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High-tech gets to the root of nutrition

The humble carrot could be the superfood of the 21st century, if a pioneering farmer has his way, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Vito Rugani, co-founder of Greenway Farm and the Rugani carrot and juice brand, with the carrots that bear his name (Pic: ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK)

The rural suburb of Tarlton, north east of Johannesburg, is best known for the International Raceway that is the region’s home of drag racing. It is a little startling, then, to find that the race track is near-neighbour to the largest carrot farm in Africa. Not only that, but that the farm is at the heart of a revolution that combines breakthroughs in both nutrition and the technology of juice extraction.

Greenway Farms produces 40% of South Africa’s carrots, harvesting 300 tons per day, and shipping them across the country under the brand name Rugani.

It is even more astonishing, then, to discover that the farm’s co-founder, Vito Rugani, was sleeping on the floor of a flat in Hillbrow less than three decades ago. He came from a farming family, did a BSc at university, and then worked on a family farm for about seven years. But when he went out on his own in 1991, and pursued a different lifestyle, his family disowned him.

He would later marry Nomakeme Mxatule, who moved from the mountains of Transkei to find work in Johannesburg. Today they have eight children, of whom six work for Greenway Farm, in roles ranging from sales to information technology.

At the time, however, he was down and out. He and a friend, Vincent Sequeira, decided to go into partnership to buy a small plot of land far outside Johannesburg, with a little help from friends who made small investments. Over the next decade, they slowly evolved from a 20 hectare market garden into a highly specialised commercial carrot production unit.

But it would take another ten years for them to make the breakthrough that would lay the foundation for a technology revolution in both carrot juice specifically and nutrition more broadly.

“We did a lot of traveling and we went to see how other countries did production, and then came home and applied that same knowledge,” Rugani says. “So  we’ve always had an institutional memory of being technologically advanced. It’s easy to just do what everybody else is doing. But to get that quantum leap forward is not so easy and it requires a lot of exposure, reading, investigation and making the right choices, and is usually associated with a considerable amount of risk.

“By 2011 we realised that we were sitting with a huge amount of second grade by-products that couldn’t be sold. A quarter of any carrot crop is not acceptable aesthetically to sell on the first grade market. That’s a problem with any form of food, but carrots in particular, because they break. So you’re sitting with carrots that are of the highest quality, but they’re not visually appealing. And we had to do something with it. The decision was made to go into juice.”

The rest is history, one might say. A few weeks after hosting us at his farm, Rugani has made the trek into Randburg to meet at MSquared, a bakery and restaurant in the Carreira Centre in Ferndale. The location is highly significant: the Centre is home to the Randburg Fruit & Veg Market, the first outlet in South Africa to stock Rugani vegetable juices.

Recently, the carrot juice was joined in an expanded range by beetroot and pineapple juice, as well as juices infused with ginger and turmeric.

But between the farm and the store lay a massive learning curve.

“It’s easy enough to go into juice and go and buy some secondhand equipment, and do juice the way European or American companies were doing it,” says Rugani. “But ten years ago we wanted to do it in a way nobody was doing it. We wanted to get 10 years ahead of the curve, because that had been our philosophy since the very beginning, and that’s how we grew our farm from 20 hectares to 2,500  hectares in 10 years. So we started investigating what’s new in the carrot juice world. I started on the internet, searching documents, reading scientific publications that were cutting edge, papers by people who had seen things that nobody else had seen.”

Visit the next page to read about how the nutritional benefits of most fruit juices are almost non-existent

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GoFundMe hits R9bn in donations for people and causes

The world’s largest social fundraising platform has announced that Its community has made more than 120-million donations

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GoFundMe this week released its annual Year in Giving report, revealing that its community has donated more than 120-million times, raising over $9-billion for people, causes, and organisations since the company’s founding in 2010.

In a letter to the GoFundMe community, CEO Rob Solomon emphasised how GoFundMe witnesses not only the good in people worldwide, but their generosity and their action every day.

“As we enter a new decade, GoFundMe is committed to spreading compassion and empathy through our platform,” said Solomon in the letter. “Together, we can bring more good into the world and unlock the power of global giving.”

The GoFundMe giving community continues to grow with both repeat donors and new donors. In fact, nearly 60% of donors were new this year. After someone makes a donation, they continue to engage with the community and give to multiple causes. In fact, one passionate individual donated 293 times to 234 different fundraisers in this past year alone. Donations are made every second, ranging from $5 to $50,000. This year, more than 40% of donations were under $50.

GoFundMe continues to be a mirror of current events across the globe. This year, young changemakers started the Fridays for Futuremovement to fight climate change, which led to a 60% increase in fundraiser descriptions mentioning ‘climate change’. Additionally, the community rallied together to support one another during natural disasters like Hurricane Dorian and the California wildfires, where thousands of fundraisers were started to help those in need.

The report includes a snapshot of giving trends from the year based on global GoFundMe data. It also includes company milestones from 2019, such as launching the company’s non-profit and advocacy arm, GoFundMe.org, and introducing GoFundMe Charity, which provides enterprise software with no subscription fees or contracts to charities of every size.

Highlights from GoFundMe’s 2019 Year in Giving report include:

  • Global giving trends and data
  • Top 10 most generous countries
  • Top 10 most generous U.S. states and cities
  • Biggest moments in 2019

To view the entire report, visit: www.gofundme.com/2019

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Cars

For users, in-car touchscreens ever more useless

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As touchscreens become more commonplace, the gulf of perceived differences in the performance of these features between cars and other devices (such as mobile and in-home) has become wider. A new report from the In-Vehicle UX (IVX) group at Strategy Analytics has investigated car owners’ satisfaction with their on-board touchscreens. Long hamstrung by poor UX and extended production cycles, in-car touchscreens are seen by car users and buyers as lagging behind the experience offered by touchscreens outside the car. As such, consumer satisfaction has continued to slide in China and Europe, while reaching historic lows in the US.

Surveying consumers in the US, Western Europe, and China via web-survey, key report findings include:

  • Difficult text entry and excessive fingerprint smudging are common complaints among all car owners.
  • Because touchscreens have reached market saturation in the US, satisfaction with in-car screens has tailed off significantly.
  • However, touchscreens remain a relatively newer phenomenon in many car models in Western Europe (compared with the US) and thus their limitations are less prominent in the minds of car owners.
  • Overall touchscreen satisfaction fell for the fifth straight year in China, indicating a growing impatience for in-car UX to match UX found elsewhere in the consumer electronics space.

Derek Viita, Senior Analyst and report author, says, “Part of the issue with fingerprint smudging is the angle at which in-car touchscreens are installed – they make every fingerprint increasingly visible.

“Fingerprint smudging is an issue across all touchscreen-based consumer electronics. But in most form factors and especially mobile devices, consumers can quite easily adjust their viewing angle. This is not always the case with fixed in-car screens.”

Says Chris Schreiner, Director, Syndicated Research UXIP, “Although hardware quality certainly figures in many of the usual complaints car owners have about their screens, it is not the sole factor. Cockpit layout and UI design can play important roles in mitigating some issues with in-car touchscreens.”

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