Upon hearing the word ‘agriculture,’ one rarely conjures images of a sandy desert but rather of green fields with a lot of rain or perennial rivers.
But coastal-based AvaGro has proven that technology can be harnessed to produce high-value crops even on the most arid, inhospitable land.
Leonie Hartman, the co-founder of the 20-ha AvaGro project, situated in the dunes around Swakopmund, says the farm produces high-quality vegetables that have been on supermarket shelves in Namibia since 2019.
They are now also being exported to neighboring South Africa.
Hartman says the potential for agriculture to play a greater role in the country’s development is enshrined in Namibia’s Vision 2030, and AvaGro is an agricultural solutions provider aiming to contribute to the shift from traditional farming to precision agriculture.
“The goal is not without challenges. Namibia has a maximum of 30% cultivatable land, and only a third of the country’s water is suitable for crop cultivation.
“Soil with a high salt content and alkaline properties make crop cultivation almost impossible in the country,” she says.
Hartmann says AvaGro addresses these challenges by adopting innovative solutions, including the use of high-tech agriculture with media cultivation and drip irrigation that allows for more productive use of water and helps to overcome soil-related challenges through greenhouse efficiencies.
“We also use desalinated water drawn from boreholes, which enables water-efficient cultivation methods of hydroponics with drip irrigation.
“Under the arches of three-hectare greenhouse and shade net covers, the farm has become the biggest hydroponics tomato producer in Namibia. Besides that, we also grow colorful cut flowers, including gerbera and gypsophila,” she says.