Dube AgriZone’s Black-Owned Farm Reaps First Harvest

27 August 2019

McFair Holdings, a high-tech, undercover farming operation located at Dube AgriZone has just begun harvesting its first crop of commercial-quality green, yellow and red peppers. The 4-hectare greenhouse farming facility, which also grows tomatoes, is owned by KwaZulu-Natal-born husband and wife business partners, Knox and Lindiwe Nxumalo and began its farming operations within the Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone in May this year.

McFair Holdings is now the second Black African-owned agri-business to take up space within the Dube AgriZone, a precinct, which is Africa’s first integrated perishables supply chain and one of the most technologically-advanced, future farming platforms on the continent. The high-tech agricultural development, which forms part of the Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone, is host to the largest climate-controlled glass-covered growing area in Africa. It aims to stimulate the growth of KwaZulu-Natal's perishables sector and affords the opportunity to achieve improved agricultural yields, consistent quality, year-round production and the superior management of disease and pests.  The present phase one development comprises an extensive 16 hectares of greenhouses, dedicated post-harvest packhouses, a central packing and distribution centre, a nursery and a sophisticated plant tissue culture laboratory, Dube AgriLab.

The inaugural eight-month-long harvest season at McFair Holdings is expected to yield in excess of 10 tonnes of peppers per week. Harvest season on the crop of tomatoes that were planted on the remaining 2 hectares in August, will begin in October. The growing agri-business currently supplies its fresh produce to the local market via giant retail distributor, Massmart and other major national fresh produce distributors.

“The new farming operations by McFair exemplify the functionality of the Dube AgriZone future farming platform. As the Department of Economic Development, we would like to congratulate McFair on their first harvest as the Black, African-owned farming operation located within the Dube AgriZone. The scale of the project, with an output of over 10 tonnes of peppers per week, on a 4-hectare site, demonstrates the value of hydroponic farming within greenhouses.”

“The infrastructure that Government has invested in the Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone continues to work as an enabler for the introduction of new business technologies, systems and methods that will thrust South Africa into the future.” said KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube.

“McFair’s farming operations within the Dube AgriZone will leverage off this new technology, to scale their operations. With the imminent launch of the second phase of the Dube AgriZone development, we are looking to attracting more local farmers and investors who will establish operations that cater to the full agricultural value chain,” Dube-Ncube added.

CEO of McFair Holdings, Knox Nxumalo, said: “We see Dube TradePort as a “big brother” to our business when we consider the extent of the support we have enjoyed from Dube AgriZone. Not only are our seedlings grown in the adjacent AgriZone nursery, which reduces our plants’ travel time and the risk of damage, but the feedback we receive from seedling research and the advice and support we receive on crop development is critical to improving our crop quality. Having direct access to the packhouse has also improved our efficiency tremendously.”

The company currently employs 33 full-time employees including junior and senior managers who are formally trained in agriculture, horticulture and quality control. The team also includes 26 general workers, many of whom have had no former experience in undercover farming and have been up-skilled by McFair Holdings to meet the requirements of the operations and are continuously trained and mentored on-site. An additional 10 seasonal workers are called in when needed.

Commenting on this business milestone Chairperson of the Board of Dube TradePort Corporation, Dr Bridgette Gasa, said: “We congratulate McFair Holdings on its first harvest out of Dube AgriZone. McFair Holdings epitomises, in every way, the type of local business that Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone and Dube AgriZone in particular, envisioned. Not only did the company meet the stringent but imperative criteria for commercial sustainability, but they also represent the growing number of black-owned agri-businesses and black industrialists on whose shoulders the future economic growth of our country depends. The tremendous potential for businesses like McFair Holdings to create and sustain jobs within our current depressed employment environment, and to stimulate interest in investment and trade within our region, deserves our sincere commitment and ongoing support.”

Nxumalo added “Our first priority is to make our current operations viable and self-sustainable but then we definitely intend scaling, and scaling fast. This growth has been thanks to the support we have received from our funding partners Sefa and our banking partner ABSA. We are currently negotiating on a piece of land for open-field farming of other fresh produce that we intend using in a range of frozen vegetable that will be packaged under our own brands. The plan is to export globally.”