Category: Urban Agriculture


TEDxJohannesburg Salon – Hacking the Farm

I will be speaking on the design of situated technology for urban agriculture at the TEDxJohannesburg Salon – Hacking the Farm on March 1 2018.

From :

“The nature, texture, and complexion of the farm are changing. The gates are opening—slowly if not surely—to many who were previously excluded. Land reform promises to deliver tangible justice to those who’ve been deprived for far too long. Human population is projected to reach an astounding 9.7 billion by 2050. Every mouth will need to eat, and do so well. Climate change remains a challenge. But human ingenuity is hard to beat. Strategies and tactics will emerge. They must emerge. Business models are shifting—the farm is transforming into a high performance, high growth enterprise. It’s adding value to crops, turning commodities into products, and moving up the supply chain. The modern farm is a brand, with a USP, and a target audience. It can double-up as a factory, distillery, restaurant, place of learning, or even a wedding venue. Today’s farm is experimenting with new production methods and processes: biotechnology, big data, GPS, drones, robotics, and autonomous systems. Even the adjectives are changing: the farm can now be smart, precise, vertical, lean, organic, hydroponic, aeroponic, or aquaponic.

The farm, like the future, is not what it used to be.

Get ready for TEDxJohannesburgSalon: Hacking the Farm. The event takes place on 1 March 2018,  at Tshimologong Precinct, in Braamfontein. We’re selecting our speakers from a range of farmers, technologists, agronomists, policymakers, entrepreneurs, commodity traders, chefs, restaurateurs, analysts, and activists. Each will take the farm apart, and put it back together again. Collectively, they will give us a perspective on the exciting changes that the farm is going through, as it transforms to meet the demands of a rapidly approaching future.

We’re thrilled that a truly awesome group of speakers have agree to participate. They include the following:

Wandile Sihlobo: Agricultural Economist, Columnist

Gertjan Meeuws (The Netherlands): Horticulture Engineer

Michris Janse van Rensburg: Farmer, Inventor

Emma Naluyima (Uganda): Veterinarian, Smallholder Farmer

Thato Moagi: Agripreneur, Nuffield International Scholar 2017/18

Claire Reid: Inventor, Entrepreneur, Gardener

Joshua C. Ngoma: Serial Entrepreneur

Tola Okunlula: Researcher, Afrika Burner

Jimmy Ka-Botha: Farmer

Mojisola Ojebode (Nigeria) : Biochemist, Social Entrepreneur

Busiso Moyo: Researcher, Food Activist

Matt Purkis: Green Economy Entrepreneur

Tracy Ledger: Author, Food Security Specialist

Brad Meiring: Entrepreneur, Geologist

Naudé Malan: Developmental Studies Researcher

Angus Donald Campbell: Industrial Designer, Design Researcher

Brian Dick: Slow Food Advocate

Michael Rudolph: Professor, Urban Farming Advocate

Thabi Nkosi: Agricultural Economist

Edward Mabaya (Zimbabwe, USA): Agricultural Economist, Academic

Stay tuned for more information. Buy your tickets here.”


The Science of Slow Food

I was interviewed this morning on Radio Today by Gillian Godsell together with my co-researcher Dr. Naudé Malan from Izindaba Zokudla, and collaborators Geoff Green and Brian Dick from Slow Food Johannesburg. I discuss how as an industrial designer I ended up working on urban agricultural projects and how relevant they are for the South African context. You can listen to the 1hr 20min podcast here:


UJ multi-stakeholder project encourages a sustainable food system in Soweto

Izindaba Zokudla (Conversations about Food): Innovation in the Soweto Food System, a multi-stakeholder engagement research project, co-headed by Dr Naudé Malan of Department of Anthropology and Development Studies (UJ) and Mr Angus Campbell of the Department of Industrial Design (UJ), will launch its first farmers school at the University’s of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus on Saturday, 16 May 2015.

“In 2013, a series of workshops identified the need for increased training and knowledge generation for urban farmers and food producers. This is an important aspect of a sustainable food system. Food, and in particular its distribution and transportation, is a key contributor to climate change and we aim to counter this with the establishment of local food economies that produces food close to where it is consumed,” says Dr Malan.

He stressed that the creation of a local economy also holds potential to conserve and reinvest capital in our townships and this holds promise for an alternative approach to economic development that benefits food security.

The Izindaba Zokudla project is a joint initiative by the University’s Department of Anthropology; Department of Development Studies; Department of Industrial Design; Department of Business Management (Soweto programmes); Department of Graphic Design; Department of Multimedia Design; Department of Strategic Communications (Public Relations); the City of Johannesburg: Directorate Food Resilience; Region D Farmers forum; and the Meadowlands Agriculture Forum.

