The first steps towards a Namibian Circular Bio Based Economy. Part 3

What we learned

The Namib desert is not the oldest desert in the world without reason. Large Temperature and humidity swings in remarkable short spaces of time, periodic high speed and dry winds, known as East winds and the always present high radiation of the sun. 

The task to grow commercial viable produce in the Namib desert at an economic viable cost in a predictive and repeatable manner is not something everyone should attempt. It is very hard and unforgiving work in inhospitable circumstances with nowhere to hide from the heat and that extraordinary sun. Afritree did indeed take on the desert challenge and has identified and tested successful methods of growing various produce types in the Namib desert that are manageable and a rewarding experience. 

After studying Horticulture, technology, and other fields for years, doing experiments at home, a basic model (methodology) was developed to drive the research element. The actual lessons learned about grow mediums, seed and crop types, pests, labour skills and crop enclosure types have been harder and sometimes downright impossible to manage than what was initially thought. 

The end results however are so promising that we envisage the Horticulture industry to become an reasonable sized economic activity in the Erongo region in the next couple of years and beyond. This potential will become reality through constant focus on talent development, policy, technology implementation and new school entrepreneurs committing to the required vision for innovation and economic development..

With the initial research phase coming to an end and over a hundred plant types tested in just about every soil and hydroponic method, Afritree has identified best practises that are 1. easy on resources and financially viable or 2. Higher cost specialised applications that are pushing technology solutions. The road to this point as touched on before had its challenges and fortunately so, as we can now deliver great value to the Namibian Horticulture space that did not exist before. Additionally many people have seen our work and we have assisted many potential growers with the hope that our efforts at worst will be copied as inspiration for the sector is an important part of what we do.

Solutions for the Erongo Region, Namibia and beyond as being researched, studied and developed by Afritree:

  1. Bio-economy model adaptable for specific context (Access to resources)
  2. Hydroponic grow methods that are not soil dependant
  3. Renewable electricity for off grid applications
  4. Food security in dry climates
  5. Greening of desert areas
  6. Saline water crops
  7. CO2 savings in transport and food production
  8. Water management and Zero waste solutions
  9. Improved Health by means of better diet
  10. Sustainable employment 
  11. Erongo Region potential for large scale Horticulture, crops, animal husbandry and aquaculture.
  12. The Fit of these opportunities with future UN requirements(SDG) and Namibia’s Development plans

The next phase for Afritree is for a large scale commercial production facility to further proof the concepts at scale and produce enough food and waste to start using those materials for value add as well as incorporate sustainable technologies into the mix . The end result will be the first Namibian totally decentralised Horticulture produce facility that is totally off grid using only the sea, sun and waste land to produce world class fresh produce and other valuable products.

It is through the showcasing of large technological advanced projects that are successful in their applications that we will better enable acceptance towards National uptake of the technologies and assist with policy, governance and market development. It is impossible for our team to do everything needed within this space and its also against our philosophy to ring fence opportunities as we set out right from the start to create opportunities for everyone in Namibia that are able to take ownership for business units in supporting the bigger picture.

By Willem Baartman