UJ Engineering students to boost urban farming in Soweto

​UJ Engineering students will join students from Industrial Design, Anthropology and Development, Graphic Design and Business Management, as interdisciplinary teams from the UJ Energy Movement research effective solutions to support urban farmers through their Community Factories initiative in Soweto in 2016.

“It’s important that we teach our students to not just plug into the existing system,” says Mechanical Engineering Science lecturer Nickey Janse van Rensburg. “They need to be active in inventing new systems. We want our students to shift from a jobseeker mindset and to develop a passion for creating jobs. We need to be proactive in the way we train engineers, using authentic integration and interaction with the community. We should be co-creating new solutions that are relevant and valuable to society.”


Janse van Rensburg is co-founder and programme manager of the UJ Energy Movement, a programme established in 2010, which is entirely run by student members. Its aim is to promote skills development, energy conservation and sustainability through technology innovation. The UJ Energy Movement has designed and built three solar-powered electric cars and five Shell Eco-Marathon vehicles.

The latest development driven by the UJ Energy Movement at the Manufacturing Research Centre is the Klipriviersberg Economic and Ecosystem Development Zone. This initiative also ties in with the Izindaba Zokudla project taking place in Soweto.

The Izindaba Zokudla project was founded in 2013 through a series of workshops by UJ Senior lecturers Dr Naudé Malan and Prof. Angus Donald Campbell.

The workshops identified the need for increased training and knowledge generation for urban farmers and food producers.

The engineering students will use intermediary technology to add to the Izindaba Zokudla value chain by developing an off-grid Community Factory, which will produce products that are useful for urban farming, thereby promoting food security. “These interdisciplinary initiatives are enhancing teaching and learning at UJ, enriching research opportunities and pushing the boundaries of innovation through co-creation,” says Janse van Rensburg.


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