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The start

Hydroponics farming started in South Africa during 1930-1940 when Dutch flower farmers brought their expertise to the country. Finding the climate changes in the country so much different than in the Northern Hemisphere, and also such variables in one country, they concentrated in areas where the least frost appeared as at the time heating systems were too expensive for an entrepreneur.

Some of these who only grew cut flowers at first, then did some trials with tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and lettuce varieties which was grown in a hydroponics system with techniques brought from Holland. Eventually in the later part of the previous century, open land fresh produce farmers visited Spain, Belgium and Holland to acquire in-depth experience of greenhouse farming, using grow media and hydroponics irrigation and fertigation systems.

This lead to a body of experienced and active hydroponics fresh produce and flower farmers being established, called Association for Vegetables Under Protection (AVUP).


Having a publication for developing farmers in South Africa (Nufarmer Africa) and also Cotton SA Katoen for cotton producers, Johan Swiegers keeps close ties with the ARC researchers. In 2003 the Vegetables and Ornamental plants campus offered him editorial content on hydroponics to publish in Nufarmer Africa. No sooner the publication was distributed, when calls were received on further technical information on how to begin with greenhouse farming.

This led him to start Undercover Farming Magazine in 2004, which immediately brought him in contact with local, Dutch, Belgian, British and Israeli suppliers and experts in greenhouse farming. Johan was invited to attend the annual farmer days at Stellenbosch of the AVUP and received up to date technological information for the publication. The unique name ‘Undercover Farming’ was immediately accepted by the industry and today is being used simply to denote ‘farming with hydroponics in greenhouses’ by local and even international publications.