January 2023 Report

This has been a slow month.  Not only have we been conserving finances until the new marketing campaign kicks off, but the New year coincided with Balinese Galungan followed ten days later by Kuningan, which is their New Year.  This meant that most days the staff were off and very little work has been done.


We have seen a change in the weather, back to a normal rainy season.  This time of year should see 50% of days with some rain, and that is what has happened with just one heavy storm.  But lots of sunshine!  That’s what we need.  Vanilla doesn’t mind lots of rain, as long as it comes with wind.  Of course, we’ve had so much that much of our vanilla has been growing out of sodden mud, and now we are able to take stock.

We stopped making compost during the rainy season, for there is no point.  Not only is all the goodness washed away from the compost as it is made, but it is washed away as soon as it goes on the vanilla.  Now we have restarted.  Next month we can start to build up the compost around the base of the trees.  Our new ambition is to have half a metre depth to overcome the rain in future.

When you go around the gardens, it becomes obvious where the damage is done.  Anywhere there was flat ground, or worse a basin, we have weak vanilla for the roots have gone.  However, the vanilla in very steep gardens is fine.  This is changing our thinking.  I hadn’t wanted to use that sort of land any more, because it is harder to work… but the lovely flat land, well, that hasn’t done so well.  Except in Garden 15 for no reason we can work out!

We have dug trenches between the vanilla in flat areas, and it has responded well.  We are now keeping the looping going, for the vanilla is growing strongly again.  We need 13 loops with vines a finger thickness to get 5 kg of green vanilla.  It’s possible, but the rains have weakened much of the vanilla.  Garden 15 has an average of two loops per vine and even though it will be just its third year, I am optimistic it will have several hanging dead-end branches giving us healthy fruit.  Some of the flowers that occurred in early places came because the plant was stressed, stressed when too young to flower, and these haven’t done well.  You can tell by the thickness of the vine.  Others are fine.  We have one stretch in Garden 5, where we were annoyed by a marauding cockatoo, who amused himself by plucking out growing tips.  All these vines have now flowered!  Thank you Dewa the cockatoo, but next time we would rather do it ourselves…

It is noticeable that here we have two flowering seasons for vanilla -September/October and January/February.  It used to be just September/October.  Whether this is a permanent change of just in response to the La Nina wet seasons, we don’t know yet.

We are seeing the first results of our experimentation.  There is clear correlation between the height of the shade tree and the thickness of the vine.  So, we are increasing the height of the trees and maybe we will need step ladders in the gardens…  but I hope a hooked pole and a saw on a pole will be sufficient.

Now is approaching the time when a final test will come clear.  Leaving the vanilla exposed to direct sunshine for 70% of the day has been hugely beneficial.   In the wet season and in the messed up dry season.  What will happen in a real dry season?  It seems to be that morning sun is welcome, afternoon sun not.

We are on course for perhaps 100kg of vanilla from our harvest, and the shareholders wish us to buy a ton of green vanilla to process in addition.  We shall do so, depending on share sales.  Now, with just perhaps 300kg of vanilla, we aren’t going to get much money for it if we sell it wholesale, and it is insufficient for the export market.  So, we are toying with the idea of retailing it directly through the internet, with Singapore as a target market.  Even if this costs us 50%, we shall still be better off.  Still just toying with the idea.


I am pleased to report that changing the depth of the ponds has almost eliminated our die off problems.  We still don’t know if it is sorted this issue for babies.  But after catastrophic losses in September and October, November was down to 8% and December 0%.  We have increased numbers to 2,727 in January from 1597, 171% and the total weight is up 149%.  We barely have 30 at the target weight for sales of 150g, which is far short of existing orders for 2,000 per month.

We are increasing the dead leaf diet while they are relishing the BSF maggots.  Especially when these come in rotting fruit which they adore.  Lobsters change skin about every 6 weeks, and increase by 2cm at a time.  We are thinking of starting to sell them at 12cm rather than 20cm.  These figures are highly variable, you understand, depending on diet and temperature.

