Growing under plastic, shade screens and tunnels is rapidly becoming popular in South Africa. As one of the biggest cucumber producers in the country, GLOBALG.A.P. certified Graceland Hydroponics is a good example of the current growth in the South African horticultural sector.

Graceland Hydroponics has been in business for over 10 years, and has two production sites mostly filled with cucumbers and peppers. In just a few years, the company has grown to 34 hectares, with 22 tunnels and 8 completely closed hothouses. The company also has a packaging facility. Graceland Hydroponics sells its products to major local retailers Spar and Pick n Pay. And thanks to GLOBALG.A.P. Certification, the company can export its produce.

On the benefits of GLOBALG.A.P. Certification, Johan Joubert, owner of Graceland Hydroponics, said, “GLOBALG.A.P. puts Graceland Hydroponics in a position to conform to global norms on a daily basis. Internally, we are obliged to follow these standards and all farming practices benefit as a result.”

According to Suzanne Oosthuizen, CEO of the Undercover Farming Expo, a trade show and conference held annually in Pretoria, moving cultivation indoors might prove more advantageous. Protected cultivation not only extends the season, but also yields year-round produce opportunities for growers. The rise of hydroponic cultivation also does wonders for the sector, as it improves the quality and security of production.

“The past 11 years that Undercover Farming has been involved in this industry, we have seen a positive growth,” said Suzanne Oosthuizen. “With new technologies in structures, irrigation systems, mediums, and cultivars available to our growers, they have established a healthy industry. This industry is not without its challenges, we have water issues and electricity challenges that affect our farmers, but they have really conquered these obstacles and kept this industry alive and successful. Many of our growers are reverting back to planting in soil, with better control of soil diseases since we treat the soil as a living organism. The market has also changed and buyers are more ‘picky’ on quality, color and taste of the produce they buy. Our farmers have to adapt to the preferences of their market. I am very positive about our industry and our growers have shown time and time again that they can compete on the international market.”

Cucumbers need a stable climate with moderate temperatures and humidity to achieve high yields. In the area of Brits, the summers are very hot and dry, with high insect pressure. The winters are cold with occasional frost. Vegtech (Pty) Ltd., the leading South African supplier of Polyethylene-covered greenhouses and tunnels, and net-houses, constructed the greenhouse structures for Graceland Hydroponics.

Learn more about the Graceland Hydroponics system at www.vegtech.co.za/portfolio/graceland_hydroponics