SAB Urban Agriculture Podcasts: #1 VT Harvest| #eBizEntrepreneur |Vutlhari Chauke


We are back for our 2nd series of Podcasts with years SAB Kickstart Finalists!
In contrast to last year where the finalists were dispersed across many different industries, this year everyone is a farmer and we are delighted here at eBizRadio to be able to interview them all.
This is the first recording, with Vulthari Chauke, enjoy their dynamic stories!

Vutlhari Chauke established VT Harvest in 2017, an urban farm where she grows herbs such as baby fennel, coriander, curly parsley, Italian parsley, rocket and wild rocket, and kohlrabi, a German turnip. 

Vutlhari’s farm has 13 greenhouse tunnels equipped with dripper and overhead sprinkler irrigation systems. “We plant between 10,000 and 15,000 seedlings per tunnel depending on the type of crop.”

Vutlhari’s herb production cycle is from four to six weeks in summer; and six to eight weeks in winter. “Our production plan is prepared six months in advance to effectively factor crop rotation and seedling preparation. The production team is responsible for soil preparation, planting, weeding, irrigation, and harvesting.” 

VT Harvest checks for pests twice a week and sprays crop protection chemicals when required on Fridays. They pick fresh herbs by hand on a daily basis and select only the top-quality produce for delivery to customers from Mondays to Fridays.   

Vutlhari currently has two permanent employees and eight part-timers. 

She initially became a farmer to make money, but later realized that agriculture created employment and contributed to food security. “My goal is to become a black female farmer success story, where my brand is respected in the industry. I would like to leave a legacy for my children.”

“Being able to consistently nurture seedlings, witness them grow into nutritious crisp produce, which end up on the shelves of retail stores makes me proud to be a farmer, because we are enhances culinary experiences of our communities.”

“I left a Sandton corporate job at one of the Top 10 JSE Listed companies for farming. I traded high heels for gumboots and this was considered a regression, almost a downgrade in my career. Some people told me that I had wasted my investment in my MBA studies, however I vehemently disagree, because farming has allowed me to test some of the theories in a real-life context and use the financial and stakeholder management modules to optimally run my operations and grow the business.”

Vutlhari is part of the 2019 SAB Urban Agriculture Programme and hopes the programme will add value to her business through infrastructure assistance to expand her operations so that she can enter the agro-processing and exports spaces.  

Now in its second year, the Urban Agriculture Programme invests in high potential farming businesses, by integrating technology solutions that will grow the businesses and create lasting employment.

The 15-month business development programme provides participants with technical and operational training, hydroponic infrastructure investment, industry-based mentorship, as well as market access.

Some info on SAB Kickstart

Powered by SAB’s flagship youth entrepreneurship programme, SAB KickStart, the Urban Agriculture programme, which aims to identify and invest hydroponic technology into high potential farming businesses, has announced nine finalists who will receive training and investment to grow their farming businesses.

With Stats SA in October revealing that unemployment was at its highest level in 11 years, the programme aims to help create jobs through youth owned farms. Black African women are the most vulnerable, facing an unemployment rate of 34.5%, compared to black men with an unemployment rate of 31.3%. “We are happy that five out of the nine finalists are young black women,” said Phumzile Chifunyise, Enterprise Development Manager, SAB and AB InBev Africa.

An Enterprise Development programme, SAB KickStart is aimed at youth entrepreneurs aged 18 and 35. The programme has been running since 1995 to develop, invest, and grow revenue generating youth businesses in order to create jobs.  Now in its second year, the Urban Agriculture programme invests in high potential farming businesses, by advancing farming businesses with technology that will grow the businesses and create lasting employment.

“As an organisation that is imbedded in agriculture, our intention is to attract young people to the sector by alleviating the high barriers to entry such as technical and operational resources.”

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