This month we are expecting our first deep water babies.  If this works, we are up and away.  If not, we may have to take advantage of the fisheries offer of a seaside hatchery.  I am not wild about this, because of water quality issues, as well as the dragons of the seaside, water monitors.  I think we can continue to keep our clean water mountain lobsters.

We have four fish farmers who want to act as fatteners for us, so as soon as our ponds are full, we can expand to new ponds.  Agung Rai, who has supported us with land for Gardens 5, 10, 19 and 22 wants to give us 40 are beside a river for lobsters.


Immediately after I reported that we had so many snails we could sell them, the lobsters discovered them and ate them!  Well, that is the reason we put snails in there…  So, it looks as if this sideline won’t happen!


We now have about 120 turkey poults.  Hotels are very interested, as there was a shortage of turkey in Bali last year.  I am confident that this will prove an excellent use of the warehouse gardens, previously unused, the warehouse keeper, underutilised and our excess fruit.  I am confident that we shall make a profit of about 100%.

Nevertheless, I am not yet confident of this having the growth potential of the lobsters.  Yes, we can grow them, yes, we can turn them into ham.  But can we do it while the husbandry is of a quality that meets my expectations?  Will the turkeys have a good quality of life?  They are engaging beasts and I don’t want them suffering.  Time will tell, but I don’t have huge confidence.

Electricity Generation

We have the land and the river, we are simply waiting for the licence from PLN, the state electricity company.  There is an alternative route we could take.

Royal Indonesian Carbon Credits

We have an agreement for a joint venture to create and sell carbon credits.  We have the first land ready for a trial, some 20,000 hectares and a vast landbank for the future.  We have yet to sign the contracts for this extremely lucrative venture.  The American company will provide the expertise to certify the carbon and sell the credits.  We shall supply the vehicle in Indonesia, the legal framework, permits and the land.


Some of our shareholders have expressed concern that we are not focussing solely on vanilla.   I quite understand that, for focus is an essential trait of success.  I wish to set your minds at rest that the vanilla gets all the focus it needs – it is the first and most important plank of our future.  Nevertheless, vanilla grows at about 5cm a week…

Each Garden has a tender.  Each area has a vanilla manager.  Dadap and I supervise, inspecting regularly each week.  The lobsters have a manager and a consultant, imposing not at all on the vanilla.  However, the cows have an attendant who feeds them, collects worms from the manure for the lobsters and delivers the processed manure to the vanilla farmers for compost.  Every day I look at my vanilla experiments, looking for better ways of growing vanilla for increased yield.  Not a day goes past that both I and Dadap don’t look at vanilla.

But it is hard to report about much of this, because experiments take a long time to have a result!  There isn’t much change on a monthly basis with vanilla, so I don’t report it!  Doesn’t mean it is not a priority.

We are constantly besieged by a variety of inquiries.  Non-Balinese looking for a job and an excuse to stay in Bali – their CVs can be very inventive.  Would we help with this venture/charity/sad case.  Balinese looking for a job.  Buyers, who are usually agents.  People who have run into a problem, usually because they didn’t check the regulations or believed an agent.  We don’t get many serious enquiries about joint ventures or investment, which is interesting.    We get a lot of people from outer islands asking us to buy their vanilla.  All these things can take away focus, and here we are very strict.

A new one is foreigners coming to us trying to get us to invest in NFT and crypto.  We are always happy to get involved in such things, providing it costs us nothing.  That hasn’t happened yet!

Next Month

We are awaiting the tax card for the owner of the warehouse, which we need to register the premises as a business and allow us to move our office there from the holding company in the south.  We need to update the Akte with new shareholders.  Once these are completed, we shall be looking at starting the official cooperatives for lobsters and vanilla.  These are vital steps for expansion, serious expansion.

With the ending of the rainy season, we can start planting out young vanilla in gardens 23 and 24.  This is a good time to make more vines and we shall buy in some sticks of vanilla for cuttings.  Lobsters we shall keep an eye on, they just have to get big.  We are looking forward to the results of deep water hatching.  Meanwhile, I am working out how to sell them.  More land is available, which we shall inspect for something suitable for vanilla.


Rex Sumner
Chairman at PT Royal Spice Gardens

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