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Nontokozo and Prof Moyo

The newly established Agri-Hub by the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Midlands Entrepreneurship Centre and Student Desk (Centre) recently produced its first set of fresh cucumbers, where 110 units of cucumbers were harvested and supplied to a local food retailer.

This is a great achievement for the hub, situated at DUT’s Indumiso Campus in Pietermaritzburg since it started to take shape when the Centre installed three hydroponic tunnels and its greenhouses last year, in October of 2020.

DUT in partnership with the Agribusiness Development Agency (ADA) and the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) will officially launch this Agri-Hub virtually on Wednesday, 24 February 2020 at 10h00. EDTEA has already committed to donate R2 million towards the Agri-Hub, to assist students to exit into their businesses upon the completion of training and exposure.

Providing background information on the Agri-Hub, DUT Midlands Entrepreneurship Centre and Student Desk Manager, Ms Nontokozo Ngcobo said: “The Agri-Hub is phased into two projects, the first phase which was fully funded by DUT, is a smaller infrastructure that will culminate into a bigger and more commercially structured project. The infrastructure for Phase One has now been completed and is located at the Indumiso Campus on a 700m2 land. The hub has three 5m x 10m Greenhouse Tunnels that are currently being used to grow over 500 trees of cucumbers using the Hydroponic System. Meanwhile the second phase will be made up of both the internal and external funding.”

She said the Agri-Hub seeks to build resilient and profitable agribusinesses within the Midlands area and the KwaZulu-Natal Province at large.

Furthermore, Ngcobo said, the Agri-Hub aims to counteract issues of food security within the community of Imbali and outskirts. This programme is one of the few amongst other programmes that the Centre has initiated, including the One Home One Garden project where the Centre provided over 150 seedlings to the Greater Edendale community members in June 2020.

DUT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, Professor Sibusiso Moyo said one of the things DUT is trying to address by establishing this Agri-Hub is the employability issue and to ensure that DUT graduates leave the university with skills other than the theory they have learnt in the classroom.

“The key point is that after you finish your degree what is it that you can do in order to contribute to the local economy and to your own well-being. This is about creating sustainable livelihoods not just for the students but for the communities where we find ourselves. The cucumbers are already being delivered to the shops. Those who want to buy from the Agri-Hub are welcome. I urge people to please support our students, all the proceedings go back to re-investing in the project,” said Prof Moyo.

A Nursery has also been provided to grow a high demand of seeds of cabbages, onions, carrots, garlic, and spinach that will be sold to staff and nearby markets. The Midlands Entrepreneurship Centre and Student Desk has further recruited 15 students with an interest in the Agriculture field to use the space for practical learning and for growing their skills. Additional training will be provided in collaboration with ADA and EDTEA who will be signing the Memorandum of Understanding at the launch.

The Centre is also determined that their partnership and collaborations, will assist their studentpreneurs to build businesses that will thrive, and build an enduring legacy, once they exit into the external market upon the completion of training.

The Agri-Hub is a step towards encouraging students to pursue entrepreneurship in the agricultural space and assist those who have existing businesses with practical training.

Pictured: DUT Midlands Entrepreneurship Centre and Student Desk Manager, Ms Nontokozo Ngcobo and DUT’s DVC: RIE, Prof Sibusiso Moyo at the Agri-Hub which produces fresh cucumbers.

Picture by: Nkululeko Mbatha

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