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3 years ago

ThePartnership no. 14

  • Text
  • Vegetable
  • Breeding
  • Growers
  • Pepper
  • Products
  • Zaden
  • Cultivation
  • Enza
  • Partnership
  • Organic

gr Serving a wing nation

gr Serving a wing nation In the late 1980s, Yossi Kahlon moved from Israel to South Africa. He wanted to grow vegetables in the country that was looking forward to a new, hopeful future after centuries of racial segregation. The young entrepreneur expanded his farm to become one of the largest, most modern vegetable growers offering the widest range in the higher market segment. Yossi Kahlon and General Manager Matome Ramokgopa of Enza Zaden South Africa examine the sweet peppers in the greenhouse, which was built in 2016. Varieties from Enza Zaden traditionally occupy a prominent position. established a large processing hall with various sorting and packaging lines, where employees prepare the harvested fruiting vegetables, leafy crops and cabbage varieties for the supermarket shelves according to the agreed specifications. A formidable partner As a result of this strategy of intensifying production, expanding the product range, improving quality and offering tailor-made services, Mount Carmel Farms has developed to become one of Woolworths’ preferred supplier amongst others of leafy vegetables and brassicas, tomatoes and sweet peppers. This has been accompanied by an average revenue increase of 20% per year. “More than 90% of the products come from our own company; only a small proportion is bought from our colleagues. We now grow 47 crops and have 170 uniquely packaged product lines for Woolworths and Fresh Mark. It is very satisfying to know that these reputable companies view us as a valuable and innovative partner and place their trust in us. Of course, you need to prove this day after day.” Partnership Mount Carmel Farms distinguishes itself through its customer-oriented service. The company delivers 47 different products that they produce themselves on a total production area of 500 ha consisting of diverse production techniques: NGS system, plastic tunnels, plastic greenhouses for sweet pepper, hail net structure and open field production. The products are sold to several supermarket chains in 170 unique forms of packaging. Mount Carmel Farms is located in Bapsfontein, near Johannesburg and Pretoria. Yossi Kahlon started the company, of which the name still refers to his former home country, on 50 ha of purchased land. Initially he mainly cultivated leafy crops and various Brassica varieties in open field, destined for the local market. In the second year, a fellow farmer and a local supermarket expanded his sales market. Ambition “The latter is what I wanted to work towards: long-term relationships with supermarket chains,” Kahlon reflects. “Retailers are the most demanding sales channel and that triggered my entrepreneurial spirit. The greater the challenge, the more interesting it becomes.” Growers who want to serve this segment directly need to have a number of things in order. These include large production volumes of constant, high quality, a wide range of products and packaging and reliable delivery. “Collaboration between growers in this market segment is not uncommon,” explains the entrepreneur. “By working together, you can guarantee retailers a wider range and larger volumes, which makes you an attractive partner in the long term. It also reduces the individual risks. If one business is struggling to fulfil its commitments due to unforeseen circumstances, then there is often another business that can step up. I found myself in such a serving role during the second year of developing my business.” However, Kahlon was more ambitious. He wanted to retain control over his distribution and conduct his own negotiations with supermarkets. He preferred to work with chains that set high standards, because the confident grower knew that he could meet these high expectations. Perhaps not immediately, but he was prepared and ready to make some bold moves. Intensifying efforts Two years after starting the business, Mount Carmel Farms signed its first contract with retailer Woolworths. A modest contract, but that did not deter Kahlon. The entrepreneur saw plenty of opportunity for growth, both in aspects such as area and product range as in increased production and services, such as packaging. He soon took the first steps towards intensifying the cultivation, with the installation of NGS / hydroponic in which he was able to grow lettuce, leafy vegetables and several types of cabbage on water. NGS is top hydroponic technology with the objectives of saving water and conserving the environment. Thanks to the recycling of water and nutrients, this system saves about ninety percent water and lots of fertlizer compared to open field lettuce production. “Growing on water allows you to plan more effectively and produce more,” the entrepreneur explains. “In addition, you can manage a number of risks, such as certain diseases and pests, more effectively or even eliminate them completely. Hydroponic cultivation was already well-established in Israel and I already had the required knowledge and experience. That made it a relatively simple step.” But even before the NGS system, Mount Carmel Farms did some great investments for further expansion of the company. Kahlon installed plastic tunnels, hail screens and foil greenhouse to offer protection against cold and weather conditions. This made a further increase in production, expansion of the product range and improvement in quality possible. And the business Screening varieties With so many different crops and growing systems, it is a major challenge to select the correct varieties. Kahlon and his team of farm managers view the seed companies as important partners in this process. “We have a special relationship with Enza Zaden,” the South African entrepreneur explains. “This is due to their significance for crops that are extremely important to us – such as leafy vegetables and sweet peppers, tomatoes – and due to the accessibility and involvement of their employees. They cooperate fully in the trials that we perform and also involve us in trials at other locations. I have been on lots of foreign excursions, including trips to Enkhuizen and the breeding station in Spain. The great thing about these trips is that you not only get to speak to the sales representatives, but also the breeders, the market researchers and to growers from other countries. This always provides new insights and inspiration.” The innovative character of Mount Carmel Farms is evident in their hydroponic cultivation of leafy vegetables and cabbage varieties. 12 | The Partnership The Partnership | 13

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