I am pleased to report a month of solid progress. The budget I thought was finalised, but we do have a little bit of adjusting to do as we get used to each other and understand each other’s terminology.
We have secured a 20-year lease on an 18.3 are plot which already contains several buildings on the main road to Tampaksiring, thus excellent access. And near both the fishponds and the vanilla. The plot already has a two-story, three-part shopfront. Inside, there are two proper buildings, one of which we have earmarked for our laboratory, and 6 large structures with roofs and no walls, other than the back wall. There is also a subterranean area with four rooms.
It is more than we need immediately, but we expect to make it suitable for processing vanilla within a couple of months, in time for harvest.
Three thousand shares have been sold or ordered, leaving just 2,000 available. In other words, we have sufficient money to see us through to the first sales of vanilla.
A promised work together with 3 hectares of land in a new area fell apart when it turned out that the seller was actually an agent and wanted a commission… Plus the daily rates for workers are twice what we are used to. The land we wanted to buy in Abuan proved to be impossible because of a local bye-law forbidding companies from purchasing the land. This is disappointing because we wanted to get involved with another community and the locale is ideal for vanilla with a great deal of experience in growing it. In the lowlands, 500m altitude, we are forced to work with landowners because we cannot afford to rent. Getting landowners to agree is not easy at present. It gets easier each year. At our Jeruk Mancing location, we are renting the land, usually paying about 70 million rupiah for 10 are. We had to stop working together, because outsiders would rent the land and then set up the working together agreement with us, which is not what we want. We want to benefit the local community, not absentee landlords. Higher up still, we have an opportunity to buy some land for 300 million for 30 are. This is still being discussed, as we may have a workaround the local bye-law.
One of the advantages of being large growers is that we can experiment. We have developed the raised bed method, and indeed it looks like we are going to convert our last individual bed garden, number 6, to a raised bed as the growth stops. Now, we have found that the traditional way of letting the vanilla hang down thickly from the shade tree does not work in a really wet year. The humidity between the branches is too great. So, we are experimenting with making a trellis from the living shade trees and growing the vanilla along this. As vanilla likes to be 20m long at least before flowering, we think this will be most effective. We won’t have the thick clumps that suffer, instead a spread-out array of dangling flowering branches. And strong roots going down the shade trees.
We are in the process of building composting bins in each garden. Work is starting right now on Garden 5. We have commissioned a local engineer with Italian skills to create suitable chopping machines for cutting up the material for faster composting. Essentially, our workers will spend all their time collecting material from the gardens for composting while keeping the trellis in shape and the weeds gone. This means they are always patrolling the gardens. In due course, we shall be able to quantify what materials have the best effect on vanilla. We are experimenting with different plants in the compost. As we have more compost bins, we can trial more varieties.
The dry season is starting – at least we have just had four days without rain! The vanilla is responding, Garden 17 with flowers out of season, the rest growing into their new trellis structures. We need to be careful not to over prune the shade trees.
Lots of vanilla, green, appearing on the market and it is so sad. Farmers in need of quick cash or because their vines have rotted in the rain are selling for as little as 125,000 rupiah per kilo. What is sad is that this vanilla is 4 months old. As long as it is going to get, but immature. The vanilla needs another 3-5 months, depending on sunshine, to mature and create all that wonderful goodness inside. This is the problem for Indonesian vanilla that we wish to solve. We are refusing to buy it, of course. The processing facility isn’t ready, and the beans aren’t mature. In 4 months, then we shall buy, using the opportunity to train farmers in quality, rewarding good quality with better prices.
Another 9 ponds are almost complete, giving us a total of 22 at present. We will put in another 6 to 10 in this location. We have about 2,000 lobster in various sizes up to 100g, including breeding stock. The most important thing is that we are getting protected water flow, all clean water going through with plenty of filtration especially biological filtration to clean the water. This location should be capable of producing 1 ton per month. We are already looking at new sites and have identified one very promising which is behind the new warehouse/processing buildings. This would be ideal for finishing, as we can use one of the buildings as a packing facility.
We have been made aware of a person looking to fill an order for Singapore for 23 tons per week. Other research has made us aware of the end client, who sells 50g lobster. So, we believe the market in Singapore is at least 100 ton per month, or $2million a year. And that is before we look at China, which eats 90% of the world’s crayfish. Also, that doesn’t yet include the domestic market.
Therefore, we have decided to proceed with the venture, and at the next opportunity, we shall add aquaculture to our licenses.
We have appointed a young man, Anak Agung Gede, as our Master of Insects. It is his duty to raise the protein that we need for the lobster. To this end, he is busy planting loads of papaya. The lobster love the leaves and fruit, and the fruit makes the perfect growing medium for Black Soldier fly larvae. We have three BSF growing tanks, which should produce over a kilo of protein per day, and are pretty sure we know what to do to raise crickets. We collect worms from the compost as well as having a wormery.
Finally, we are designing a method of dragon proofing our ponds, for dragons are the biggest danger. We shall put up a metal frame over the pools with a 30cm high wall, and on top of the wall and cemented into it, 180cm of wire mesh, bent outwards at the top. The final 20cm may actually point down. Above this, we shall enclose the entire area with paranet, shade cloth. This will divert the birds that may visit.
I look forward to the day we can call our lobster ponds dragon-proof! Dragons are, of course, water monitor, a relative of Komodo dragons and capable of reaching 3m in length, which is a big tough lizard well suited to being called a dragon. They have wiped out lobster farms near the coast, another reason we are happy at 500m, where we have fewer dragons.
As you have previously read, the past nine months have been all about expansion, and we are now already planting vanilla garden number 18, as well as beginning to farm lobster! We have had an influx of new shareholders which has allowed us to maintain our expansion, even while our operating costs continue to grow. Thankfully, with an expert finance professional now giving oversight to our plans and budgets, we are more confident than ever 'that good things' come to those who wait.
Literally this week, we move into our 1830m2 warehouse and processing facility, where we will process both vanilla and crayfish, ready for packing and shipment. The existent buildings need a fair amount of restoration, but we intend to have them ready by September. We will also have a small laboratory on-site for QA/QC.
Our shareholder meeting is long overdue, so we have planned to hold it at RSGI’s registered address at 3pm (Bali time) on Wednesday, 20 April 2022. All shareholders will receive an invite with the proposed agenda, and all are welcome to join.
As ever, please do not hesitate to be in touch with any inquiries.
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