As the population increases, more so, in urban areas, food demands rise significantly making it costly to the low-income earners.
This calls for finding creative solutions to food production.
To this end, Paul Matovu, a gardening entrepreneur with Vertical and Micro gardening (VMG) invented the vertical garden (farm in a box).
He says vertical farming is a sustainable solution to growing food in urban areas where many families are short on space.
“People should maximize small spaces and grow food. The solution is to expand upwards,” he opines.
“Forget the sack gardens, today, these have been improved into durable wooden gardens,” he adds.
Catherine Nalukwago, another vertical farm innovator adds that vertical gardens allow families to grow microgreens, vegetables, and fruits in small contained spaces.
They also motivate and train children to grow strawberries, herbs and spring onions.
“The gardens also make urban farming a viable micro-enterprise for low-income households,” she affirms.
It’s a potable garden
Matovu’s garden is 3ft wide and 4.5ft high but it’s scalable depending on the height of the user. It has seven trays and each can take up to 72 plants and a maximum of 200.
One can grow spices, fruits and vegetables like spinach, Sukuma wiki, kale and tomatoes among others.
The soil is changed between six months to two years depending on the crops grown, but it is first tested for the amount of nutrients.
The farm units are built of hardwood.
The garden has a central vermicomposting chamber (wormery), where earthworms transform organic waste, which they consume, into natural fertilizer.
This chamber then supplies the nutrients to all tiers and allows for crops to be grown in an agro-ecological and organic system.
“The worms help to compost household waste and to keep inputs low but organic,” Matovu highlights.
Meanwhile, in the space of just one square meter, one can grow what would take three square meters of ground soil or about 100 plants.
Most importantly, the garden is portable, making it a convenient choice for permanent homeowners and tenants.
Mariah Naiga, an agriculture extension worker says vertical gardens come in different sizes and forms. Apart from the portable ones, some can be installed in the clients’ backyards.
These usually range from sh40, 000 upwards depending on the size.
“These are favourable for permanent homeowners. For tenants, one has to seek permission from the landlord to have it installed,” she explains.
Empty gardens cost sh260, 000. But when fully planted (soil and seedlings) it goes for sh450, 000.
“These boxes produce food worth sh1.2million every year. Therefore the money is quickly recouped,” he says.
Matovu and Nalukwago also offer agricultural extension services to the farmers. They are trained on how to maintain the garden; water, weed, prune and change the soil.