June 2023 Report

This month seems to have flown by.


The vanilla continues to grow, though the weather has changed.  Very hot during the day, cold at night.  No rain, very dry.  This is excellent for the vanilla, what we believe we need to promote flower production in September.  However, the vanilla doesn’t know this and keeps on flowering.  Garden 15, for which I have high hopes next year, has already started producing flowers, a dozen vines already, and it is barely 2 years old.  I think we shall get 1,000 kg of green beans from this garden next year.

Garden 5 is doing ok.  We pruned the shade trees too heavily.  They were supposed to be every other one, but instead the workers cropped them all in one area.  The good thing is the supervisor can see the results of his mistake and adjust his care.  This poor garden is on its third change over the years, with us now digging great trenches around the vines to ensure they never get waterlogged again.  The second planting is about 18 months old and doing fabulously, already 3m high and doubled.  The older vines are mixed, with us allowing them to grow high showing good results as they get up to the top, and producing flowers all over the place.  We have learnt not to let them flower on thin vines, it just kills the branch.  But the thick vines are appearing and producing new, high quality buds and beans.  We are expecting another 1,000 kg of green beans next year from this garden.

Garden 10 is flat, and suffered from root rot.  Very mixed.  We have increased the spacing between vines, so going from 1200 vines to perhaps 700.  There are some tremendous vines, but not a lot.  The damaged vines are already producing good, strong, green shoots but next year is too early for a decent crop, maybe 100kg.

Up the hill in Jeruk Mancing, the older gardens suffered badly from La Nina, particularly garden 4 which we have decided to replant and remove the cocopeat.  The others are being encouraged to grow higher, and that should be sufficient.  Next year is too soon, for them, but nevertheless I am expecting another 2,000 kg from these.  Across the valley to Garden 17, our huge garden, this is also doing well and should give a small crop next year, perhaps another 1,000 but right now I am thinking more like 500kg.  I’ve just been around it,  and it is healthy and just going from the thin vine stage to producing thicker vines capable of flowering.  There are over 4,000 vines in this garden, it is immense, but next year is too soon for it.

Paul has commenced experimenting with processing the green beans.  Two years ago, we did try freezing to kill the enzyme action without much success.  Paul has found it much more effective and no split beans, which are a problem when you harvest late to get the maximum vanillin content.  I suspect he has a freezer which goes much colder.  The joy of smelling fermenting vanilla!

We are preparing to go out and buy some green beans from other farmers, to increase the vanilla we can sell.

We are looking seriously at selling the vanilla retail, from the website, through distributors and outlets.  We are experimenting with wooden boxes for quality presentation.  If successful, this will double the returns for the vanilla.  We can even sell retail overseas, with good courier service these days.  A kilogram to Singapore is just $20 door to door.  As the vanilla will sell for $350 a kilo, this is an option.


Lobsters are progressing, enjoying their new system of care, and becoming adventuresome, getting in the wrong ponds which upsets our recording and measuring.  We are upgrading the connections to reduce wandering and making the ponds more escape proof.

The lobsters are breeding well in the weed filled ponds, but in the ponds we weren’t expecting…  Next month we shall drain the first pond where they are supposed to be breeding!

Spirulina is frustrating.  It is growing, but slowly.  It seems there are 22 species so clearly the care sheet we have been using is incorrect for this species… and we have two species.  I need to invest in a microscope to ensure we do have some.

Garden Tours with Lobster Lunch is moving closer.  We shall be planning further this month.  Apart from anything else, it is the best way to profit from the small numbers we currently produce, sell them retail in our own restaurant.  The excess can go to other restaurants.

In the meantime, we don’t have enough lobsters to fulfill a restaurant contract, but we can start selling lobsters.  This is the current availability and pricing:

50g       Lots      Rp15,000 each

80g      Lots      Rp 25,000 each

100g    100      Rp30,000 each

125g    20        Rp 40,000 each

Mixed   Lots      Rp300,000 per kg

Free delivery to Ubud & Gianyar Daily, to Sanur twice a week.  Rest of Bali, on application.

There is a shareholder discount, of course:  4 100g lobsters for Rp 100,000.


Administration and Marketing

Fundraising.  We have had a good month, bringing the total raised to Rp 8.877.500.000.  This means we can focus on vanilla processing in July. Growing is handled by the staff who are developing more and more expertise.  We have successfully inculcated independent thought in the managers, and the willingness to experiment which is bearing fruit.

We ran into a problem with our trial agarwood export.  We have an export license, but it turned out we needed a special agarwood permit AND quota.  Our supplier, my grandfather in law, could supply both, but couldn’t be bothered for less than a ton.  And our customer wants 5kg as a sample…  We are exploring a way of processing the agarwood so it can be exported without quota.

Investing in Indonesia has two huge problems for newcomers to overcome.  First is networking, very important for dealing with officials and mistakenly viewed as corruption, which is greatly reduced.  The second is bureaucracy, which is very difficult to plough through, not helped by the morass of agents.  Again, the government is actively simplifying this, but it is still tricky.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a few companies are coming to us for help, which we are willing to offer.  We can solve these two problems simply and also reduce the risk of opening a PMA by doing a joint venture with them.  This enables them to benefit from our expertise while we as a company benefit from increased size and risk distribution.  We have to ensure three things.  That the company is legitimate and will not cause any embarrassment to us or our reputation.  That there is no pressure on our finances, rather the reverse as they must pay for our services.  That there is no deflection of the principals’ attention from core business.  Naturally, the business must be sound and follow our core precepts of benefitting people, planet and being profitable.

More information as this matures.

Best wishes,

Rex Sumner

Chairman at PT Royal Spice Gardens


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