The project, a free service offered (with limited space) to all farmers in Soweto, started with urban farmers and gardeners in Soweto and is aimed at resource-poor, emergent, established and commercial urban farmers.

In 2015, the intended focus is on horticulture, developing appropriate technology and on establishing networks that can assist in developing viable and sustainable food enterprises.

Farmers can register for the Farmers’ School online.

Details of the Izindaba Zokudla: Farmers’ School Launch

Date: Saturday 16 May 2015

Venue: University of Johannesburg (UJ) Soweto Campus (SWC), Chris Hani Road Orlando

Time: 10h00-16h00

An exhibition by: UJ Industrial Design on Participatory Technology Development, UJ Graphic Design for Social Change, ENACTUS: Small Enterprise Development, UJ Community Engagement, City of Johannesburg Food Resilience Policies.

More information on the Izindaba Zokudla project:

Original article source:


The Open Source Seed Intitiative

I have just completed reading Lisa Hamilton’s aptly titled article, Linux for Lettuce, in VQR: A National Journal of Literature and Discussion. The article explores the beginnings of the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) by a handful of practical farming academics and plant breeders in reaction to companies like Monsanto and their unscrupulous race to patent life.

 Fueled by both frustration and outrage, Myers, Morton, and Goldman helped establish a subtly radical group called the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) in 2012. Operating under the radar, its mission was to reestablish free exchange by creating a reservoir of seed that couldn’t be patented—“a national park of germplasm,” Goldman called it. By 2013, the group had two dozen members, several of them distinguished plant breeders from public universities across the country.

OSSI’s de facto leader is Jack Kloppenburg, a social scientist at the University of Wisconsin who has been involved with issues concerning plant genetic resources since the 1980s. He has published widely about the concept behind OSSI, and his words are now echoed (even copied verbatim) by public plant-breeding advocates in Germany, France, and India. As he explains it, for most of human history, seeds have naturally been part of the commons—those natural resources that are inherently public, like air or sunshine. But with the advent of plant-related intellectual property and the ownership it enables, this particular part of the commons has become a resource to be mined for private gain. Thus the need for a protected commons—open-source seed. Inspired by open-source software, OSSI’s idea is to use “the master’s tools” of intellectual property, but in ways the master never intended: to create and enforce an ethic of sharing.” 

Please take the time to read what is a very well written and informative article on the issues of plant patents versus seed sovereignty.



Innovation in Food, Ag and Integrated Resource Systems

Workshop: Innovation in Food, Agriculture and Integrated Resource  Systems: Creating Sustainable Opportunities in Soweto

Presenters: Sander Mager and Dr. Christopher Peterson

Facilitator: Dr. Naudé Malan

When: Thursday 5 June 2014 11:00 – 17:00 Where: VIP Lounge , University of Johannesburg Soweto Campus , Chris Hani Road

South Africa is not unique in facing social, environmental and economic challenges. To address these three successfully would require innovative solutions that bring together state agencies and departments, non-governmental organisations and private enterprises. Two leading experts in the creation of sustainable enterprises will in this workshop share their experience of addressing these challenges. Dr. Christopher Peterson and Sander Mager are leading the creation of the Global Innoversity which is an innovation accelerator aimed at inspiring and supporting the world’s metropolitan regions in developing and sharing innovations in food, agriculture and integrated resource systems.

The workshop will share the methods used and experiences gained in creating ecological, social and economically sustainable enterprises and innovations in the food system from the Netherlands and Michigan USA. These methods and experiences inform the current work of the Global Innoversity which is a self-sustaining global program for mutual action learning on metropolitan agriculture in, between and for the metropolitan regions of the world. Its goal is to successfully develop, share and implement a globally acknowledged ‘methodology’ for developing metropolitan agriculture in innovation clusters in metropolitan regions. It aims at multi-stakeholder cooperation and innovation and a new approach to transdisciplinary and participative knowledge development. Sander Mager will present the experiences gained from working for TransForum in the Netherlands, which preceded the Global Innoversity. TransForum is a public/private consortium that has invested €60 Million in more than 100 projects that demonstrated tangible results by improving the 3P (People/social, Planet/ecological, and Profit/economic) dimensions of sustainable metropolitan agrifood systems.

Dr. Christopher Petersen is the Director of the MSU Product Center Food-Ag-Bio that stimulates and develops business innovation and economic growth through business counselling, in‐depth market analysis and technical assistance for new entrepreneurs and existing businesses.

