Paradise in Bellville
In the dusty back yard of Procontrol, their company in Bellville, Cape Town, Pieter de Jager and Dirkie Bauermeister have created an unexpected utopia. Walking into the yard, it’s hard to imagine anything would grow there, but you’ll find a jungle full of vegetables under shade cloth in their NFT system: cucumbers, pumpkins, tomatoes, lettuce, kale… and the sides of the tunnel are lined with Dutch buckets containing strawberries and tomatoes.
“We initially had a vegetable garden here and added a lot of soil and manure, but those would never last long. We just could not get ahead, especially with the drought,” says Pieter. Lice, fruit flies and birds were a constant problem. But now their system provides enough lettuce for about four families every week, and anything else they harvest is distributed among the staff. They say they couldn’t believe how quickly the plants grow and how healthy they are. Pieter points to a large, healthy cucumber on one of the huge plants in the back of the tunnel. “That plant was added to the system only 40 days ago.” >
Dirkie (left) and Pieter with their system. The plants at the back have been growing for 40 days and the ones in the foreground are a week old. The butternut and cucumber (below, from left) are from the batch growing behind them.