The millennials

Forbes Woman Africa
Published 7 years ago

Claire Reid, 29
Founder, Reel Gardening

South Africa is experiencing the worst drought since 1982, leaving farmers in debt worth billions of rands. Could Claire Reid’s gardening solutions be the answer?

Reid discovered her “revolutionary planting method” at the age of 16 when trying to earn pocket money growing a vegetable garden and selling the crop to her parents. That’s when she realized gardening was no child’s play.

“I would put more seed than necessary, I didn’t know how far apart or how deep it was. The whole thing was frustrating,” she recalls.

Frustration gave way to fortune. Her teacher encouraged her to enter a competition simplifying gardening, based on marking small areas of ground with biodegradable color-coded paper strips encasing organic fertilizer and seeds at the correct depth and distance. The paper helped save up to 80% of water. The project won her a gold medal.

The Department of Water Affairs sent Reid to Stockholm, where she became the first South African to win an international award, beating 28 other countries.

“All of a sudden I was being sent overseas to represent South Africa and being given an award by Thabo Mbeki [former South African president]. It was quite a whirlwind time being nominated for Checkers Woman of the Year while I was only 17.”

Reid studied Architecture, Geology and Civil Engineering at the University of Pretoria. While on internship, she landed a project with Anglo American that took her to Marikana, an area that needed her gardening skills. She pitched the idea to Anglo American that gave her a start-up loan to form her company Reel Gardening in 2010. A social enterprise that employs 10 mothers from diverse backgrounds, it has been rolled out in 280 schools. Though its focus is online, new mom Reid has recently set up operations in Kenya. The company has sold products in the UK and plans to expand to the UAE, Japan, South Korea, Canada and the US. In November last year, she also made it to BBC’s 30Under30 list.