Title: Transcript of Interview with Eleazer Strachan, Urban Veggies
Presented by: Emmanuel van der Meulen
Guest Speaker: Eleazer Strachan (Oz)
Date: 29th May 2017
Number of Speakers: 2
File Duration: 28:54
Transcriptionist: Jacqui Jonk
Links are at the end of the transcript.
Transcript Break Down:
00:08 Introduction to Radio Live Green Smart.
02:08 Introduction to Hydroponics.
03:13 Why does hydroponics work so well?
05:01 Introduction to Urban Veggies.
08:50 How did Urban Vegetables start?
13:03 Why hydroponics as opposed to other growing methods?
16:02 Where can people get such systems?
17:08 What does the future hold for Urban Veggies?
19:36 Any limitations to the systems?
20:45 What are the different systems Urban Veggies offers?
24:31 Tell us a bit more about your employment project?
27:25 Wrap Up.
Emmanuel: Welcome to Radio Live Green Smart and to our discussion on hydroponics and the development of organic urban gardens using grow systems. You are more than welcome to call us on +27 that’s South Africa, 082 651 4273 or on Skype, Emmanuel.van.der.Meulen. I’ll read that to you again (NATO phonetic spelling follows) and the lines are open, you are more than welcome to phone with anything, any questions related to green, green consciousness etc. I am your host Emmanuel.
And some back ground on Radio Live Green Smart, it’s a forum to discuss green living and eco-friendly living and everything related to eco or green living. And importantly it’s a forum to discuss disrespect to the environment first hand, bring that to us and we will take it further and assist with the environmental disrespect, use the contact us on the website, please provide clear information. Top
Now to tonight’s discussion, hydroponics. The word hydroponics comes from the Latin and means working water. Simply it’s the art of growing plants without soil. When most people think of hydroponics they think of plants grown with their roots suspended into water with no growing medium. This is just 1 type of hydroponic gardening known as nutrient film technique, there are several variations of nutrient film technique used around the world and it is a very popular method of growing hydroponically. What most people don’t realise is that there are countless methods and variations of hydroponic gardening, tonight we will explore some variations as we delve into the topic. Top
That’s simple, if you give a plant exactly what it needs, when it needs it in the amount it needs it the plant will be as healthy as genetically possible. With hydroponics, this is an easy task, with soil it’s a lot more difficult. With hydroponics, the plants are grown in an inert growing medium and a perfectly balanced pH adjusted nutrient solution is delivered to the roots in a highly soluble form. This allows the plant to uptake its food with very little effort as opposed to soil where the roots must search out the nutrients and extract them, faster better growth and much greater yields are just some of the many reasons that hydroponics is being adapted around the world for commercial food production as well as growing a number of home gardeners. Ozzie who is the owner of Urban Veggies will give us some more information on this very interesting topic. He will tell us about different grow systems and his vision for hydroponics in an urban area setting. Welcome Ozzie to our radio Live Green Smart interview and discussion.
Ozzie: Thank you, thanks for having me.
Emmanuel: You are more than welcome; would you like to give us a small introduction of yourself and the company Urban Veggies. Top
Ozzie: [Ah] yes sure, [um] we basically Urban Veggies, I’m Ozzie, I’m from the Free State so [uh] what happens is I moved to the city where there’s not a lot of space to grow anything. If you on the 14th floor of a metropolitan building you would still be able to grow anything you want, veggies and flowers and whatever you want [um] we just using the principal of growing it directly into the water instead of growing it into your normal soil [inaudible]. So, coming from the Free State I decided veggies are my passion so I started a company called Urban Veggies where I actually designed the systems and like you mentioned you get a nutrient film solution system and then you get a deep water culture and there’s a couple of other ones but I’ve combined those 2 specifically to produce the best quality of veggies and the quickest growth without any chemicals, just using organic chemicals to produce the veggies and that’s where Urban Veggies basically comes from and started from.
Emmanuel: Ok Ozzie, thank you, can I just [uh] ask that you maybe speak a little bit closer to the phone, you are coming through but [uh] it could be a little bit clearer.
Ozzie: [uh] yes is that better?
Emmanuel: That’s better, yes. Ok, so me being vegetarian and wanting to grow veggies at home are you saying that this would be, give me more [more] advantages of just planting it in soil is that what you saying?
Ozzie: [uh] yes, your production is a lot bigger in quantity, let’s say spinach would be taking about 6-9 months to grow up to a stage where you would be able to harvest (Emmanuel can be heard agreeing in the background) with hydroponics you would be able to get the same results in a time span of about 3 months so automatically that is [its] a lot quicker.
