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Portia Solomon


Over the next couple of months, we will introduce you to several of the Hortgro Science post-grad students. This is the second interview of the series with Portia Solomon, who told her story to Thomas Davidson.

My name is Portia Colleen Solomon, I’m studying a BSC in agri-science with majors in horticulture and plant pathology. I’m from the Western Cape and I grew up in Cape Town where I attended Bergvliet for both primary and high school.

When it came to where I was going to study Stellenbosch was an attractive option because it offered a full agri-science degree (which UCT didn’t) and a lot of agri-research is conducted at Stellenbosch too.

Why study agriculture?

When asked “why agriculture?” I’d have to give some context. I first studied engineering and became a civil engineer. I worked in the roads department for six years and didn’t enjoy it. At the same time, I began to spend more time in the garden and I loved it. I grew veggies in my garden. What I really enjoyed was that if things didn’t work out one year, I’d try something new and see a positive change in the next season.

I wasn’t even aware of agri-science degrees because the main fields of study that they promoted at school were law and engineering. So I thought to myself if I don’t take the plunge now I’d be sitting here designing roads until I retire.

Your thoughts about the future of agriculture and the importance of science for the industry?

I think the future of agriculture in South Africa is looking good. However, I also think that dwindling resources and water, climate change, and international pressure on the use of pesticides, are forcing producers to become innovative in how they produce more with less while minimizing their environmental impact. It looks very promising.

Regarding the importance of science in agriculture, I’d say it’s critically important. Even after all the research that has been done on something like the tree and how it works, what really interests me is that there are still mysteries about the apple tree that we’re yet to understand fully.

Your future goals?

My goal for the future is that I’d love to go into research. I’ve noticed that with agri-science that that so much of the research is actually implemented. It’s not just some research that disappears in the air. You actually have a chance of seeing something happen with your hard work, and that’s amazing to me.

For more on the Hortgro ‘Youth in Agriculture’ series read our third article with Buhle Ngidi and our second with Ansuli Theron.

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