The future of horticulture

Sustainable approach to farming
Van Rooi applied his academic knowledge to swiftly address problems, showcasing the practical application of his education in real-world scenarios.
Michaiyla Hansen
With agricultural ambition at heart, dedicated horticulture student Owen van Rooi seamlessly merged education with entrepreneurship, cultivating a thriving tomato farm.
His sustainable approach to farming included the use of drip irrigation, ensuring water efficiency and a meticulous irrigation schedule.
Van Rooi embraced integrated pest management strategies, blending cultural, chemical and biological methods for effective pest and disease control, preventing adaptation to specific treatments.
From the outset, challenges ranging from pest and disease issues to sudden infrastructure damage tested his resolve.
A torrential downpour damaged structures within the shade net that housed his tomatoes, requiring immediate damage control. Undeterred, Van Rooi applied his academic knowledge to swiftly address problems, showcasing the practical application of his education in real-world scenarios.
“I try to emphasise not only reactive damage control, but also proactive preventative measures,” he said.
He recognised the value of anticipating issues and implementing strategies to mitigate risks before they escalate. In doing so, he showcased a holistic approach to farming that blended theoretical understanding with practical foresight.

“It was difficult to navigate school and my business, but in time, I managed well,” Van Rooi said.
He added that he always studied in advance to have more time to tend to his crops and this helped him be more hands-on in his business.
Amidst the challenges, Van Rooi found solace in the rewarding cultivation of cash crops like tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, green peppers and cucumbers.
These horticultural crops bridged the gap between his academic expertise and agronomic applications. Van Rooi's focus on these crops showcased a significant understanding of the intersection between education and practical farming, contributing to the success of his agricultural enterprise.
Beyond personal triumphs, he said he wants to be a community-driven force.
His tomatoes, grown with care for both quality and the environment, are making a name locally, with the young farmer having started a business named Platsand Produce. He supplies local grocery stores as well as private clients.
Van Rooi’s dedication extended beyond the farm as he organised workshops to share horticultural knowledge with fellow students and aspiring farmers, nurturing a sense of community connection.
Moreover, his journey from horticulture student to successful tomato farmer underscores the transformative power of combining academic knowledge with hands-on experience.
His sustainable practices, commitment to community engagement and continuous learning not only yielded a bountiful harvest, but also sowed the seeds of inspiration for others to follow in his green footsteps.