Brought to you by Izindaba Zokudla: Innovation in the Soweto Food System; Design Society Development & the Global Innoversity for MetroFood/Ag


World Without Fences

Will Allen CEO of Growing Power, Milwaukee, “I have worked with community gardening projects that don’t do a good enough job of involving the garden’s neighbours.”We’ve got to put up a fence to protect our garden,” people will say.  I tell them no, you don’t. You have to do the harder work of engaging the community. You’ve got to make sure the neighbours know that the garden is their own, not yours. Kids in the neighborhood threw rocks at my greenhouses when I first opening in 1993, but they stopped several months after my arrival.  I had not retaliated or chased them away. Instead, I invited the young people to come and see what we were doing. I gave them summer jobs. Neighbours started respecting the fact that I was bringing food into the community. They started being eyes and ears for me. The community felt ownership in our shared success. In order to build a new food system, we’re going to need a world without fences. We all have a responsibility to work together. We need everyone at the table. We’re going to need black and white, young and old, rich and poor. We’re going to need university folks who can study and foster new organic techniques. We’re going to need politicians who can help create an easier political environment and public space for a local food system. We need entrepreneurs who can create niche food products and graphic designers who can create packaging. We’re going to need planners who design inner-city neighborhoods with the idea of food security in mind. We’re going to need educators and nutritionists who teach people the benefits of healthy food. We’re going to need architects who can retrofit old warehouses and greenhouses to the new purpose of growing food. We need contractors. Composers. Plumbers. Not least, we’re going to need a new generation of farmers.” Allen, W & Wilson, C. 2012. The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities. Reprint, New York: Gotham Books, 2013: p. 236.


Webcast: Finding a Focus for MetroAg/MetroFood: An Analysis of the Johannesburg Food System

Please join Dr. Naude Malan and myself on Monday at 14:30 (South African time) as we present a webcast exploring the Johannesburg food system and the focus of our MetroAg/Food research. You can find a printable and distributable flyer here (please ignore my position at UJ, I am in fact Senior Lecturer in the Department of Industrial Design)… If you missed the webcast you can find a recording of it here.


Global Innoversity for MetroAg/MetroFood

For a visual, textual and sound experience of my trip last week to Detroit please go to the Global Innoversity’s rebelmouse page (with thanks to Dr. Christine Geith for setting it all up and filming/interviewing us as we travelled around Detroit). The result of the meeting/workshop/brainstorm is a very dedicated group of academics from around the world all passionate about setting up local multistakeholder coalitions (education, government, communities and business) to work on accelerating innovations in food, agriculture and integrated resource systems in the world’s metropolitan regions. #innoversity #foodlab all images copyright Angus Donald Campbell



Noordgesig Farmers

On the 23 of January 2013 Dr Naudé Malan, Kyle Brand and I visited a second group of urban farmers who grow vegetables in Noordgesig, on the southern outskirts of Soweto. Their ingenious solutions to technological problems was exceptional, my favourite example was the farmers’ use of old mattress spring substructures as fencing for crop security. The ingenuity of such a choice was the ease of access to old mattresses and the fact that the spring substructure worked as a good fence preventing crop theft but without the risk of the metal being stolen for scrap. All images copyright Angus Donald Campbell.


Rainbow Nation Farmers

On the 14 of February 2013 Dr Naudé Malan, Kyle Brand and I visited a group of farmers called the Rainbow Nation Farmers in Nancefield on the southern outskirts of Soweto. This is a large farm (almost 1 hectare) on government leased land where the group have been supported by the Joburg Municipality and the Gauteng Department of Agriculture for over 11 years. We went there to meet Lerato from the Joburg Municipalities Mayoral Food Security Committee to discuss the current status of the farmers, which was far from satisfactory. As can been seen in the photographs the electric fence provided by the government to protect crops has been stolen over time by youth who sell the scrap metal for money, this has now lead to rampant crop theft in the unsecured property. In addition all the electricity isolator switches have been stolen from various power boxes, bypassing the farmers’ ingenious welded locks, by the izinyokanyoka or snakes; this term is directly translated from Zulu and is a South African term used to described the people who setup illegal electricity connections in informal settlements. The lack of power has lead to the farmers needing to manually carry water from their homes because their borehole pumps no longer operate. On top of the local theft of resources from the farmers, the government are in desperate need of land to expand a nearby cemetery and if the farmers cannot prove their farm productive, will lose their lease at the end of the year! All images copyright Angus Donald Campbell.