The entrepreneur sowing the seeds of social change


Claire Reid was no ordinary teenager. At the age of 16, she had a plan. She was going to grow her own vegetables to earn extra pocket money. However, the process was harder than it seemed. Initially unsuccessful, she ended up wasting seeds and fertiliser. Reid turned the problem into an opportunity, and transformed the seedling of an idea into a thriving social enterprise.

By using newspaper, flour, and liquid fertiliser she created strips that encased the seeds and ensured that they were placed in the soil at the correct depth and distance apart. After submitting her invention into the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, it captured the attention of former Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, Ronnie Kasrils, who was interested in her creation’s water saving abilities. Research conducted with the University of Pretoria found that the strips were able to reduce by up to 80% the amount of water used during germination. Reid’s idea won her the international Stockholm Junior Water Prize for South Africa, the Women in Water award, and she was recognised by the United Nations with a SEED award.

What Reid initially conceived of in 2002 has turned into a sustainable business. Reel Gardening creates and distributes seed tapes that are easy to use, biodegradable, and colour coded. Mothers who had no jobs have been employed to handmake the tapes. The organisation is involved with over 3 000 community and school projects, where the gardening is connected back to the school curriculum. It is also helping people in drought-stricken areas grow their own food. In 2017, Reid won Agripreneur of the Year for her work. Her creation has brought back the tranquility gardening provides, while also helping the people involved in making it happen. “With compassion and innovation I think we can make a real difference,” Reid says.