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Touws River Commercial Hydroponic Farm


Knowledge Pele, the socio-economic development arm of the Pele Energy Group, focused on infrastructure-led development, both develops and invests in industrial and social infrastructure in rural and peri-urban areas to create economically viable communities.

The infrastructure serves as an anchor asset to these communities and unlocks the potential for local economic development all through the project phase. From project inception with direct job creation during the construction and operation of the infrastructure and indirect job and further wealth creation opportunities, through extensive SITA accredited skills training and enterprise development.

In 2021, KPI developed the Touwsrivier Commercial Hydroponics Farm (TCHF), intending to create sustainable employment in the community of Touwsrivier.  Hydroponic farming involves the growing of plants without soil as a medium while delivering water, nutrients, and oxygen. The plants are grown in various mediums like sand, gravel, rock wool, coconut fiber and oasis cubes. It is considered an increasingly sustainable way of growing produces with water.

The development of TCHF was possible through a R5-million grant fund provided by Investec Bank. Touwsrivier is the host community of the 36MW REIPPPP solar power plant. The project life cycle of solar projects does not allow a large number of long-term jobs post construction phase. The need addressed by TCHF in Touwsrivier, allows for considerable job creation and community ownership, using the vehicle of  the Touwsrivier Solar Community Trust (TSCT), in which 50% equity is held by the community. Thus, providing an impactful social return on investment for the community coupled with financial income that seeks to uplift households.

The farm initially employed 19 people from the community of Touwsrivier, in which 12 were permanently employed. For the first year, the farm workers under 35 were paid by Investec’s Youth Employment Service (YES) programme.

TCHF has the capacity to produce 4000 heads of lettuce a week. The farm currently focuses mainly on growing seven types of lettuce: Ice Robinson, Ice Green Moon, Ofelia, Arletti, Fristina, Emma, Bacchus and Grenadine lettuce. TCHF sells its produce locally, in Touwsrivier, and to large wholesalers in Cape Town. In addition,  TCHF recently secured an off-take agreement with a Cape Town-based wholesaler that provides fresh quality food products to local and international customers. A significant feat in such early operation for the farm.

TCHF is Local GAP. certified, which means that the certification body (NSF Certification) declares that the lettuce grown at TCHF, is compliant with control points and  food production criteria.

TCHF is designed to scale on a modular basis. It currently has four tunnels; one nursery tunnel with the capacity of 13 500 lettuce heads and three mature stage tunnels which hold 4000 heads each. There is ongoing effort to raise funding for the expansion of TCHF  and further expand the range of crops grown.