Brucol Global Development (Pty) Ltd

Winner of the Management of Innovation award for 2017, category for emerging enterprises

Why this proudly South African tower garden is so unique

Tower gardens for herbs and vegetables are growing in popularity among residents of high-rise buildings in the capital cities of the world, but they can be just as useful in rural South Africa with its wide-open spaces.

“Most tower gardens are for urban farming. Ours was designed for rural areas where people do not readily have access to water; it uses a minimal amount of water,” says Bruce Diale, chief executive of Brucol and co-brainchild of GardenIzly, a uniquely South African tower for growing vegetables.

The fact that GardenIzly was initially developed for dry, rural conditions doesn’t mean it isn’t just as effective in cities and towns. Bearing in mind the water crisis in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and elsewhere, this water-efficient innovation could be just up the street of urban dwellers too, and Brucol is already planning to branch out from rural to urban areas.

The company’s cone-shaped garden tower, which has been fully patented, was the brainchild of father-and-son team Dr Nkgodi Diale and Bruce.

“The concept started when I was still at school,” says Bruce, himself a qualified soil scientist. “My dad, who has a PhD in development studies focusing on agriculture, came home one day and said he wanted to build something that people can plant in. He started with a tyre.”

After much experimentation, trial and error, GardenIzly started to take shape. “Product development in an emerging enterprise is based on errors and complaints. We use feedback to improve the product,” Bruce says.

His own contribution has included advising on and sourcing specialised potting soil for use with GardenIzly, and putting in place the business, sales and marketing systems that this water-friendly product needs to make a splash.

“I set up the systems to see what the market needs,” Bruce says, adding that the value of efficient, effective systems cannot be overemphasised – especially in an emerging innovation company.

“When you are an emerging innovator, it is very important to have capabilities in terms of the business aspects. You need the business skills to determine who you are going to sell to and how, otherwise your innovation will become a white elephant.”

It seems unlikely this will be the fate of GardenIzly, which is already in demand among provincial agricultural departments and corporates with corporate social responsibility programmes. The product is also standing out by winning prizes in business innovation competitions such as the Engen Pitch & Polish and, of course, tt100.

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