From small-scale farming agri-entrepreneur Phindi Zwane has shifted her focus to producing her own brand of coffee derived from okra beans.
The Soshanguve, north of Pretoria-based 2017 Township Entrepreneurship Awards finalist and founder of Bright Future Agricultural was attracted to commercial farming three years ago, although agriculture has been always her passion.
She started by cultivating spinach, and the okra greenery of which its leaves are regarded as another form of spinach on the continent.
“I went into crop farming because I was unemployed with a burden to financially support myself and my family. I started by running a shebeen and selling clothes while planting vegetables on a small plot,” says the 31-year-old. “I then closed the shebeen because I could not find a person to help me run it while I was on other business commitments.”
Zwane’s attachment to agri-farming was further given impetus by the Gauteng department of economic development’s Agri-Seta, whereby one of their coordinators Ngwarai Maphosa and later Tony Phiri taught her the finer skills of agri-farming.
“I was introduced to basics like what are organic crops and vegetables, types of soil, basics on spacing seeds and transplanting seedlings.”
After completing the Seta course, Zwane enrolled for the Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development level 1 to 3 course, which introduced her to open field commercial farming, types of crops, poultry and planting skills.
“At Bright Future Agricultural we don’t use chemicals, we specialise in organic crops and vegetables. The downside of chemicals is that they contribute to food poisoning,” she says. “I got my 8.5 hectares farm through Adopt-A-Spot. You identify vacant land and go to local council for a lease. I have a five-year renewable lease. I’m planning to purchase the land in future.”
While Zwane hires bakkies to transport her merchandise to markets, she is an also an employer of five permanent staff members and five casuals.
Zwane’s main clients for her produce are Spar, OK Bazaars, hawkers and the community from the surrounding areas of Ga-Rankuwa to Winterveldt.
“I didn’t go for the popular veggies like beetroot, carrots and cabbage because that market is saturated, the okra spinach is selling well.”
Zwane is now the proud producer of her own brand of coffee, called Okriasco, from okra beans, but her main challenges are packaging it properly, registering the ingredients, bar coding as well as finding a formal market.
She markets her coffee at most of the SMMEs expos around Gauteng, but is now working on registering the brand as her aim is to export it abroad. “At the moment I’m doing everything manually, from planting, drying and grinding the coffee beans to packaging.”