Volunteering her way to success

SA Graan/Grain editorial team
Published: 2 July 2024

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June’s hero: Gugulethu Mahlangu

Gugulethu Mahlangu is the June winner in the Grain SA/­John Deere My Hero series. She was nominated by Dr Garth Cambray.

Agripreneur, Gugulethu Mahlangu, is June’s Grain SA/John Deere My Hero winner.

This talented young agripreneur is an experienced aquaponics and aquaculture producer and the CEO of House Harvest. Her podcast called #Farmspaces­Africa is helping young South Africans enter into agriculture as a career and connecting producers from all over Africa. She started the podcast as a hobby, but it has since grown into a formidable platform where a lot of knowledge is shared by experts in different fields of agriculture.

It was her own hunger to learn that set her on the path of becoming a producer. After her studies at the University of Pretoria, she started by volunteering on vegetable farms in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga, where she grew up. The experience she gained gave her the confidence to lease land in Machadodorp where she planted cabbages. Waterlogged soil cost her the crop, but gained her a valuable lesson in getting to know the soil and the climate before planting.

Dr Garth Cambray, who nominated Gugulethu as a hero.

She moved from there to uMzimkhulu in KwaZulu-Natal where she once more planted cabbages on communal land. Again, she lost the harvest, this time due to pests. Another valuable lesson learnt.

Her next stop was a piece of land near Boksburg where she planted spinach in tunnels. At that time, the China Global Television Network visited the farm and wrote a story about her farming endeavours. They erroneously wrote that she was farming by means of aquaponics and soon after the article appeared, a German investment company contacted her to see how they could get involved. They offered her a chance to learn about aquaponics and she has never looked back.

Gugulethu currently leases an aquaponics facility in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape and supplies several restaurants in the area with fresh produce.

In 2023 the ISF World Seed Congress was held in South Africa and she was invited as a guest speaker. This year she was invited as a delegate to be part of the NextGen Ag Impact Network at the ISF World Seed Congress in Rotterdam. Here she networked with leaders in agriculture as well as her peers from all over the world – likeminded passionate, young individuals who are committed to see sustainable agriculture grow in their own communities.

Gugulethu believes that farming is a calling that has shaped her character and continues to do so. It is what she lives and breathes – hopefully for many years to come.