradicated a number of the manufacturing dangers as the complete course of is beneath his management.
He solely makes use of Rijk Zwaan seed in the complete manufacturing course of. He says that by utilizing good-quality inputs, it already reduces quite a lot of manufacturing danger.
Your entire enterprise is constructed on the yield and high quality of the cucumbers and he can not afford to make use of seed of low high quality, he says.
“My clients worth the lengthy shelf lifetime of the uncooked cucumbers that I provide and the added worth it supplies,” he says.
Mokgohloa has additionally modified his planting technique to save lots of money and time. As a substitute of shopping for seedlings each season, he now makes use of seedlings in winter solely. In summer time, he sows seeds as germination takes place extra rapidly than in winter, and it’s simpler and extra economical than planting seedlings.
Conserving prices low and high quality excessive
Irrigation and vitamins demand fixed consideration. In summer time, Mokgohloa offers his cucumber vegetation as much as 3ℓ of water every each day. He recycles 40% of the water again into manufacturing.
As water is such a priceless pure useful resource and the administration thereof is essential to his enterprise, the farm recycles 40% of the water again into manufacturing. This reduces prices and Mokgohloa makes use of much less fertiliser.
“When the municipality doesn’t clear the water correctly, we have now to incur further prices to scrub the water in order that it’s appropriate for rising cucumbers.”
He says he not too long ago managed to safe water rights to an enormous water supply. “This may guarantee we develop the enterprise and farm sustainably sooner or later.”
He makes use of sawdust as a rising medium, and fertilises with calcium, potassium sulphate and a hydroponic combine containing zinc, copper, boron, magnesium, nitrogen and phosphorus.
He has launched some organic pest controls, and the protecting tunnels additionally scale back the danger of bugs. Mokgohloa explains that to remain in enterprise, he has to seek out higher methods to maintain prices low and high quality excessive. One of the simplest ways to do that is to maintain up with developments and enhance his farming strategies by visiting as many farmers as potential, and by studying.
“My motto is to be taught no less than one new factor a day. Irrespective of how little it’s, it makes a distinction,” he says.
He’s at the moment grafting cucumber vegetation onto butternut roots as these are stronger and feed the plant higher. “It’s a bit costly, however I get extra fruit this fashion,” he says. His diversification into juice manufacturing was lengthy coming.
He was all the time methods so as to add worth to what the farm was already producing. “It took us six years to get the suitable mix and nonetheless preserve the juice contemporary. We give health-conscious shoppers clear merchandise with out preservatives,” he says.
Pondering and planning
Mokgohloa believes that in an effort to broaden his manufacturing additional, he must spend time considering and planning.
“Once I first began, I needed to do every part myself,” he recollects. “However now I delegate extra. This permits me to focus on my technique, which is to decrease manufacturing prices, use as a lot know-how on the farm as potential, and punctiliously measure productiveness to ensure I’m nonetheless on observe and make a revenue.”
He believes that many new farmers should not accountable with cash and confesses that he too has made errors on this respect.
“In farming, you’ll be able to promote a variety of produce and find yourself with a heap of money in your account,” he says. “However the reality is that revenue makes up solely a small portion of that cash. Most of it has to return into producing your subsequent crop.
“I’ve studied a variety of farms and have seen that it is best to first concentrate on one factor earlier than leaping to a different,” he says.
“When A is working easily, then transfer to B.”
The farm beforehand equipped Massmart shops reminiscent of Sport, Cambridge and Makro with greens however stopped, Mokgohloa says, as a result of Massmart didn’t need him to model the greens.
“Branding is a vital factor of rising our enterprise. That’s why we pulled out of their contract round 2013.”
The enterprise at the moment provides three huge contemporary produce markets, specifically Springs, Joburg and Tshwane. This is a sign of the profitable and regular enlargement and progress of the enterprise over time.
“We now have a presence available on the market ground, and we realise that the costs we fetch there should not beneath our management,” he says. As well as, the enterprise has additionally managed to attain a profitable chilly chain course of to make sure shoppers get pleasure from their contemporary cucumbers and cucumber juice.
Among the challenges skilled by Korema Farm are excessive rates of interest at banks, the dearth of applicable funding (a blanket strategy that doesn’t cater for every producer’s wants), some authorities departments offering Korema with gear and equipment that the farm doesn’t want, and a low demand for proudly South African merchandise.
Mokgohloa prior to now typically struggled with being paid late for his produce. As a substitute of funds being made inside the 30 days prescribed by authorities, some funds had been obtained 60 to 90 days after they had been due, and this induced severe issues for the farm.
A consequence was that Mokgohloa might solely make use of staff on a brief foundation because of the unreliable movement of revenue.
The unreliable provide of electrical energy created issues and necessitated an alternate focus. The farm is now completely off the grid, producing its personal electrical energy through photo voltaic panels.
Mokgohloa says fixed energy is a vital enter for a hydroponic system. By utilising the solar, a pure useful resource, they’ve bypassed the issue of rolling blackouts.
Plans for the longer term
“Our plans for the following 10 years are quite simple: we need to seize 60% of our worth chain. If we are able to do that, we will scale back prices,” says Mokgohloa.
However he additionally needs to concentrate on his group. He feels an obligation in the direction of rising Korema as a model and creating employment within the Winterveldt space.
“Our largest funding is in workers improvement. Over the previous 12 years, we have now been utilizing the off-peak manufacturing instances to additional practice and share trade sights on what different international locations are doing.
“Individuals who apply for jobs usually come from a background the place they’ve little or no publicity to agriculture. It signifies that we don’t get the total profit from our staff within the first few months.
“The answer to that is simple: I need Korema Farm to develop into a centre of excellence and help the sector to bridge the [knowledge] hole.”
Mokgohloa believes that black children should not interested in agriculture as a result of there haven’t been sufficient farming success tales.
“Previous generations didn’t deal with farming as a enterprise, however as a way of survival,” he explains.
“Nonetheless, a number of younger persons are entering into farming right here and there. If they’re profitable, they may assist encourage others.”
He’s additionally concerned within the mentorship of younger folks.
“That is an ongoing factor for a lot of farmers that aspire to function like Korema Farm. It’s an off-the-cuff course of that they get pleasure from. Many individuals name me searching for assistance on the place and begin their farming companies.”
His recommendation to aspiring farmers is to embrace collaboration in each manner potential. And, he says, farmers should keep in mind that they may lose nothing by asking for a reduction when buying inputs.
Telephone Kobela Mokgohloa on 072 822 8993, or e-mail him at [email protected].