South African Adaptive Agriculture / Aquaponics

South Africa

Location: South Africa

Sustainable food systems represent one of the greatest development challenges of the coming decade, especially in the age of climate change. INMED Partnerships for Children and INMED South Africa have been the leaders in facilitating adaptive agriculture and aquaponics projects throughout South Africa for nearly a decade.

INMED has adapted an innovative food production technique known as aquaponics into a simple, scalable and low-cost system that can provide year-round sustainable produce and fish for families, small-scale farmers, communities, schools, businesses and government institutions. Using inexpensive and easily accessible “off the shelf” local materials, INMED aquaponics combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soilless crop production) into a closed system that is resilient to erratic and destructive climate change events. Aquaponics is 10 times more productive than equivalently sized plots that are traditionally cultivated, requires no pesticides or fertilizers and consumes up to 90% less water than traditional irrigation techniques.

Over the past several years, INMED South Africa has partnered with the Mondelēz International Foundation, Air Products, Boeing, USAID, South African Breweries (SAB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to facilitate the installation of a wide variety of aquaponic systems in the following locations:


In partnership with SAB, INMED installed an aquaponic system for the Thabelo Christian Association for the Disabled in a remote area of the Venda region in Limpopo province. Because INMED’s system requires no heavy labor and complex mechanical systems, it is ideal for individuals with disabilities and those unable to perform traditional farming activities. Since the installation, the co-op has increased its revenue by more than 400%. Co-op members now receive stable monthly salaries and have invested in breeding animals for additional revenue generation.

This project, located in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve area, recently received funding from the United Nations Development Programme to further expand the climate-smart, resource-conserving agricultural innovations introduced through the initial project. In addition to updating the system, INMED is training the project members on how to operate and maintain the unit. INMED also is providing adaptive agriculture and aquaponics training to other community members and economic development officials to better support and lead community development initiatives.

Free State

INMED has introduced adaptive agriculture at four sites in the Free State province: Monyakeng Disabled People South Africa (also the site of an aquaponic system), Itshokolele Cooperative, Rainbow High School and Repholositswe secondary school. In partnership with the Monsanto Fund, INMED’s adaptive agriculture program dramatically improved access to fresh produce for the schools and increased income generation for the co-op. The Itshokolele Cooperative saw its revenues skyrocket from around $35 a month to a steady $410. The high schools are using their garden produce to supplement their feeding schemes and as a teaching tool for core subjects. In addition, the school garden club at Repholositswe provides a positive alternative to the gang activity and crime that plague the local community.


In partnership with Air Products, INMED has facilitated adaptive agriculture programs at two primary schools and a technical high school in disadvantaged communities of Gauteng province since 2011. Each school serves approximately 750 students and has limited resources for supplies and space to grow. By implementing aquaponics and school gardens using adaptive agriculture techniques, these schools are not only producing nutritious food for their feeding schemes but are better able to teach agriculture science.

Port Elizabeth

In March 2017, INMED launched a commercial-scale aquaponic system at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), Missionvale Campus. In partnership with the Mondelēz International Foundation and Mondelēz South Africa, this project provides children from primary schools in low-income communities of Port Elizabeth with access to fresh, nutritious produce and fish. A second aquaponic system will serve primary schools in the Soweto area, with construction scheduled to begin in late 2017.

Northern Cape

INMED is working with the all-female Pella Food Garden Cooperative to install a commercial aquaponic system and enhance its traditional using adaptive agriculture techniques. Located in the small village of Pella in the desert region of Northern Cape, the group is also receiving technical training, accounting and business assistance and guidance on market expansion. This project is supported by Old Mutual.



INMED is now offering a 2-day aquaponics training in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth for those interested in entering this exciting field. Click here to learn more and register.