THEY say ‘old habits die hard,’ and for Venensia Mukarati, decades later, she is still fascinated by farming, a habit that was engrained in her since childhood. The enterprising mother of two has adopted a revolutionary farming style of using hydroponics, making her one of the female pioneers in Hydroponics in Zimbabwe.
This type of farming is considered to be a revolution in the agriculture industry because of its capability to produce surplus food, and using an environmentally friendly technique. Hydroponics farming is a type of vertical farming system that uses water and nutrient solution to grow plants instead of the usual soil.
Hydroponic farming can be practiced by people to grow fresh fruit and vegetables where soil condition is not suitable for conventional farming. It is also a solution for satisfying sustainable food requirements in urban areas where land for conventional farming is not easily available due to other commercial business ventures.
“There is something addictive about planting a seed, watching it germinate and grow. The journey of hydroponics farming has been thrilling and full of learning experiences and experiments. I now have 5 running systems and am expanding in my own backyard,” Venensia told the Entrepreneurial Magazine.
“I started with only iceberg lettuce and now I have 5 lettuce varieties, herbs, tomatoes and micro-greens. My products are being supplied to outlets including Alo Alo Restaurant, Bottom Drawer Restaurant and Pomona Farmers Market as well as some really supportive individuals who are in love with fresh greens.”
Venensia’s commercial farming journey started when she was growing vegetables in her rural home where she had a greenhouse put in place. However, due to the distance she always missed the complete growing cycle of the plants and as a farmer she got complete fulfilment in being able to watch her crops grow.
While doing her research to find a new method that would be convenient to practice in her backyard and also lure her two daughters into farming, she stumbled upon Hydroponics which proved that she did not need lots of space to embark on commercial farming.
Research has also shown that growing crops hydroponically can speed up the growing process by 30-50%, making it increasingly popular in developed countries, and something that developing countries can try.
“Land is definitely not an issue when it comes to Hydroponics farming, however capital is a huge struggle as setting up a system is expensive. Hydroponics farming is relatively new to Zimbabwe so l had to purchase most of the tools from abroad without any funding and still had to pay all duty costs for importing equipment from abroad,” Venensia pointed out.
“Hopefully with time the Government of Zimbabwe will become more appreciative of new methods of farming and assist the youth and female farmers to be able to venture into this method of farming which will not only be beneficial to the economy but as well urban farming innovation will assist in feeding the estimated 9 billion by 2050.”
The mother of two who is also an accountant by profession purchased her first hydroponic system in 2017 and after a few failed attempts growing produce she finally got up on her feet and mastered the art of hydroponically farming. She currently has two Hydroponic greenhouse set ups. One is at her home and the other is along Harare Drive.
“When I started introducing my product to people in 2018 a lot of people loved the product. However, they were hesitant as they didn’t know if I would be able to manage a continuous supply for them as I was really small,” the 160 Hydro farm founder said.
“I’m grateful for the restaurants and outlets that took on a chance me. Now I have managed to grow and add more customers to our list. I am proud to say 160 Hydro Farm’s journey is only just beginning and we are ecstatic.
Venensia, who believes that Agriculture has so much potential for growth and is a lucrative industry has also taken it upon herself to educate others about this modern farming style through online courses.
“Women in farming need new innovative ideas and this project is heading in the right direction. It’s easy to set up and run. A great way for females that need their own project and income. I conduct trainings on hydroponics. I have some trainings that I reserve for women only to hopefully empower and inspire more women,” Venensia said excitedly.
“We provide an Introductory course to Hydroponics farming where our aim is to cover the nature and scope of hydroponics system and how to operate them. The course is online on the Africa Start-up Academy based and costs USD$30.00 per person upon completion the student has to take a small test and will receive a certificate signed by myself and the director from Africa Start-up Academy.” Venensia added that being a successful farming entrepreneur takes a lot of work, a lot of vision and a lot of perseverance, citing that is really important that you take your time as success is not an instant occurrence but a journey of proper planning and calculated risks.