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Enabling a Climate Smart Localised Agri-based Micro-Economy

A climate-smart vertical farming hydroponic system forming the framework for the development of black female micro agri-preneurs.

Photo of LifeCo UnLtd SA
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

It is widely accepted that the production and security of food sources is contested in the African context. South Africa requires a more sustainable approach, or the welfare of the nation – both current and future generations – is at risk. Mismanaged agricultural industrialisation and intensification could compromise food safety and increase unemployment and environmental degradation. The proposed solution involves the utilisation of innovative and adaptive technologies in agri-production, coupled with structured human capital development initiatives, to catalyse the growth of local agri-based micro-economies to address concerns of food security and climate adaption (while enhancing the local economy by augmenting the food supply chain). This concept note proposes the installation of a climate-smart vertical farming hydroponic system that will form the framework for the development of black female micro agri-preneurs. In an aim to increase inclusiveness through the prioritisation of female agri-preneurs and broad based black ownership - in an industry that is largely dominated by white male participants, the project will actively secure access to markets through the negotiation of long-term distribution agreements with local commercial retailers. As part of the solution to localise the supply and demand of agricultural products, LifeCo UnLtd also owns 3,9 hectres of land, portions of which will be made available for this project. The land is strategically located in Farmall (Johannesburg), which is located within a 8km radius from the commercial hubs of Fourways and Broadacres. The location of the land is also ideally positioned to scout and profile potential female agri-preneurs from Diepsloot and Cosmos City, which are communities that are both located within a 10km radius of the land in Farmall.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries is the local population who will have access to high quality competitively priced products. Our target group will be 5 to 10 highly skilled staff (60% female and 40 % youth) as well as 2 to 4 packaging and distribution micro enterprises (60% female and 40% youth).

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

The proposed solution involves the introduction of pioneering urban farming concepts into the South African market, which utilises sustainable, vertical hydroponic farming technology and innovative farming techniques. It is our intention to localise the supply and demand of agricultural products by establishing a network of highly-effective micro-enterprises, local distribution channels and retailers – ensuring a shorter distance from farm to plate. The model involves the capacitation of majority female agri-preneurs in farming techniques and technologies – and the establishment of these micro-enterprises. The intervention proposed looks to change the way land and water resources are managed, by: - optimising and sustaining long-term productivity - contributing to the economic and social well-being of stakeholders in the value-chain - ensuring an increase in safe and high-quality supply of agricultural products - ultimately adapting to and mitigating climate change.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

LifeCo UnLtd South Africa is a successful impact business that invests in other impact enterprises to deliver social, environmental, economic and financial gains. LifeCo UnLtd believes that the systemic challenges of inequality and poverty can be addressed by the progressive positive movement towards a sustainable society. Website:

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Founded 20 years ago in a backyard, with only a handful of students determined to change mindsets and the narrative of previously disadvantaged black youths, the venture has morphed into a stellar enterprise employing business principles for social and environmental impact.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Sustainable farming (Planet) is about meeting the needs of South Africans today and in the future (Prosperity). The recent global rise in food prices and repeated reports about social unrest in a large number of countries reveal the strategic and basic importance of the agricultural sector for social and economic stability. Water availability is the single most important factor that limits agricultural production in South Africa. Furthermore, the situation is likely to become dire due to climate change and rapidly increasing demand from other sectors of the economy. South Africa needs to ensure a healthy agricultural industry that contributes to the country’s GDP, food security, social welfare, job creation and ecotourism, while adding value to raw materials. However, the health of the agricultural sector depends on the sustainability of farming methods. Farming practices must not only protect the long-term productivity of the land, but must also ensure the well-being of farmers.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

LifeCo UnLtd has identified an agri-technology partner Clean Air Nurseries (CAN), among others, to test and refine a proposed solution to promote climate smart agriculture and climate smart livelihoods in the context of projected extreme events. CAN was founded by progressive green entrepreneurs who have developed systems that can be installed anywhere. Since 2014 the founder and CEO has focused efforts on finding solutions for sustainable farming combined with a patented technology used in EGGS (Environmental Green Grow Systems), which forms an integral part of the current system. The current system operates independent of climatic, topographic, temperature, soil or water conditions, reduces input costs, carbon footprint and time to market. In partnership with CAN, this project leverages the expertise and capabilities of both partners on land strategically located, to enable a climate smart localised agri-based micro-economy.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The proposed solution involves the introduction of pioneering urban farming concepts into the South African market by utilising sustainable, vertical hydroponic farming technology and innovative farming techniques, on land already owned by LifeCo UnLtd. This land is strategically located from commercial hubs as well as communities from which female agri-preneurs can be scouted and selected from.

Geographic Focus

The idea target black female micro agri-preneurs in South Africa, with a primarily focus in Farmall.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The project will be implemented over 36 months with the following milestones: Result 1: Implementation of adaptive climate smart agri-technology and associated processes Result 2: Enhancing the human capital for agri-based micro enterprises Result 3: Unlock the commercial market for local agri-micro enterprises Result 4: Increased funding for localised agri-based micro-economy

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


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