Farm District a first for shopping centres in Africa

Eastgate’s Aquaponic Farm District utilises smart new technologies to provide sustainable solutions to food production and food security for customers, offering 100 per cent natural and fresh produce at the source.

Eastgate Shopping Centre has become trailblazers by being the first centre to have a rooftop Aquaponic Farm District in Africa.

The farm is in partnership with influential aquaponic company Ichthys.

Produce from the farm has been on sale since December 2019.

Ichthys managing director and Eastgate farm manger, Justin Hess, said aquaponic farming is one of the recent innovations in agriculture.

“The basic idea is combining hydroponic farming, where you grow plants without soil, which is a nutrients solution, with a fish farm known as an aqua culture farm. Aquaponics comes from combining aqua culture and hydroponics,” said Hess.

He said it’s one of the only organic ways to hydroponically grow vegetables.

Hess said this method has been around for the past 25 years, although in Africa it is still very new, with only a handful of farms adopting this method.

“The biggest advantages of aquaponic farming is it 100 per cent recycles all water used. The water from the fish tanks is circulated between all our plants and is returned again,” said Hess.

Hess said the fish becomes the fertiliser as they eat and excrete in the water and that nutrients runs through the system.

He said the nutrients becomes toxic for the fish if you do not clean it, but the plants clean the nutrients in that water, which never has to be replaced.

“We have three 10 000 litre fish tanks with 200 Pangasius fish which are from Thailand originally. If you are eating the fish in a restaurant it is called Basa,” said Hess.

He said it’s one of the nicest fish to eat and this is one of the first aquaponic Pangasius farms in South Africa.

“There is a main commercial farm in Midrand, which is the largest aquaponics farm in Africa. There is about six other commercial farms in South Africa which is adopting this method and a handful in Africa,” said Hess.

He said the district includes a fish farm and a hydroponic section.

Hess said there are three methods of growing in the hydroponic section of the farm namely stone and drain, deep water and vertical.

The farm grows tomatoes, cucumber, letters, chilli peppers, basil, chives, spring onion, mint and spinach, among others.

Alana Hoskin, marketing manager for Eastgate Shopping Centre, said the centre was introduced to the concept a year ago.

“One of the focuses for the centre in 2020 is sustainability and how we can make a difference within our own community and for our customers. We felt like this was the right direction. We are the first shopping centre to have a rooftop aquaponic farm,” said Hoskins.

She said the centre turned 40 last year, and now wanted to think differently and do something that will set the centre away from any other.

“We want shoppers to consciously choose Eastgate for a reason, and the aquaponic farming is a good reason,” said Hoskins.

Hoskins said aquaponic farming is a sustainable solution for the east rand as there is a need to have an organic offering.

In the future, Hoskins said the centre is looking at offering a few courses for the community on how to start their own aquaponic farms.

Fresh produce from the farm is sold from 9am to 12pm every Saturday at Entrance 10 at the rooftop entrance where the farm is located.

with organic basil produced in the aquaponic farm district at Eastgate.

Eastgate Shopping Centre has become trailblazers by being the first centre to have a rooftop Aquaponic Farm District in Africa.

The farm is in partnership with influential aquaponic company Ichthys.

Produce from the farm has been on sale since December 2019.

Ichthys managing director and Eastgate farm manger, Justin Hess, said aquaponic farming is one of the recent innovations in agriculture.

Eastgate’s Aquaponic Farm District is situated on the rooftop at entrance 10 of the centre.

“The basic idea is combining hydroponic farming, where you grow plants without soil, which is a nutrients solution, with a fish farm known as an aqua culture farm. Aquaponics comes from combining aqua culture and hydroponics,” said Hess.

He said it’s one of the only organic ways to hydroponically grow vegetables.

The aquaponic farm district at Eastgate has three 10 000 litre fish tanks with 200 Pangasius fish.

Hess said this method has been around for the past 25 years, although in Africa it is still very new, with only a handful of farms adopting this method.

“The biggest advantages of aquaponic farming is it 100 per cent recycles all water used. The water from the fish tanks is circulated between all our plants and is returned again,” said Hess.

Justin Hess with produce grown via the hydroponic deep water method.

Hess said the fish becomes the fertiliser as they eat and excrete in the water and that nutrients runs through the system.

He said the nutrients becomes toxic for the fish if you do not clean it, but the plants clean the nutrients in that water, which never has to be replaced.

Justin Hess with organic basil produced in the aquaponic farm district at Eastgate.

“We have three 10 000 litre fish tanks with 200 Pangasius fish which are from Thailand originally. If you are eating the fish in a restaurant it is called Basa,” said Hess.

He said it’s one of the nicest fish to eat and this is one of the first aquaponic Pangasius farms in South Africa.

“There is a main commercial farm in Midrand, which is the largest aquaponics farm in Africa. There is about six other commercial farms in South Africa which is adopting this method and a handful in Africa,” said Hess.

Alana Hoskins enjoying an organic grown tomatoe from Eastgate’s Aquaponic Farm District.

He said the district includes a fish farm and a hydroponic section.

Hess said there are three methods of growing in the hydroponic section of the farm namely stone and drain, deep water and vertical.

The farm grows tomatoes, cucumber, letters, chilli peppers, basil, chives, spring onion, mint and spinach, among others.

Tomatoes grown at he aquaponic farm district at Eastgate shopping centre.

Alana Hoskin, marketing manager for Eastgate Shopping Centre, said the centre was introduced to the concept a year ago.

“One of the focuses for the centre in 2020 is sustainability and how we can make a difference within our own community and for our customers. We felt like this was the right direction. We are the first shopping centre to have a rooftop aquaponic farm,” said Hoskins.

She said the centre turned 40 last year, and now wanted to think differently and do something that will set the centre away from any other.

Organically grown basil at Eastgate’s Aquaponic Farm District.

“We want shoppers to consciously choose Eastgate for a reason, and the aquaponic farming is a good reason,” said Hoskins.

Hoskins said aquaponic farming is a sustainable solution for the east rand as there is a need to have an organic offering.

The hydroponic section at the aquaponic farm district at Eastgate Shopping Centre.

In the future, Hoskins said the centre is looking at offering a few courses for the community on how to start their own aquaponic farms.

Fresh produce from the farm is sold from 9am to 12pm every Saturday at Entrance 10 at the rooftop entrance where the farm is located.

Alana Hoskins and Justin Hess.

“We will extend the time once we harvest more. We have also incorporated our recycling bins such as glass, general waste and paper at the farm district, as it gives into the sustainability lifestyle as a whole. Thinking organic is thinking about recycling as well. We made it easier for customers to come and do their recycling and then purchase organic produce.

“In 2020 our motto is ‘be the change’. We have done a number of eco-friendly projects at the centre and will continue to do so to create a better environment,” said Hoskins.

For more information contact centre management or visit www.eastgatemall.co.za.