I would like to start by re-iterating the company’s ethos and values. We seek opportunities where we can improve the production of Indonesian high value primary agricultural and pastoral produce, preferably one requiring a high degree of labour.
Vanilla, where we started, is an obvious example, where we can improve the crop quality and in due course provide vanilla extract and gourmet beans – we don’t want to export commodities if we can process them in Indonesia.
The freshwater lobsters are another example, where we have created a technology that enables us to grow them quickly, organically and at very little cost. We have also created a system that will see us able to grow very quickly by bringing in lots of Indonesian aqua farmers whose income is currently stagnant. Especially pertinent to me, it solves the major issues around aquaculture of the effect on the environment.
The fact that this is a good idea has been recognised very quickly. We have received an offer of one million US dollars, as a cash injection into a new company, Royal Aqua Farms. RSGI, in other words you, would retain 25% ownership of the new company.
The benefits to RSGI go further than simply financial. There is a great deal of synergy. Asia Global Raya brings with it access to universities and a laboratory, as well as markets for vanilla. RAF will utilise part of the land and offices we have acquired in Sanding, enabling shared costs. A major part of RAF business will be insect farming, to produce food for the lobsters. A big by-product of this will be material for compost that is beneficial to the vanilla. And of course, vanilla production is something that from time to time requires large numbers of workers, for pollination and harvesting. We will be able to borrow from RAF.
However, I must emphasize, this isn’t a done deal. We have received a Letter of Intent and everything is proceeding correctly, but the company is not yet formed and the investment is not yet made. We have been down this road before, with offers of large financial injections which never materialise. This isn’t a concrete offer until a deposit is made and a contract signed. I suspect this is a few weeks away from happening, and there are always possibilities for it to go wrong.
If it does, it doesn’t matter. The money merely speeds up the process. We are on course in any event. But the recognition is nice!
The top half of Garden 19 is now complete, taking 1,500 plants. We are planting further apart than previously, to mitigate against further bad rains. The bottom part is still not cleared, but we shall do that bit by bit.
Garden 20 is an enormous project, which has now doubled in size to over a hectare. This will take some time to prepare and we haven’t started planting vanilla yet.
Garden 21 has started, with the compost system being built. We intend to keep a cow on this garden to help with compost production. In July, we shall clear the land to make compost and plant the first of the cover trees. This will continue in August, and in September we shall start to put the compost around the trees and build up the raised bed. We shall make vanilla cuttings on site starting from the end of August, ready for planting out in October.
Trial of alternatives to Gliciridia will take time, nothing is a fast as it! No decision yet on the coconut project and the bees not yet arrived.
The worldwide price of vanilla seems to be all over the place. We get reports of cheap beans from one country at the same time as expensive ones from others. We suspect this implies that quality of the beans is becoming more and more important.
We are meeting more and more vanilla farmers who are keen to work with us, of course they want us to buy their vanilla, but the important thing is they are receptive to late harvesting. Which means improved quality and prices in due course.
Some oddities about this table, and they are caused by poor data. It turns out that small lobsters were moved to A3 without recording them, which reduced the average weight as we also removed the largest for taste testing…
A1 is very encouraging, more than twice the expected number of babies when they became large enough to count.
We are working still on developing the wormery, but we have made great strides with crickets. Breeding colony happening. Expecting giant morio mealworms alongside these. And of course, the BSF production continues, hampered by lack of papaya. We have planted the trees but not yet fruiting… most of the protein for the lobsters at present is from fish guts collected from the fish seller in the market for free. Insect breeding is key to this, and I don’t want to take the short cut of using commercial feed for them. Who knows what is in it? We are making our own, based on rice bran made locally. This is a wonderful local resource, totally under-utilised.
We intend the existing farm to focus on breeding babies, putting them out to other farms to grow on. We supply the food – cannot risk them using pellets. They come back to us for fasting in preparation to sending to restaurants or export. We’re setting up an almost military operation to handle the logistics. Best to copy something that has worked for hundreds of years.
We are in the latter stages of obtaining an IMB, a building permit, for our 18 are Sanding location. This will enable us to convert the top floor of the building into offices, to house our bookkeeping, sales and delivery staff. Yes, it is a fair size. The front half is devoted to vanilla processing, with room for a shop for our products – really a showcase as we are exporters. The back half we will use for breeding insects and for preparing lobster for despatch. In between the two is a building for our laboratory. One key benefit is that we will be able to move our registered office here.
One key part of our lobster farming is the data collection. Paul has been developing a daily report method that will go straight into the database and give us a live report of food in and lobsters out. This is essential, and the application is ready for preliminary testing. Of course, it won’t work perfectly at first, but it is designed to be constantly improved.
Chairman at PT Royal Spice Gardens
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