From An Old-School Farm To A Farming Conglomerate: The Inspirational Story of ZZ2

From starting out as a family tomato farm in Limpopo 112 years ago, to becoming a farming conglomerate — ZZ2 now produces and exports not only the familiar “brand” of tomatoes but also onions, avocadoes, mangoes and blueberries among others.

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Unlike your traditional farming operation, ZZ2 runs on an “open system” management model which integrates all its stakeholders in a hive of activities which extend from marketing & packaging to logistics, horticulture, IT and engineering.

The brand also has interests in other businesses, such as insectaries and nature conservation areas, all of which aim to ensure environmental sustainability and community development.


Today, ZZ2 is a well-known brand in South Africa with a proud history backed by a great customer value offering, and superior economic value to all its stakeholders.

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Willem Van Zyl worked as a farmer for the Dutch East Indian Company in the Cape of Good Hope, but his employment status changed in 1702 as he was fired due to insubordination.

Willem then decided to buy a farm in Franschhoek, where he farmed with fresh produce, livestock, and wine. During the 1830s, his descendants left the Cape of Good Hope, and gradually moved north until they eventually settled in the east region of Polokwane in 1880.

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After the conclusion of Anglo-Boer War in 1902, a government regulation came into effect whereby farmers received a registered number(branding iron), and were required to brand their livestock with it — The code of ZZ2 was awarded to Burt van Zyl.

Over time, the mark migrated from a branding mark for livestock to a trademark for all ZZ2’s products.

Bertie van Zyl

On the 16th of November 1932, Bertie van Zyl was born on the Boekenhoutbult farm in the Mooketsi Valley, Limpopo. At the age of 16, Bertie was forced to leave school to take over the farming responsibilities from his ailing father.

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During those days, the van Zyl family had a mixed crop, mainly potatoes, and life was difficult. Bertie soon realised that his neighbour made more money planting tomatoes than potatoes. He then managed to convince his father of the viability of tomatoes in the area, his first successful tomato crop was harvested in 1953.

The climate in the fertile Mooketsi valley was just right, tomatoes flourished all year round and soon, the farm was rich — ZZ2 was officially registered as a private company in 1966.

ZZ2 Farm

Bertie’s tenacity, eye for business and an unwavering self-belief stood him in good stead as he diversified ZZ2 into avocados, stone fruit, onions, and beef as the years went by.

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He passed away in 2005 and by that time, the ZZ2 brand was a multi-million rand farming conglomerate.

On top of employing over 8000 South Africans, the company also has farms in Musina, near the border with Zimbabwe. They grow pears & apples in Ceres and Riebeek-West in the Western Cape, as well as in Langkloof, Eastern Cape.

“When you think you’re king, you’re paw-paw, when you think you’re paw-paw, you’re king. I’m very intrigued by value in a broad sense. Money doesn’t really impress us. We’re impressed by the value of the things we produce and the meaning that we’re creating for many people,”

Tommie van Zyl, CEO of ZZ2


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