South Africa: A rooftop hops farm in the city

Khaya Maloney grows hops using a hydroponics system under cover on 300m2 of space on a rooftop on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. The space is leased to him. Using this set up, he can produce four harvests a year, instead of the single harvest that traditional hops growers achieve.

While Maloney doesn’t have a formal background or training in agriculture, he has a qualification in construction engineering, with experience working in fintech start-ups. He always knew he wanted to become a farmer, but not in the conventional way of using open land.

He followed his passion for business and innovation and took the leap to become a farmer after he saw a project in New York that involved growing vegetables on rooftops. He says that Minerals Council South Africa had a similar initiative aimed at putting 100 greenhouses on rooftops, and he approached them with the idea of growing hops, instead of vegetables, using a hydroponics system.

“The initiative aims to create an urban agricultural ecosystem by repurposing disused rooftops to produce agricultural produce for Johannesburg’s inner-city communities,” he says. He then joined the incubation Wouldn’t It be Cool project, run by the Urban Agriculture Initiative (UAI). This project receives support from Minerals Council South Africa, National Treasury, and GWK, amongst others.

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