Ozzie: And also, that would help with putting your nutrients in, which is an organic nutrient, helping your plant grow and that would actually be in a controlled environment where you see every day, where you actually sit every day and see ok your veggies are growing very well and you don’t need pesticides because there’s movement and there’s people around. And your nutrients also include [inaudible] supply it contains a garlic sub strain and from there on it also repels insects and bugs that would normally eat and harm your vegetables.
Emmanuel: I [I] see, when you say in a controlled environment are you saying that it should like be in a green house, or in what sense do you mean a controlled environment?
Ozzie: A controlled environment is where you still have your natural sun but it’s not out in the fields where you have other bushes and other plants that would actually work against attracting certain insects. So, let’s say if you are growing spring onion and lettuce together you won’t get the aphids that you would normally get on lettuce cause with spring onion the flavour and the scent would use a natural cure of getting away from all the aphids going onto your lettuce. Top
Emmanuel: Ok, very interesting. Right, so coming back to another point, [um] how did Urban Vegetables start?
Ozzie: Well [uh] I was staying in a small space with only a little balcony and still the cost of veggies has gone up, use tomatoes, in the last couple of years you could buy a bag for R2,50 and it increased up to R6-R7 at that stage and I just decided [ok] I’ll save a bit of money and grow my own tomatoes and lettuce which is basic [basic] sandwich ingredients which would already save you quite a bit of shopping and that hassle of Oh, I’ve run out so I’m going to have to run to the store. What I had done was just walk outside get from my balcony and made myself a sandwich so that’s one of the reasons I started the whole company as well. Then I had a friend who was a plumber and he said no, let’s put a certain type of piping together and have a whole system running. So, I designed the system around 2 systems using an idea that already existed [uh] this one you can actually run on solar panels and without any hassles just plug it in, put your water in and leave it to grow.
Emmanuel: Oh you mean the solar panel is [is uh is] connected to the water pump or where does the solar panel fit into it?
Ozzie: The solar panel actually connects to your water pump (Emmanuel says Ok) and having your veggies in water you would need oxygenation so a lot of the oxygen would come from either the plants or something that produces air or oxygenates [um] but in this case because your root is underneath the water where there is not a lot of air your solar panel would just power your pump, your water pump and aircon for you.
Emmanuel: Ok, so that means [um] even the cost, small cost of electricity is saved in this way?
Ozzie: That’s also saved yes, and for your nutrients, you don’t have to buy nutrients, I also supply just basically a kitchen scrap bucket [um] which produces a worm tea, many people know about the worm tea and that [uh] and that [that] is enough nutrients in a well-balanced area where your water flows permanently and as soon as the sun comes up then your water gets aerated and you add a bit of the nutrients and make sure your veggies are happy.
Emmanuel: Yes, I understand so just by the way [uh] seeing as we are slowly [slowly] going international with Radio Live Green Smart how do you get you product to customers at this stage?
Ozzie: At this stage, basically my product comes in a box already so what happens is you place your order [um] its either online or you can email me directly and I already have a box of products you can just give me your address and Ill post that one for you. The postage is about R150-R200 but if you order it, it comes to your door either via courier or post, you can collect it at the post office or have it delivered to your door or office or wherever.
Emmanuel: Ok, understood. So, international it won’t [it won’t] be a problem?
Ozzie: It won’t be a problem going internationally.
Emmanuel: Ok, Ozzie so far it sounds very [very] interesting, I think my wife is missing out on a very interesting topic so [uh] rest assured we will have another talk. And then just going further, we’ve more or less covered this but maybe you want to add to why hydroponics as opposed to other growing methods? Top
Ozzie: Well the basic idea of hydroponics is quite [quite] nice cause it doesn’t matter where you stay or if there’s soil around or whatever you need to grow a normal plant, with your hydroponics you can basically put a system up and know exactly OK, in just 2 weeks I’ll be able to harvest from this plant and then start producing your next one already. You can basically cycle your plants so you always have food around the year, so certain seasons you grow a couple of different things so let’s say in winter lettuces and in summer you just use summer lettuces so you always have lettuce and the greens you mostly use. If you put a bigger system up there’s more variety of different veggies, the smaller systems are for something that would be a small system and you know you eat a lot of spring onions then you know you have spring onions all year or you have whatever veggies you are prefer the whole year. Anthe maintenance, there’s no maintenance really and with a normal plant you add water every second day or every second day but in this case you just plug it in and come back to harvest. You make sure your plant is still growing but there’s no physical effort. I went away for 3 months [inaudible] and when I came back the only problem was the harvesting, it was amazing.
Emmanuel: Ok, and [and] the seeds and I get that I need seeds but can I start off with small plants or do I need seeds for your system?
