Introducing Booysen’s Tunnel Farming
From Sports scientist to Farmer, get to know Byron Booysen and his incredible journey!
WHERE DID IT ALL START?
This is a journey I am sometimes not sure about, but I am where I am suppose to be now. I am still very passionate about sport science and at the core of those values was always the connection to people through a discipline. Somehow I was always energised by the idea to build something up with people and to grow and develop with them. While studying at the University of Stellenbosch for my degree in Sport Science, I combined my academic training with community development. Volunteering at various NGOs and through the structures of the University, I later participated and led different programs around Stellenbosch with the focus on sport, academic and social development with the youth of the area. The growing passion towards community development introduced opportunities for personal growth that later made me discover my green fingers and the joys associated with the production of food.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT FUNDING YOUR DREAM
Yes, I received funding to pursue this farming dream of mine. The development of our business plan started in 2013. I was in my final year of my post-graduate degree and a choice needed to be made. I would either apply for a mainstream job like my peers or do further research in my current business and apply for funding at thE Western Cape Department of Agriculture for funding. The funding is for up-and- coming farmers in all the different commodities available, for example: vegetable, citrus and livestock etc. I then presented my business-plan to the panel and at the end of 2015, I was able to materialise the plan I faithfully endured with.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR TEAM
Our team at the moment consists of myself, my sister and my mother. They are also shareholders in the business. I am responsible for the general management, production and daily activities. My mother and sister are involved in the packing and marketing. We currently have ten seasonal and three permanent employees. We believe in employing women and the youth to continue to positively engage and develop the social-landscape of agriculture.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH CROPS TO PLANT?
It is mostly determined by our market and buyers’ requests. We have our staple production for our local market which is the cultivation of tomatoes and leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and lettuce. Since we utilise greenhouse structures, we have more room for crop variety and this makes us adept for any season to service our various markets.
WHAT TYPES OF FARMING SYSTEMS DO YOU USE?
Because we use greenhouse structures, we went with the hydroponic system. This is where we replace the use of soil with growing mediums such as sawdust and rockwool etc. We use specifically rockwool. All these growing mediums give us volume for our plants’ roots where it can establish and receive nutrients. The nutrients are pumped through drip-irrigation with all the nutrients in a water reservoir. This system is ideal for the production of all different types of crops in the structure and we are not limited with the type of soil we have available.
We also plant in beddings both outside and inside. The structures enable us to cultivate herbs and various micro-greens with organic compost from the farm.
YOU RENT YOUR FARM. IS THIS THE MODERN WAY OF FARMING?
I believe that the times have changed in regards to owning a farm. Making your business viable and sustainable becomes the critical part of any business decision.
Current visual technologies enable employees of a company to basically work from anywhere in the world. This is possible for farming too and most likely the way forward. It gives the ‘urban farmer’ the opportunity to engage in food development in a sustainable manner.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO OWN A FARM ONE DAY?
I would love to own my own farm one day. Owning land gives you vast flexibility in development of your business and access to relevant resources like water and fertile land. One’s philosophy of engaging with your own farm will always differ from when you rent it from someone else. Your personal goals and vision directly determine your farm’s fate.
WHAT'S ON THE CARDS FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
We would like to be the most productive hydroponic area p/m2 in the Cape metropolis. Growing with more greenhouse infrastructures will enlarge our market footprint and enable us to produce more crops. We would also like to make use of all the land available on the farm that we currently have a lease with. This will be great because we plant and cultivate the best micro-greens! 🙂
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE LIFESTYLE CHANGE FROM SPORTS TO FARMING?
Yes! There were times when I did not relate happiness with my choices, but rather with purpose. Many did not see this angle of approach at first. As time went by, my purpose became the reason for my joy and it transformed me into being very content. So, in short: I am HAPPY!
WHAT'S THE ULTIMATE DREAM FOR YOUR FARMING BUSINESS?
I want a thriving future for our farming operations, more greenhouse tunnels and a bigger variety of farming activities. Combining sports-education with youth farming is another dream of mine, also to engage with new agricultural entrepreneurs and be a part of the entire value chain.
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