Civil engineer grows hops hydroponically on a rooftop in Johannesburg, South Africa

Construction engineer Khaya Maloney grows hops – the key ingredient in beer – hydroponically on a rooftop on Johannesburg's Constitution Hill.

Maloney, who studied civil engineering, worked in the corporate sector for a year and just knew he did not like it. He had always been interested in agri-entrepreneurship and started researching what kind of crops to work with. This came after he saw a similar project happening in New York while watching Carte Blanche back in 2017.

His 300 m2 urban farm, Afrileap, started in 2018 as a leap of faith. With no background in farming or hydroponics, he decided to join an urban agricultural incubator to bring his vision of hop farming to life.

"I joined an incubator by the name of WIBC [Wouldn't It Be Cool]. They had a new Urban Agricultural Initiative (UAI) where they help young aspiring farmers to grow or start agriculture in the inner city," said Maloney. The program, which plans to have 100 farms on 100 rooftops around Johannesburg, goes through various business models and ways in which farmers go about handling an agricultural business, including lessons on hydroponic agriculture, among other things.

Maloney decided to grow hops since the hop farming industry is relatively small in South Africa, and because he also wanted to penetrate the monopoly of hop farming. "I chose hops because hops are a region-specific crop that only grow in George in the Southern Cape because environmental factors are beneficial for its growth."

Through the incubator, Maloney underwent various experimental phases. He was provided with rhizomes to see if it was possible for that crop to grow in a greenhouse in Johannesburg.

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