Smart Soilless Farming: A Solution to Africa's Food Insecurity Crisis

The rapid increase in the global population and urbanization over the upcoming years will require an increase of up to 70% in food production. This means that we will need to produce more food with less land and resources to meet this demand. This study brings together two very interesting but very different approaches to fulfil the need for innovative food production systems. The first, hydroponics, an innovative vertical farming method that produces food while optimizing space and water usage. The second approach is the cultivation of African indigenous vegetables (AIVs). AIVs have great environmental benefits due to their ability to grow in semi-arid and arid environments, and their resistance to pests and disease. This study will focus on the cultivation of amaranth, an AIV with great potential to contribute to the diversification of leafy greens, decreasing the level of reliance on major crops to ensure food security. I will assess the difference in biomass and crop quality of amaranth grown conventionally vs hydroponically. Thereafter, I will apply and validate a mass balance model that predicts biomass production of leafy greens in hydroponics. The results of this study will be used to see how plant growth parameters affect the production of amaranth, which will ultimately be used to develop the existing mass balance model, which could be used for the optimization and control of amaranth plants in hydroponics. 




Luyanda Sokhela

BScEng (Civil)