Ozzie: You can start off with both of them [um] I recommend for quick growing rather go to your local nursery and see what they have, they would also know what’s in season and they will stock what’s in season so you can just basically take from there and add that into your system if you taking seeds it might take a week or 2 or a little bit longer.
Emmanuel: I see, ok right, this is sounding more and more interesting. I suppose I can [I can] grow plants like that as well?
Ozzie: You can grow plants like that as well.
Emmanuel: Ok, what about fruit trees? I suppose I’m stretching it too far now?
Ozzie: [um] I managed to successfully grow a couple of fruit trees, for some or other reason [inaudible] figs very well, unfortunately after the season the fig tree dies out.
Emmanuel: Ok, so it’s not impossible?
Ozzie: It’s not impossible, I think we still have to look into that a bit more but let’s say for a mission to Mars, that’s 1 way of thinking about it. Top
Emmanuel: (Chuckles) Definitely, yes, for sure. So, you’ve now mentioned where [where] people can get such systems [uh] so we’d have to explore that a little bit more but you have mentioned where in principal, we will cover the contact details shortly.
Ozzie: Yes, there’s also a website available if you log onto urbanveggies.co.za and there’s a Facebook page as well and that will give you all the details also gives you a couple of nice phots and a bit of an idea of what the system looks like it’s got a very organic feel and it blends in basically a wooden look.
Emmanuel: Excellent and you said its Urban Veggies, one word.co.za.
Emmanuel: And its veggies (spelt out).
Ozzie: Yes Top
Emmanuel: Ok, interesting, and what would you say the future holds for Urban Veggies? Are we going to Mars with it?
Ozzie: Um hopefully we taking a proper sample with (chuckles).
Emmanuel: OK, that sounds excellent. But from your point of view, what does the future hold?
Ozzie: [um] with everything [inaudible] with the equilibrium has been thrown out a little and this would allow you to constantly know you have fresh veggies on your balcony and in your house, we can also install growing cupboards and it just opens so many doors [um] to be self-sustainable in a way where you can walk to your cupboard instead of having a fridge with veggies in it that’s already been cut, you still have your cupboard with veggies that you can cut from and you know tomorrow I’ll come back and they’ll still be growing and they’ll still be edible without having to worry that you’ve bought a bag of spinach and in 2 weeks’ time you have you buy another 1 now you have a little plantation in your cupboard so in the future I think it’s going to be very [inaudible] good.
Emmanuel: It certainly sounds that way, as a cost saver as well. Cost saver, resource saver, the whole lot. Ozzie on your website urbanveggies.co.za so 2 things that I would just like to ask about; do you there describe how your system works, all the things we’ve been discussing and you have an easy purchasing system on your website?
Ozzie: I do have an EFT system and PayPal and pay links as well (Emmanuel in the background Ok) which comes directly onto me so if you order today in 2 days, 3 days depending on post you’ll have your system right by your doorstep and there’s also explanations, little video clips on showing you what to plant, and with your system you’ll get a growing tip guide which will tell you Ok, spinach is an all year plant, watercress is a summer grower and lettuce is a winter grower so you have all your details to get you sorted and start it up. Top
Emmanuel: Yeah, and any limitations of what I can’t grow in your system?
Ozzie: My specific systems, unfortunately potatoes, any root veg which is a hard-underground root veg, you won’t be able to grow, but we grew carrots a lot of other things you would be able to. Onions do very well with my systems, beetroot and radish, anything that is on top of the soil but still in the soil directly.
Emmanuel: I understand yeah.
Ozzie: Limitations, unfortunately potatoes which I know are a staple in Ireland [inaudible].
Emmanuel: And I suppose I can even grow rice in it? Or am I pushing it a bit?
Ozzie: You can definitely grow rice.
Emmanuel: Ok, that’s interesting and [and] on your website or in your kit, I’m not sure what you call it – the product, do you [uh] have instructions of how I set it up and how much space I need and so on? Top
Ozzie: I normally deal with 3 different systems. The first little system is basically a plug and place where you add your water, it’s got a little instruction that says hey ok you need to put 7.5 litres of water in there and this amount of nutrients and just add a plug and then basically let it grow so it runs off electricity. The other one is a mountable system so it comes with all the instructions of how to mount it on the wall. The third one I call a herb planter, which grows 6 herb plants and is idea for something in the kitchen or something outside of the kitchen, where the others grow 24 plants and then I also have a 12 planter which is designed for more bigger veggies or like I say spinach and a little bit more not only compared to something you would use for instance parsley and you cut out some of it and it will still grow for a couple of years afterwards. The bigger one is basically designed for plants that you cut out and reuse [reuse] the space to grow another plant in there.
