Skip to main content

Harvesting Innovation: The Entrepreneurial Journey of Hein Duvenhage and Arable Grow 

Entrepreneur of the Month: Hein Duvenhage

By Jeraldene Menon


The town of Stellenbosch is no stranger to innovation and entrepreneurship, but ever so often an entrepreneur emerges to underscore the potent fusion of passion and purpose. Hein Duvenhage, winner of the #IdeasForChange Food Secure Challenge, stands as a compelling example. At the helm of Arable Grow, he leads a pioneering venture committed to reshaping the agricultural frontier. 


Inspiration and Purpose: A Quest for Food Security 

Hein’s journey began with a deep dive into the intricacies of future city design during his postgraduate studies in civil engineering. Witnessing the alarming threats to food security posed by climate change, logistics, and economic challenges, Hein felt compelled to take matters into his own hands. Fuelled by a desire to make a meaningful impact, he assembled a diverse team to tackle the problem head-on. 

The result? Arable Grow, a solution-driven business focused on controlled vertical farming. Hein’s vision extended beyond mere profitability; he aimed to create a venture that not only produced commercially viable and profitable outcomes but also fostered positive environmental and community impact. 

Innovation at the Core: Arable Grow’s Unique Value Proposition 

Arable Grow’s market advantage lies in its innovative approach, combining technology, expert horticulture, and a steadfast commitment to sustainability. Positioned as first movers in the local market, Arable Grow strategically places vertical farms near consumer markets, drastically reducing transportation costs and environmental impact. 

The company’s controlled environments utilize up to 90% less water than traditional farming methods, ensuring resource efficiency. The scalable and adaptable nature of their systems caters to diverse markets and customer needs, while their focus on education and skill development in sustainable agriculture speaks to a broader commitment to community impact. 

Compared to international competitors, Hein and his team stand out in terms of price, market readiness, and local experience, solidifying its position as an industry leader. 

Evolution and Milestones: From Concept to Recognition 

From humble beginnings, funding the project out of student budgets and overcoming initial challenges with makeshift solutions, Arable Grow has come a long way. With 14 commercial recurring clients, two farms, a successfully closed angel investment round, and support from industry leaders like SAVANT, FSAT Labs, and Grindstone, Arable Grow has become a trailblazer in the agricultural sector. 

The accolades speak volumes, with Arable Grow winning the Best AfricaRize Startup at the AfricaArena Summit in Kenya for 2023 and, of course, winning the #IdeasForChange receiving the Best Food Secure Challenge from the Stellenbosch Network. 

Targeting Solutions for Today and Tomorrow: Arable Grow’s Customer Focus 

Arable Grow’s target customers are as diverse as their solutions. On the produce side, they cater to restaurants and retailers valuing nutritional and high-quality produce. As their produce range expands, so does their target customer base. 

On the technology side, Arable Grow reaches out to entrepreneurs, food producers, educational institutions, and large corporates. Their technology empowers other entrepreneurs to start sustainable businesses, helps food producers transition to more robust growing systems, equips educational institutions with curricula and labs for future urban farmers, and ensures corporates and retailers reduce food miles with technology closer to end users. 

Overcoming Challenges: Building a Lean and Smart Business 

Arable Grow hasn’t been without its challenges. Access to funding on the continent, particularly for capital-intensive businesses, posed a hurdle. Hein and his team addressed this by building a lean and smart business that sustains itself from revenue and small-time investments, proving its investibility over time. 

Being the market growers in a conservative market presented another challenge. Arable Grow tackled this by building a strong reputation, being their own first clients, and using their technology to demonstrate its viability to potential clients. 

Access to skilled manufacturing and technology was met with strategic partnerships, notably with Flawless Engineering, a local company that aligns with Arable Grow’s vision. 

Scaling for Impact: Short-Term Goals and Future Vision 

Arable Grow’s short-term goal is to scale produce sales, establishing a reputable method of growing produce and educating clients on the benefits. The ultimate goal is to have an Arable Satellite (fully kitted farm) in every metropolitan area, addressing the financing problem through partnerships and reliable data as proof. The modular nature of their technology allows clients to start small, reducing the barrier of entry, while ongoing development focuses on market-specific technology for a more democratized industry. 

Exciting product launches are on the horizon, including a special product in the new year that makes the technology more accessible and a premium pesto made from vertical farmed produce, showcasing nutritional and flavourful benefits. 

Technology as the Enabler: A Vertically Integrated Solution 

Arable Grow’s technology is the backbone of its success. A vertically integrated solution, combining hardware and in-house developed software, enables precise tracking of operations, minimizes losses and wastage, and ensures the year-round production of reliable and nutritious produce. The technology’s proximity to markets reduces food miles, lowering logistics costs and carbon emissions. 

Under Hein’s leadership, Arable Grow stands at the forefront of sustainable agriculture, using innovation to address pressing challenges in food security, environmental impact, and community development. As they continue to grow, Arable Grow exemplifies the spirit of local entrepreneurship making waves in Stellenbosch and beyond.