Clair Reid CEO of Reel Gardening and winner of the Global Agripreneur Awards with Gauteng Premier David Makhura

Improving water sustainability and boosting food security have become critical in the current drought environment facing South Africa and its neighbors. Harnessing these crucial factors in new agricultural methodologies has become important, and proved to be a winning formula for a young South African innovator.

Claire Reid, founder of Reel Gardening (Pty) Ltd, a start-up business specialising in hand-made vegetable seeds, herbs and planting products earned a top international award developing a simple gardening technique that improves water sustainability, while also boosting food security.

Miss Reid’s company received the Global Agripreneurs Award recently in the Future Agro Challenge, beating a total of 50 entrepreneurs from over 30 countries. Reel Gardening was chosen among eight finalists from Colombia, Chad, Peru, Germany, India, Uganda and Netherlands and this innovation stands to empower communities to grow their organic vegetables.

The competition was the highlight of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC), an inter-disciplinary gathering of start-up champions from more than 150 countries. Delegates represent distinct components of their entrepreneurial ecosystems and are focused on how best to help entrepreneurs start and scale new companies.

Supported by the Department of Science and Technology, Reel Gardening aims to create sustainable subsistence gardens in the country. It provides consumers with pre-fertilized strips, taking the fuss out of gardening, as the biodegradable paper already anchors the seeds at the correct depth and distance apart. The kit also offers planting instructions in seven languages.

Miss Reid said the benefits of planting the ‘reel way’ could save up to 80% in water consumption and the product contained top quality natural seed and fertilizer.

Reel Gardening has used this pilot project to supply no-fee-paying schools, homes, community centres and churches to plant and to use yields for feeding schemes and feeding community members who require assistance.

Miss Reid started the project in 2002, when she was only 16, making seed strips with newspaper and encased seeds using paste made from flour and liquid fertilizer. This craft type project was entered into the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists in 2002 to gain her some extra marks in science in Grade 10.

She has also developed a mobile application to support communities throughout their planting journey. The app records exactly which seeds have to be planted and reminds users when to water.

“You will learn everything you need to know about vegetable gardening by watching a series of short animated videos over four month growing cycle”, she said.

The DST hosted the Agripreneurs Award in partnership with USAID, Sweden through the Swedish International Development Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Netherlands who are partners in the Securing Water for Food (SWFF) grand challenge for development. It is a partnership that seeks to identify and accelerate science and technology innovations and market-driven approaches that improve water sustainability to boost food security and ultimately alleviate poverty.

The goal of the agriculture challenge is to enable the production of more food with less water and/or make more water available for food production, processing, and distribution.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, DST's Deputy Director-General: Socio-economic Innovation Partnerships, Imraan Patel, congratulated the winner, saying that it would encourage more young innovators to develop tools that could assist the country be competitive in the agricultural field. 

Kate Gardener Head of Development at Reel Gardening explains how the seed strip methodology works during  the Global Entrepreneurship Congress exhibition held recently at the Sandton Covention