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Terrence Internet Research

“I now describe myself as an eco-farmer… I am always on the internet, searching hydroponic things, how to do this, how to do that.”

Terrence, Participant

Written by: Rosie Dupont, Foundation Intern (2021)

Terrence graduated from the Farmers of the Future (FotF) programme in 2019. I met Terrence at his farm a week ago, and today I’m back to talk to him about his participation in the project. It is clear to me from the first time we meet that he is a confident, humorous person who is proud of his new business, which is hydroponic farming, and happy to show me around and explain how it all works. Hydroponics is growing crops purely in water, instead of the traditional farming method of planting them in soil. He explains to me that there are many challenges to traditional farming, including hard labour, soil degradation and pests. He jokes, “Hydroponics is for the lazy farmer”.

Terrence heard of FotF through a friend and was interested to join in order to expand his knowledge further than traditional farming, which is what he had been doing before the programme. He explained to me how time-consuming traditional farming could be, mentioning a time when after planting out his tomato plants he had to guard them so closely from the birds that he didn’t sleep until they were harvested. As we were talking, we were sitting in a building with a tin roof and wire fencing walls in which he had set up his hydroponic farm. In theory, this should have put an end to the dispute with the local wildlife. However, when I asked what challenges Terrence had faced since starting his new business, he started with comically saying “I was not aware that birds could enter inside this building!”. After losing some spinach plants he learnt quickly though, and thankfully the greenhouse is now (mostly) bird proof.

Hydroponics

“It’s very unique to me, because it’s the first time I met this type of farming”

As we talk I’m drawn into his enthusiasm for this type of farming, so it was no surprise when I asked what the highlights of the programme was for him, hydroponics made it onto the list; “I can say all the programmes from saving water, doing organic compost, bookkeeping, financial management, but the most one is hydroponic farming. It’s very unique to me, because it’s the first time I met this type of farming”.

He goes on to explain to me how much water he uses for the hydroponics system, and how he makes his own fertiliser to add to the water. Both water scarcity and expensive, chemical based fertilisers are prevalent challenges for traditional farmers, so when I asked about the most useful parts of the training programme, these two things came up high on the list.

Farmers of the Future

Hydroponics only uses around 50 litres of water every two weeks, which is very little compared to other forms of farming. Being able to make his own, organic fertiliser also sounds like a bit of a game changer. Made from chicken excrement from the chickens on his farm, he’s able to do this for little to no cost, and explains how he now sees the importance in eating organic foods for health reasons which he hadn’t considered before.

When I ask if he sees himself differently now that he’s completed the training and successfully started a business, I can see that the programme has helped Terrence build his brand, and give him confidence to be more independent, constantly researching how to improve; “I now describe myself as an eco-farmer… I am always on the internet, searching hydroponic things, how to do this, how to do this”. His dream is “to have a big hydroponic greenhouse, that’s my plan, to plant more more more, and grow it to a lot of people”. Importantly, he adds “So now I am just busy with my business plans”, before showing me an impressive document with detailed plans on how he’s going to achieve this dream. He’s jokingly keen to get me to invest in him.

As well as expanding his business, Terrence is also keen to educate others on this type of farming. He explains how there is a local market for it, proudly claiming when he first posted his hydroponics set up on his facebook page, he got over 2000 likes. On the opinion of his family and friends in this new business, he says; “some would say that I have time to play, but now after they see this, yoh! They are now interested”.

Eventually he wants to be visiting local schools to spread knowledge about hydroponics, and why farming is so important. He explains how little space and water hydroponics uses can make farming accessible to everyone; “everything we eat is from the soil, we cant live without food… All households have a small garden, big gardens, let us plant vegetables to eat”. 

 

Find our more about our Farmers of the Future program, here

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