A little over three decades ago, Nico Laubscher Snr planted cucumbers in tunnels on his farm near Vredendal in the Olifants River Valley to add value to land too marginal for wine grape production.
The cucumbers turned out to be so profitable that he later uprooted several vineyards to expand production.
Today, his farming enterprise, Alzanne, has over 100 tunnels covering an area of roughly 10ha in total, making it one of the largest cucumber producers in the country.
Replicating this success under the current production and economic environment would be near impossible, according to Laubscher’s son, Nico Jnr. He explains that his father’s first six tunnels paid for themselves within a year, allowing him to use the income generated to subsidise expansion.
However, the return on investment has been slower since 1998, when they purchased their first multi-span tunnel with wet pad and fans for automated climate control. They bought another in 2004, and a third in 2006.