As a young girl from the small farming town of Grabouw, agriculture moved into focus very early on in my childhood through my father who worked in the industry all his life. Upon completing school, I was inspired by my mother’s entrepreneurial spirit to approach the famers in the area to fund my tertiary education. Renowned winemaker and neurosurgeon, Dr Paul Cluver, was the philanthropist who assisted me to study at Stellenbosch University.
At Stellenbosch University, I completed a Bachelors in Agriculture (Viticulture & Oenology) followed by an Honours in Oenology. While working on my Honours, I received a call about an opportunity at The South African Breweries in their hop breeding programme.
The historical significance of hops and the unique manner of cultivating the crop in South Africa sparked a love affair early on in my career. The years flew by as soon as I started working on the breeding programme. Ten years later I was proud to be part of the team which released three new highly sought after flavour varieties, a first in South Africa since the industry had until then only focused on bittering hops.
These three new flavour hop varieties are exciting, niche, and very special. Southern Passion boasts flavours of passion fruit, gooseberries and sweet fruits, whereas African queen has higher concentrations of alpha acids with a beautiful balance of sweet fruits, citrusy notes and a hint of chili. Southern Aroma is our true African noble aromatic variety, low in bitterness but with all the good qualities of an aroma variety.
Climatically George is suited to hop production but some conditions are not ideal. The optimum latitude for hop production is 45°- 54° north and south of the equator. George is situated at 34° south, and mild winters and three hours shorter daylength than the ideal. These unique climatic requirements of hops and the fact that it’s not an indigenous plant led me to register for a master’s degree focusing on production processes that could increase hop yield production under our local conditions.
Apart from leading the hops breeding program, I was involved in working on malt and barley across the African continent including countries such as South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, assisting with the strategy for the different malt plants as well as driving operational excellence.
I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart, and my dream was to live the farm life and play a leading role in the societal challenges that we face in agriculture. Measuring success not only on short term gains but driving long term positive change in the farming community around me. Last year that very opportunity came my way when a hop farm came up for sale and the Awethu Project and SAB offered to assist me as part of their enterprise and supplier development project.
At Zelpy, we have strategies focusing on: