A year of restoration on the Hive Ecosystems farm

'A year of restoration on the Hive Ecosystems farm' is written at the bottom of the image in white text on a grey background. Above, is a picture of a farmer working in the African landscape - where the Hive Ecosystems farm is.

Hive Ecosystems is a circular economy team set up in South Africa by UK-based Hive Energy, a global clean energy developer and circular economy investor. The Hive Ecosystems team launched in August 2022 and has worked tirelessly over the past year to build a fully renewably powered nursery to supply plant cuttings for its restoration project.

The project aims to restore parcels of land in the Albany Thicket biome. The 7,300-hectare area was previously used for agricultural farming over the last 150 years, with livestock and game. This intensive overgrazing of the thicket vegetation led to the degradation of vegetation cover and topsoil loss, and depleting naturally occurring nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, and minerals. In order to transform the area, Hive Ecosystems aim to introduce millions of rooted Spekboom cuttings, a variety small-leaved succulent plant, to the area. This project will not only be beneficial for land conservation in the region, but will also benefit local communities, provide jobs, and ultimately provide a carbon sequestration source.

Since last August, the team has:

  • Eradicated alien invasive plant species, mostly Cactus spp., from the area,
  • Installed a fully solar powered irrigation system for the nursery where they nurture the Spekboom plant cuttings prior to planting,
  • Managed on-going tests to determine the most suitable soil mixes, cavity sizes, and conditions for the cuttings to grow,
  • Planted more than 200 indigenous trees around farmsteads and the nursery, donated from Rhodes University,
  • Hosted events with restoration practitioners and local farmers to educate communities around carbon sequestration and sustainable farming,
  • Undertaken detailed surveys with vegetation experts and drone photogrammetry of the area to ensure the farmland is representative of a variety of vegetation types and for monitoring purposes,
  • Planted over 850,000 rooted spekboom cuttings on more than 187 hectares of farmland.


What’s next for Hive Ecosystems?

Currently, the planting of spekboom cuttings in the nursery has slowed since it is the winter. The Hive Ecosystems team plan to continue with their successful planting schedule as soon as the weather allows. The plan for the year ahead is to get the production levels up and to produce more than 3,000,000 rooted cuttings in the nursery and plant them out into the field.

The Ecosystems team must plant on average 18,000 rooted plants per day to be able to reach their target of over 1,000 hectares of farmland planted per year. Due to extreme weather conditions in the region, the team is only able to plant for 10 months of the year. Hive Ecosystems’ goal is to stock up the nursery with around 1,600,000 cuttings per rotation, during September and February, this will provide enough spekboom cuttings to plant throughout the remaining months.

Japie Buckle, Managing Director of Hive Ecosystems, commented on the farm development: “I’ve been involved in this project since day one and it’s fantastic to see how much the farm has developed. We had originally hoped to plant seven million spekboom cuttings in the coming years, but this has now increased to nine million. Our fantastic team is so committed to seeing this area regrow and redevelop and I can’t wait to see what progress there will be over the next 12 months, and the following.”

Giles Redpath, CEO of Hive Energy, added: “Hive Ecosystems is a unique part of the Hive Energy group. Through the success of our green energy projects, we have been able to branch off into circular economy investment to help in our mission to save the planet. Ecosystems’ goal is to restore parcels of land but also sequester carbon to ultimately improve our environment. I was able to visit the Hive Ecosystems team during August and see for myself the fantastic work the team has undertaken over the past year. Seeing our Clean Futures projects progress is inspiring, and I look forward to seeing our other circular economy teams flourish as Ecosystems has.”