Human’s trio of agri technologies brim with solutions
Born into a family which has made significant contributions to conservation farming, Henning Human is leading the way by utilizing aquaponics, aquaculture, and hydroponics technologies as he strives to create a more sustainable future
Aztec Agri Systems | Octavia Avesca Spandiel |
IMAGE: Henning Human’s cutting-edge, portable hydroponics, aquaculture, and aquaponics technologies are revolutionising the agricultural landscape. Photo: Ronelle Louwrens/Food For Mzansi
At first sight, it takes on the appearance of an oddly shaped device straight out of a science fiction movie. But if you look more closely, you’ll stand amazed by the state-of-the-art hydroponic and aquaculture systems, built by Henning Human to address a frustrating predicament for most farmers in South Africa – space to increase farm production.
These structures, designed to empower farmers to produce 12 times more per square metre than traditional farming, are the brainchild of Human, a microbiologist by profession and innovator by lineage. He does this under his Stellenbosch-based company, Aztec Agri Systems.
Keeping conservation agriculture alive
Human comes from a long line of excellence. His family is well-known for leading the way in conservation farming in the Southern Cape. Henning’s uncle is Jack Human, whose unwavering commitment to sustainable farming practices revolutionised agriculture in the region.
“I grew up on a farm in Heidelberg, Western Cape, where my uncles and father lived, farming next to each other. When I was a young boy, my uncle Jack farmed with aquaponics in George and that is how my love grew for fish farming,” he explains.
Coming from a lineage of farmers whose impactful contributions have been seen and felt throughout Mzansi’s agricultural sector, it was inevitable that Henning would also carve out his lasting mark. And he did.
At Aztec Agri Systems, the mission is simple. Empower people and revolutionise organic fish and vegetable production more efficiently and sustainably.
Their agritech aquaponic systems are designed to cater to various needs include Chinampa 1, an intermediate home and a small commercial system. It features a media bed growing area of 1.8m, a deep water culture (DWC) growing area of 12m, and a fish tank capacity of 1 000 litres. This system is ideal for those looking to implement aquaponics on a smaller scale.
Chinampa 2 is a small home system with a media bed growing area of 1 square meter m and a fish tank capacity of 300 litres. This system is suitable for individuals interested in starting with aquaponics at home.
Meanwhile, Chinampa 3 is a large commercial system designed for larger-scale operations. It features a media bed growing area of 7.5 square meter, a DWC growing area of 180 square meter , and fish tanks with a total capacity of 18 000 litres.
Henning’s latest invention includes the Vertigro28 tower and Vertigro systems. This cutting-edge solution brings vertical farming to new heights by optimising space utilisation and enabling year-round production.
The hydroponics tower, about 300 mm in diameter and 1.3 metres long and stackable, is a unique hollow tower. And as far as Henning is concerned, unlike any other products on the market.
“Each segment has 28 growth spaces on it. You can grow 28 plants on one tower and your footprint is the same as one fully grown lettuce,” Henning explains.
He adds that the aquaculture systems are low-cost and work on biofloc technology from other big fish-producing countries. “The aquaponics systems are all portable and you can move them to other sites if needed.”
Inspired by pioneers
The name Aztec Agri Systems is inspired by the ancient Aztec civilization that thrived in Mexico between the 1300s and 1500s. The Aztecs were pioneers in floating farms called Chinampas, using ingenious methods to cultivate crops.
“Aztec Agri Systems pays homage to this ancient farming wisdom by incorporating similar techniques using modern technology, including deep-water floating rafts. These progressive methods merge history and innovation, guiding us on a journey towards a more sustainable future,” Henning explains.
Henning says he is on a mission to reduce pressure on natural resources, empowering farmers and the way food is produced.
“Our commitment extends beyond designing innovative agricultural products; we also provide valuable information and advice on running successful aquaponics systems.”
Tips from a pro
Just like his relatives, Henning is highly motivated, committed, and has a forward-thinking mindset.
“There’s no day that is the same. At the moment I am continuing to work on the vertical tower because I want to keep on improving the products and keep the competition behind me,” he explains.
Inspired by his influential uncle, Henning envisions a future where agriculture is technologically advanced and sustainable.
With groundbreaking technologies in aquaponics, aquaculture, and hydroponics, Henning sees Aztec Agri Systems at the forefront of transforming the agricultural landscape.
As an agripreneur, this young innovator says the journey to getting here has demanded a great deal from him.
He shares his top five entrepreneurial lessons learned along the way:
- Never burn a bridge.
- Make friends or have good friends.
- Keep your goals in sight.
- Never give up, even if it fails or bankrupts you.
- Be an expert in your field, always learn.