A hops farm on a rooftop in the heart of Joburg? This 32-year-old built that.

Hops is grown in South Africa and harvested once a year in George in Western Cape. But one entrepreneur has found an ingenious way to flip it on its head.

Khaya Maloney (32), pictured here on 20 September 2022, is setting the standard for hydroponic farming in Johannesburg, creating his own hops crop outside of its usual comfort climate. Picture: Katlego Jiyane / Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG – Hops are a key ingredient in brewing beer. One might argue it is the lifeblood of beer manufacturing. Very much like wine grapes, these green leavy cones are geography specific. In South Africa, farmers typically grow and harvest hops in George once a year as the climate conditions are optimal for the crop.

But in the heart of Johannesburg, a vibrant civil engineer and entrepreneur is showing off his science skills to visitors with his successful hydroponic hops farm on the rooftop of Constitution Hill.

Hydroponics are a system of farming without soil. Using a specific nutrient-rich water, Khaya Maloney (32) has been able to grow this soil-needing plant in the middle of the city atop a historical building. Constitution Hill, now a museum, was originally build as a fort and is known as a former prison where both Nelson and Winnie Mandela were incarcerated during apartheid.

“There’s only 402 hectares of hop yards and all hop growers supply to one major conglomerate. That didn’t sit right with me” Says Khaya.

Most craft brewers in South Africa import their hops. Khaya came up with a four-season hop yard concept and is now able supply the need for locally grown fresh hops in an eco-friendly and sustainable way at a reasonable price.
There are many positive implications for food security by growing hops hydroponically. There has been an increase of the price of barley and wheat in June as a result of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Those two countries export nearly a third of the world’s barley and wheat.

Khaya can set his own price for his harvests as he cuts out the middle man and does not rely on imports. In addition to Craft Brewers, Maloney also supplies local chefs in Joburg, as well as cosmetic companies.

Maloney says that he was able to approach state-owned entities for collaboration to scale the business on a farmyard in George within the region of 10 to 40 hectares. He says there are greater opportunities to scale the business further by exporting hops via hydroponic farming.

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