Vutlhari Chauke (34) is a small-scale farmer with sky-high standards. The young Gauteng farmer runs VT Harvest, a Mogale City-based agribusiness that produces herbs such as fennel, coriander and wild rocket, as well as tomatoes, lettuce and spring onions.
What sets her business apart is the fact that her crops are planted according to internationally approved health and safety standards. As a result, Chauke has earned GlobalG.A.P certification, a globally recognised farm certification scheme.
To receive the certification, Chauke has to ensure that she uses the right mixture of fertiliser, pesticides as well as other chemicals. She also has to keep meticulous records of the chemicals and fertilisers used to show to health and safety authorities.
“The GlobalG.A.P certification is pretty hard to get. The infrastructure required for it includes having hygiene areas, such as washing and toilet facilities, on your farm. “In addition, you must have a cold room to store the harvest. You must use refrigerated trucks to transport your vegetables."
Chauke’s produce is planted in 10 hydroponic tunnels that are soil-less and feature an irrigation system that runs automatically.
“Since I am not planting directly in the soil, I use the drip system of irrigation which enables me to have the right amount of irrigation,” Chauke says.
Her produce is of a high quality and clients are prepared to pay a little more for it. She supplies green grocers as well as McDonald’s outlets.
To make it in farming, Chauke tapped into her vast corporate experience. She has a tourism degree and a Master of Business Administration from the University of South Africa’s Graduate School of Business Leadership under her belt.
Chauke got support from the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which gave her the hydroponic tunnels and 1.5 hectares of land to use.
“I have deliberately chosen high-value crops because I am using a small amount of space,” Chauke says.
The business also employs seven workers and seasonal workers during the planting and harvesting seasons.
For more information on GDARD support call 011 240 2500 or visit www.gauteng.gov.za/Departments/DepartmentDetails/CPM-001000