Emmanuel: So [um] and your website and the package that arrives at my door step describes all of this even for a novice how to get started and so on?
Ozzie: Even for a novice if you have no clue what’s going on (Emmanuel says that’s fantastic in the background) have a look on the website and that will give you all the information we do.
Emmanuel: Ozzie I’d like to (Ozzie interrupts).
Ozzie: Yes, I am also opening a shop which would be selling complete products so you can come in and have a chat with me, I’m in Melville.
Emmanuel: Oh, so you just around the corner, you moved from the Free State?
Ozzie: I’ve moved from the Free State, I’m in Johannesburg.
Emmanuel: Oh, so we can come and visit your shop? You have opened your shop, or you in the process of opening it?
Ozzie: At the moment, I’m busy with the shop fitting so what I will be supplying is you can come in and buy a grow system, buy the nutrients and buy any extras and add ons you need and then I’ll also, I’ve got a little hydro farm so you can also buy your fresh veggies from me.
Emmanuel: I see, so it’s a all in 1 shop?
Ozzie: It’s a all in 1, I’m all about veggies.
Emmanuel: Yeah, very [very] nice just by the way, it’s got nothing to do with me but are you by any chance vegetarian?
Ozzie: [uh] no [no, no] I do eat meat.
Emmanuel: Oh ok [ok] that was just being curious. Ozzie [um] just the nutrients this is the second the though just occurred to me, these nutrients do you have to get them from you, can you get them from anywhere? Are they safe?
Ozzie: [uh] they are 100% safe [um] you get a couple of different ones, you get the organic ones which is basically made from plant materials and [inaudible] the you do get other companies that do have more chemical nutrients ones which are made from chemicals mixed with organic materials and then we also have [vino?] well some of my vegan customers they’ve asked me for not having something like a [inaudible] emulsion which you would buy from Mica or a local nursery and you would be able to use that as well but some people prefer using organic 100% organic veggies. Top
Emmanuel: Yeah, it certainly makes sense. I’m curious about your, just moving on [um] I’m curious about your employment project, can you tell us a bit more about that?
Ozzie: What I’ve recently started is [uh], I’ve seen a lot of unemployed people alongside the road [inaudible] so what I’ve done is created a platform for them [um] what I’ve decided to do is hand them a couple of seeds some small seed packets, you can see the man on the Facebook profile I have and you’ll know today he is selling a certain type of seed and I donate all the seed to him and that helps him make a living and he can buy his bread for the day.
Emmanuel: [yew] that sounds very interesting, all the best with that project.
Ozzie: It’s going to be interesting.
Emmanuel: And it surely sounds win-win to Urban Veggies and also to the [to the] person you basically employ now.
Ozzie: [uh] yes, it’s basic employment and the more he sells, the more he earns. Some of the guys are standing on the street corners for weeks in and weeks out, we all know them and we give them a rand or 5 every now and then and you know next time he might not be there but mostly the ones that are always there I’ve come to know them so we’ll be able to start with the basic guys and from there on hopefully we getting to a bigger [inaudible] with that and helping my fellow man up.
Emmanuel: Yeah, that’s very interesting. Well there’s another side to it also that it might [it might] raise interest with them and they could then feed themselves with a nutritious meal.
Ozzie: That could also be a good idea.
Emmanuel: I mean certainly that will become interested in this and maybe even at home no matter where they stay they can set up 1 of your systems.
Emmanuel: Maybe it’s a bit farfetched, but I am sure it’s not impossible.
Ozzie: I don’t think it’s impossible. Top
Emmanuel: Ok, very interesting and well done and all the best.
Ozzie: Well thank you very much and thanks for the opportunity.
Emmanuel: Ok, anything else from your side? We reaching the end of the discussion now. Anything else from your side that we missed that you would like to add?
Ozzie: No, I can’t think of anything at the moment, but if there’s any questions give me a call or email, all my details are on Urbanveggies.co.za.
Emmanuel: Ok, first class, and I certainly would like us to discuss [uh] get together on the radio and discuss something else, some other topic in depth and maybe you can give is a feedback on your employment project for a future discussion.
Ozzie: Yes 100%.
Emmanuel: So that was Ozzie from Urban Veggies. Ozzie thank you very [very] much for interesting information [um] it’s an eye opener for me and I am sure that this is something for the future.
Ozzie: Oh, definitely.
Emmanuel: Yeah, thank you again.
Ozzie: Thanks, have a good evening.
Ozzie: I will do.
We reaching the end now, I’m your host Emmanuel and over to the music, enjoy.
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