“Having lived in the city, I could see that people were struggling to find food. But in villages, there is a lot of food available. Since I had experience in agriculture, I decided to bring these skills to the cities,” says Paul Matovu, founder and CEO of Vertical and Micro Gardening (VMG).
Vertical and Micro Gardening is a Ugandan-grown social enterprise that was officially incorporated in 2017, which designs, manufactures and distributes vertical farms. The company’s flagship product is the Vertical Farm 1.0, a wooden modular system with a 9-square foot footprint that accommodates up to 200 plants. The Vertical Farm 1.0 also has a vermicomposting chamber that transforms organic waste into nutrient-rich organic amendments.
“We started VMG to teach people to set up backyard gardens and sack gardens but noticed that some people were struggling with space. So, I started designing vessels that could help people grow,” explains Paul.
Different from industrial set-ups
As Paul illustrates, vertical farming in Uganda looks quite different from vertical farming in metropolitan Asia, Europe, and North America. The systems provided by VMG are relatively small and soil-based. Aside from the vertical farming systems, VMG also offers agronomic advice, seedlings, organic soil, earthworms for the vermicomposting system, etc.
According to Simren Sekhon, Diversification & Fundraising Manager at VMG: “The company offers a huge range of seedlings from spinach to herbs, carrots, fruit and so on. We also offer different sizes of vertical farming systems and are open to partnerships to develop our current models.”
The products are handmade
In their work, VMG focuses on providing user-friendly, simple technology and developing a farm management software that is not too complex. The company looked into IoT for high-level farm control but found the integration costs to be prohibitive.
“When something can be minimal tech, it fits better with the market where we operate. There is not much complexity in our software management,” and intentionally so, says Paul.
The VMG team
Educational, economic and environmental opportunity
As Paul and Simren explain, VMG envisions urban communities empowered to grow their own food using organic, sustainable practices. In addition, vertical farming provides great economic benefits and potential in the form of value-added products, employment, and educational opportunities.
Paul educating on the vertical farming towers
“We are here as an organization to support urban communities in growing in an organic way. We also have this new generation of youth that don’t know much about farming, so we hope to engage them in growing crops,” – and so, work towards sustainability of their envisioned goals, says Paul.