Waterkloof Lighthouse Farm

About the Farm

Waterkloof is a 4th generational, 1000 hectare farm located in a semi-arid region in the Free State of South Africa.  Opus Cactus purchased the property in September 2020 with the vision to create a ‘lighthouse’ project.

What is a Lighthouse Project?

A lighthouse project is a small-scale yet big-picture project. The concept leverages the imagery of a lighthouse as a beacon for future research, innovation and market disruption.

Our Waterkloof Lighthouse Farm is Opus Cactus’ hub for empirical observation, R&D activities, and fostering a culture of constant, iterative experimentation.  It is where we explore how cactus-based bioproducts play a role in addressing the world energy demand, carbon capture, usage and storage, and food insecurity.

Commercial Farm Operations

Waterkloof is the largest commercial opuntia cactus farm in sub-Saharan Africa and has been in operation for over 25 years as an orchard and research hub.  We have collected extensive data from over 40 cultivars of opuntia cactus and now have 10 million cladodes available as future source stock or feedstock for bioenergy production.  The farm also hosts a wide array of flora and fauna and serves as home to 8 families who live and work permanently on the farm.

Redefining Opuntia

In many places around the world, opuntia – commonly known as prickly pear cactus, is viewed as a nuisance and in some geographies, even as an invasive species due to its aggressive spines.  Opus Cactus exclusively grows spineless opuntia which is not to be confused with the other spine-bearing opuntia species.  We are constantly conducting research trials with various academic institutions as to which varieties yield the most biomass per hectare, are resilient in extreme cold temperatures and are resistant to pests such as cochineal and cactoblastis.

Agronomic research and design undertaken at Waterkloof is centered around demonstrating the potential of spineless opuntia as a viable source of renewable energy, consumable for livestock and humans, cosmetic oil, and other innovative bioproducts.  The digestate, a biproduct of biomethane production, is used as our organic fertiliser, thus aligning with circular economic and zero waste principles.

“Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?”

– Jane Goodall


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Latest research

Blue tractor in front of rows of opuntia cactus

What is Natural Capital Accounting?

Reading time: 5min.
An earthworm amidst rich, healthy soil.

Opuntia’s Role in Rehabilitating Degraded Soils

Reading time: 10min.
A single new cladode growing on a green, spineless cactus pad.

Opuntia as a Viable Biomass Source

Reading time: 15min.