The pioneer strawberry producer and exporting farm in Ethiopia which expanded its business with cuttings flower and automated strawberry production with fresh hands will continue on the same facility.
Starting from February this year, the former Ilan Tot strawberry farm which was transferred to the European largest ornamental producers company, EMS Flower, targets to start the ornamental cuttings export by November 2021 mainly to European markets.
On the ceremony held on Monday August 30, the new farm that is now called Zuqualla Horti Plc, leaders of the farm disclosed that the cut flower under the new greenhouse farm will be located in Qoqa, 91km south east of Addis Ababa.
The company stated that the strawberry export will also continue, while it will be transferred on the green house farming from the current open field.
In the past half year, the company had been engaged on the development of five greenhouses that have 1.1 hectares each and prepared them for cuttings production and some of them are already at the nursery stage.
Bennie Uoipers, owner of EMS Flower, told Capital that the new business so far consumes 7 million euro, while most of the finance is covered by itself and financial sources in Dutch.
Bennie told Capital that his family business in Europe mainly in Germany and the Netherlands have significant impact on the industry, “for the past four years I have observed the possibility to invest in Ethiopia which has now been realized by possessing the farm in Qoqa.”
“I decided to invest in Ethiopia because the country has good climate, very strong on the way forward and good opportunity for the future,” he said. The company has also a plan to make the farm a recreation centre by developing a visitor centre to show how it is produced. Moreover, it plans to establish restaurants and playground for children as it has in Germany, where the company’s centre is located.
At the farm that totally has 40 hectares in space, that is now called by the prominent hill at the area, Zuqualla, it is also expected to introduce a new technology on the production process that the country has never seen before in the horticulture sector that is massively introduced about a decade and half ago by the crucial initiative of Fantaye Biftu, former State Minister of Trade and Industry and experts on the investment promotion.
The company will also apply integrated pest management with beneficiary insects, who eat the bad insects, to reduce the use of pesticides.
Wout van Koppen, General Manager of Zuqualla Horti, explained that first of all, the cutting business is very labour intensive thus requires high tech, “and so if you compare the cutting business let’s say to rose farms and other cut flowers, that is a very different story.”
“The amount of labour per hectare is more. But also the techniques that we produce of which everything are on gutters and therefore we can recycle it with the ozone technique by filtering everything to reuse which is environment friendly. Therefore, we can save on our fertilizer consumption because we can use it over and over again,” the General Manger told Capital.
“The ozone technique is the first of its kind in Ethiopia that will stimulate other farms to follow it,” he added.
“The height of our green house is different in that its 6 meter that was up from 5.5 meter. The height of the green house is more stable for the climate. Moveable screen is also the other new feature on the greenhouse that allows increasing production in different weathers,” van Koppen explained.
He explained that the mother company is supplying to the European supermarkets and those supermarkets chains are getting bigger and bigger and the demand from their suppliers’ large quantities of plants but there are not so many farms or so many suppliers, who can fulfill such order quantities, “Our mother company has 200 hectare glass houses as it is very huge and still they are building every year more greenhouses. The Ethiopia facility that will produce similar product will have a share on the growing demand.”
We are already exporting strawberry, while in the first year the company targets to export 25 million cuttings. Under the plan, the company has targeted to expand the greenhouses every time at its compound.
It has also scheduled to construct greenhouse structures for the strawberry production to put it on the hydroponic scheme that allows producing up to six folds of fruits of the same area which currently operates on open field.
On the occasion of “Open Greenhouse Day” event, organized by Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association held on Monday August 30, Tewodros Zewdie, Executive Director of the association, appreciated the decision of the company that has a huge profile in the industry to invest in Ethiopia.
At the ceremony, the farm reaffirmed that it will continue to play the corporate social responsibility and introduce different initiative to cooperate with the community in the area. So far water, electricity and other social supports have been provided for the community. “We will expand the water supply for those who are demanding and access roads will be renovated, while school will be constructed,” the General Manger said.
Currently the farm has created 380 jobs under the strawberry farm that is expected to increase to 1,200 when the cuttings business becomes operational.