February has been an exciting month. Up until now, I have had to focus most of my attention on raising money. Our expenses are now over $10,000 per month with 24 people relying on us. This month has seen this change, with the advent of Southeast Consulting taking over our finances. They manage several funds and have introduced us to several investors. We have created a new prospectus with the figures done professionally. I am very pleased that my own ham-fisted attempts at forecasting are not dissimilar to the professional results. You can see the new figures in the prospectus, which you can download from our website.
We have taken the decision to release just 5,000 more shares for sale. This will raise another $500,000 which should be enough to take us through to first harvest, and if we do not need any more, this means the value of your shareholding increases…
A budget for the year has been agreed, and premises located for a new factory (terms agreed, documents not yet done, not paid for), and obtain new gardens which we are now looking at actually purchasing, albeit high in the hills, good vanilla country. This is exciting because the villages haven’t had a company buying land and it is something new for them. We must nominate a person to be on the village council, attending meetings and making decisions. We become part and parcel of the village. This is terrific, ensuring we help exactly where needed and also helping to protect us from theft.
Long-term Indonesia hands with long memories will be cautious of investments here. There are too many occasions when military gentlemen helped themselves to the best businesses. We are too small to appeal at present, but in due course, we shall no doubt get some attention. But Indonesia has changed. And we are a different model. If we were a single foreign entity, we’d be fair game. But we aren’t. We have substantial Indonesian shareholding. And the way we work is the New Paradigm, in the words of the Balinese officials. We are like a cooperative, bringing many people with us. This is our best protection, making us beloved of officials and a part of the community.
The composting is going well. The workers really appreciate it, and are beginning to make excellent quality compost, enthusiastically using it to mulch the vanilla. The vanilla is responding well, and we are looking at ways to put compost bins in every garden. We need three in each, but the problem is working out the size, as too large means we cannot fill them from the monthly cleaning of the garden and will have to top up with other grass, competing with the cattle farmers, not a good idea.
We are starting to espalier the gliciridia (shade trees). Our traditional method of lots of falling branches is wonderful in a normal year but suffers from the amount of rain we have just had. By having the shade trees form a natural supporting arch, we can run the vanilla for some distance along this, with spurs falling down and flowering. That’s the idea, we don’t know anybody to have done this. We expect this will make it proof from the fusarium fungus and much more fruitful.
All the Gardens are doing well. Once we are well into the dry season, we shall do a photo record of all the gardens and you can see the progress. 15 doing exceptionally well. 18 is cleared and planted with shade trees. We are still looking for Garden 19, we may have found it but won’t have it for another 3 months. We may have other gardens before that.
We have been meeting with potential associate farmers, and of course, they don’t trust us yet. Why should they? So, for the first few years, we are going to buy their vanilla, providing they follow our rules, mainly with regard to harvesting. We have established a budget to enable us to buy a couple of tons of green beans from potential associates this year, and now we are working on a grading system. The grading system is used to persuade the farmers to wait until the vanilla is ripe before harvesting…
They are flourishing, and we are busily expanding the ponds. We have put in a new additional filter system to keep the water clean. At present, we have a breeding pool, a birthing pool, a pool for little fellows, a pool for 3 months, and a pool for 5 months. Two pools are waiting for pregnant females. We have some giant freshwater prawns but are focused on the lobster.
The new construction has already produced 4 ponds, and we plan a further 13 in this development phase.
We haven’t started marketing, but already we have the chefs of some prominent restaurants and hotels very interested. It turns out that not only are the freshwater lobsters and prawns sold quite small in Indonesia, but even the sea lobsters rarely get to 100g. This is a magic weight in their eyes. Interesting, as both Paul and I would like bigger lobsters, thinking with our stomachs. Of course, it takes 6 months for a lobster to get to 100g, but 2 years to reach 200g. We shall get some bigger ones, but slowly-slowly.
Our next step is to evaluate the exact feeding requirements at the different ages and better breeding of the Black Soldier fly.
As we continue to expand there is of course an ever-growing requirement for standardised administrative procedures. To that end, we will implement Standard operating procedures across the board with initial emphasis on financial controls and contracts, but ultimately leading to full document control for all policies and procedures.
We are also due for a general shareholder meeting for which shareholders will receive an invitation. The proposed date is Wednesday, 6 April 2022. An important agenda item is to accept the new list of shareholders for the amendment of our AKTA. Further details will follow with the invitation.
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