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Launch of rooftop farm at iconic Kenilworth Centre

Redefine Properties has unveiled the first retail urban rooftop farm to be established in the Western Cape – right on top of Kenilworth Centre, a popular regional shopping mall in the heart of the southern suburbs.

Rooftop farming is a relatively new concept in South Africa, and the HandPicked CityFarm at Kenilworth Centre, which is being developed in partnership with the Mr Price Foundation’s HandPicked programme and other key partners, aims to create community-based informal economic opportunities for unemployed youth and promote local food security.

The launch was attended by Cape Town Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and other key delegates from government as well as partners and the community.

Cape Town Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis cutting the ribbon.

The project is structured so that Redefine Properties will donate use of the space to the HandPicked programme, with income generated by the farm used to fund the project. Other key partners include Fresh Life Produce and SA Urban Food & Farming Trust/Oranjezicht City Farm.

“Our aim is to create a meaningful and sustainable long-term solution to tackle youth unemployment and, in turn, food security in our immediate community area. We believe this project will set an example for how landlords can change the way retail properties are managed and developed so that lives, communities and the environment are impacted positively,” says Anelisa Keke, Chief sustainability officer at Redefine.

Over the last 45 years, Kenilworth Centre has been developed and grown into one of Cape Town’s most iconic community shopping malls.

Solar energy is becoming more affordable and the advancement in batteries and technology has resulted in Kenilworth Centre shopping centre going partially off the grid. 

“Our purpose is to create and manage spaces in a way that changes lives. This rooftop farm is a great example of those values in action and will, among other benefits, create employment opportunities through the daily operation of the project, ensuring the effective management of the produce and space,” says Leon Kok, Redefine’s Chief operating officer.

The project will include a skills development programme that educates youth on how to develop an agricultural business in an urban environment, through a partnership with the Mr Price Foundation’s HandPicked programme, its training partner SA Urban Food & Farming Trust/Oranjezicht City Farm, and the Black City Farm Project based in Langa.

Project beneficiaries will be sourced from the Langa community. Two unemployed young people from Langa will be upskilled each month, totalling 24 young people over a 12-month period. Thereafter, they will be provided with the resources to set up and run their own productive entrepreneurial urban farms in their backyards.

iChilli le Langa will utilise the offtake of certain crops, such as chillies, in the production of its sauce range, creating an opportunity for the home growers to generate revenue and move from consumers to producers.

The project also plans to donate fresh produce to two/three local NGOs each month or a minimum of 10 per year.

Mall restaurants will be able to purchase fresh vegetables directly from the farm, saving the considerable expense of transport fees. A kiosk or pop-store (as available) in the mall will be allocated to sell produce to customers in order to generate additional income for the farm.

The HandPicked CityFarm will utilise a South African-developed system called the African Grower. This robust, easy-to-use, modular vertical garden comprises multiple growing pods stacked on top of one another. These towers are suspended, making it pest resilient, and coconut coir is used as a water-efficient growing medium. The system promotes increased production, as each African Grower tower, which houses 16 to 24 plants, occupies the same footprint as a person standing. This gives the project the advantage of increased production in a small space using vertical growing practices.

Louis-Gillis Janse van Rensburg from Fresh Life Produce explain decentralised home farming hubs.
Kenilworth Rooftop Farm in progress. Image:

“At Redefine, we are entrenching ESG into everything we do through an integrated approach to making strategic choices that will sustain value creation for all stakeholders. We are extremely proud to launch the HandPicked CityFarm at Kenilworth Centre as an example of this approach in action, where the Kenilworth Centre value proposition not only benefits the environment through other on-site initiatives but also people and communities,” concludes Keke.

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