“To many South Africans, tomatoes, onions and avocadoes are important contributors to their daily intake of nutrition. They are freely available and can be bought from street corners all over Southern Africa. This availability of produce has been achieved through Nature Farming® as a method of production and is ZZ2’s contribution to provide Africa with food security.”
Mr Bertus Venter, chief agronomist of ZZ2, says the company has in the last fifteen years invested in research and has, as a result, been able to develop a manner of farming which has been branded as Nature Farming®, or Natuurboerdery®.
“Conventional industrialised approaches to farming became obsolete at the turn of the century. ZZ2 experienced a decline in crop yield which led to a time of introspection. Coupled with a growing consumer demand for healthier food produced in an environmentally-friendly manner, ZZ2 embarked on a fifteen year journey which is called Nature Farming®,” says Venter. It can be described as moving away from some of the deleterious aspects of industrialised farming concepts by including the more sensible concepts of organic farming. It subscribes to a strict protocol that was developed by a team of experts, nationally and internationally, and is followed in detail by farmers and agronomists employed by ZZ2.
The name, Nature Farming®, Natuurboerdery®, was selected by ZZ2’s CEO, Tommie van Zyl in the early 2000’s. The pursuit to embrace nature’s laws and systems into ZZ2’s values became a “way of life” and was written into the company’s mission statement in 2003. A year later, in 2004, ZZ2 applied for the trademark to be registered.
Over the years Nature Farming® attracted the attention of the media and many articles have been written on the benefits. Two doctorate degrees and a Master’s degree were a direct result of Nature Farming® and were reported on in agronomy journals and conferences. “Over the last 13 years, the words, Nature Farming® or Natuurboerdery®, have invariably and consistently been used in conjunction with the ZZ2 name,” says Venter.
Due to Nature Farming®, ZZ2 has been able to address the decline of soil heath through the use of, amongst other things, compost and manure, crop rotation and long dormant periods of fields (up to seven years).
Soil health is a primary goal of Nature Farming® and is obtained by using biological active compost, compost tea and effective microbes (or EM Technology) from as early as 2003. A laboratory was established to monitor and improve on Nature Farming practices.
An integrated pest management approach is followed and entails products that have the least impact on the environment, such as planting eggplants next to tomatoes as catch crop. Fermented plant extracts are manufactured from plants with medicinal properties, like the extreme invader, lantana, to replace harsh chemicals to control nematodes, one of the biggest threats to tomato production. All these are induced through the soil to suppress soil borne diseases.
To curb the negative effect of fertilizer on the microbial population, inorganic fertilizers are replaced, as far as possible, with carbon-loaded fertilizer and organic material.
Research in the use of natural predators has been an ongoing process in the last decade. In 2015 this research was formalised when BioBee, an international supplier of biological pest control products based in Israel, established a local branch with ZZ2 as shareholder. This is especially applicable to crops in net houses that are a major focus of the company to intensify production.
“Nature Farming® has a series of subsidiary practices that support the system in order to claim Nature Farming. Compliance with some of the elements does not comprise Nature Farming®. Fifteen years of research and implementation practices by ZZ2 has made it a sustainable system,” says Venter.
“By developing the concept of Nature Farming®, we have contributed to provide food security to South Africans.”
What is food security according to the World Health Organisation?
Food security as an umbrella term includes: (i) the availability of food that is nutritious and safe; (ii) an assured ability to procure and acquire food of good quality in a socially acceptable way (e.g. without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing or similar coping strategies). In contrast, food insecurity exists when food is not easily accessible and households have difficulty securing adequate food.