Ntuthuko Shezi. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Ntuthuko Shezi. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Crowdfunding has become a popular means of bringing people together to finance a cause. But Ntuthuko Shezi has taken the concept to a new level with Livestock Wealth, a company that enables people to participate in what he terms "crowd-farming".

It’s a venture that has attracted enormous attention.

"We enable people who do not own land or have the skills to own cattle [to do so]," says Shezi.

"We call ourselves ‘professional herdsmen’."

The concept is simple: investors buy a six-month-old calf, which is reared on one of three farms leased by Livestock Wealth. The process is fully transparent.

"Calf prices are published every week by Absa and Farmers Weekly," says Shezi.

The latest going price is R7,476, to which investors add a monthly farming fee of R299, including full insurance. Each animal is linked to its owner by a unique number branded on it, says Shezi.

When the animal is ready to be sold for slaughter at about 32 months — also at a freely available market price — the investor can expect to earn a return of about 15%/year.

Shezi’s brainchild is proving to be a roaring success. "I started working on the business model in 2014 and began trading in October 2015," he says.

Just over two years later, 600 investors own 1,200 cattle between them. The biggest investor owns 14.

Shezi’s investors come from all walks of life. "About 65% of our investors are black, 30% are mainly white foreigners and the balance are Indians and coloureds," he says. "We are also seeing good growth in investment by stokvels."

News of the venture’s success has spread widely, attracting investors from countries such as Australia, the US, Canada, Ireland, France, Australia and Germany.

They no doubt appreciate the emphasis Livestock Wealth places on transparency, including keeping investors up to date with the state of play through a mobile app and monthly newsletter.

"Our investors are also free to visit our farms," says Shezi. "We want them to be part of our farming venture."

Shezi wants to take transparency to a new level. "We are going to let investors have our full income statements," he says.

The move into cattle farming was a big leap for the 37-year-old, who received a degree in electro-chemical engineering in 2001 before working for Accenture as a strategy consultant.

But the farming lure proved too strong. "Cattle were part of my life while growing up in Ndwedwe, in KwaZulu Natal," he says.

Shezi is just getting into his stride. "I want us to reach 20,000 cattle next year. It is very achievable. People are seeing that what we are doing is working and are gaining confidence."

Growing his numbers will mean Shezi will need more farming land. He doesn’t expect this to be an obstacle. "Farmers with excess land are continually approaching us," he says.

Shezi’s long-term ambitions go way further: his target is a mind-boggling 13m cattle.

"We will take our model into neighbouring countries such as Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, and even go as far north as South Sudan," he says. "There are 200m cattle in Africa, so 13m is a very doable number for us."

He is also confident that he will find investors. "I have yet to meet a black man who does not want to own cattle," he says.