July 2023 Report


We entered into July in a positive mood, with the sun beating down after a dry June and the vanilla growing strongly.  We did feel we needed a drop of rain, but weren’t expecting the deluge to come.  It rained for 10 solid days, hard rain, as if the rainy season had arrived three months early.

The consequences were that some of the growing shoots filled up with rain and rotted.  This isn’t a great problem, as the vanilla just creates a new shoot.  Sometimes two or three, which is very good.  It also proved our new drainage system which whisked the rain away and the roots survived.

But some of the vanilla was fooled, with maybe 20% bursting into flower immediately.  Now, we originally made our forecasts on the basis of getting 5kg per plant, which is based upon 15 hanging branches giving 2 bunches of flowers apiece.  We’ve since revised that, thinking that only 60% will come to flower in any year (this is really conservative forecasting rather than reality).  Further, we now have higher support trees to give more strength to the vanilla and to allow the tree to remove water from the ground.  This has resulted in much thicker, stronger vanilla and much longer hanging branches.  So, the forecast is now based on 3 bunches of flowers, meaning that each branch will give us 500g of green vanilla so we only need 10 hanging branches to achieve our forecast.

Well, in Garden 15 which is our first with the new methods, we have a couple which are producing 9 flower bunches, and one in Garden 10, a recovering Garden, which has 12!

Now, this doesn’t mean we can increase our forecasts by a factor of 3 or 4, because these will be outliers, but it does indicate that our forecast will be exceeded.  We still need to determine if we can safely pollinate ten flowers in each bunch, or if we need to reduce the number.  The reality, of course, is more complex.  It will depend on the thickness of the hanging branch.  I have one experiment with 26 healthy beans in one bunch, though 6 of these are a bit small.

We are conducting the July survey still, and next month I will have the results for you.  I am able to forecast from the number of thick shoots what the crop will look like, and we shall see how accurate this is in future.

Currently, I have told the managers that I want a ton from Garden 15 and another ton from Garden 5 and 10.  This doesn’t intimidate them.  Up the hill in Jeruk Mancing, we are more likely to get 500kg from 1, 2, 3 and 6.  4 and 7 recovering, while 10-13 are still too young.  Slower growth at the higher elevation.  1, 2, 3 and 6 are much smaller gardens.

We are therefore expecting a crop in the order of 500kg of dry vanilla next year, and we already are receiving enquiries for it.  If our retail experiments go well, we are likely to hang onto that entire crop for direct sales.  That will also help to keep the prices stable.

We have had a dispute with a neighbour, who objected when we exercised our legal right to cut off the branches of his trees, grown for wood, that overhung our garden.  We followed correct procedure, and suspect this is driven by jealousy rather than anything else.  It is not a risk to us, but we must be seen to be acting correctly and not ignoring this.  The police are handling it.

We are eying the vanilla crop from the island of Adonara, which is a fantastic opportunity to obtain a lot of green vanilla at a great price while helping a whole community.  We just need to get sufficient funding.  Also, we have a neighbouring area whose vanilla is coming to ripeness and asking for our help.


The new pond system is working well, great growth of weed.  We are removing the tilapia used for blanket weed control and replacing them with gourami, because the tilapia are too voracious and we harbour dark suspicions that they like baby lobster.  It is next month when we will be able to see the results of the current experiment on raising babies, and in the meantime we are having another go at raising the babies in aquaria before moving them onto ponds for growing.

The market is huge and growing impatient, but we still have two issues to resolve.  Infant mortality and changing skins.  We think there is a diet deficiency.  Possibly not enough starch in the diet.

Spirulina pond is green, still not ready for harvest because we started off with so little.  Two of our trial tubs have been infected with another algae, which is not so edible.  Others free of it.

We are expanding our daphnia production, having lost our colonies when upgrading the ponds.  Major food for babies.


Total investment income to date is now 9 billion rupiah, with 152,500 coming in this month.  Target is getting closer, 14 billion after which we will see our vanilla income coming in.

Online advertising is happening, yet to see any results.  We’ve been focusing on large investors recently, so have not finished arranging the tours with lobster lunch.

The Raja has been very ill with an iodine deficiency, right at a time when we need his input on a few matters.  He seems to be a little better in the last few days, and I know that some of you are personal friends with him.  He sent me an awful photograph of what I took to be his corpse, but turns out he had his eyes shut.  I complained, and he sent me another with one eye half open.  If he can jest, he must be improving.  The swelling is going down.  He has not gone to hospital, but is being monitored at home.

Paul is much recovered and once more to be found in Sanur at night, but I notice he doesn’t get his bike fixed and gets driven everywhere.  It was a very nasty accident.  I am sufficiently recovered from my own problem to think about going back to the gym…  Just thinking, you understand, not doing anything stupid, yet.

Rex Sumner


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