Home    About Solagrow
23/03/2016 About Solagrow

A. Contact details

This information sheet is prepared by the management of the Grow-group. For questions and further information, please contact Jan J. van de Haar MSc, by e-mail at solagrow@gmail.com.


B. List of content

This information sheet consists of the following chapters:

A.       Contact details

B.       List of content

C.       Executive summary

D.       Basic data

E.        Business organization

F.        Facilities and products

G.       Market and competition

H.       Business strategy


C. Executive summary

A group of five private companies in Ethiopia is focusing on the supply of biological inputs and cropping technology to support the Ethiopian farmers to produce more and better food and thus to contribute to a better well-being of the Ethiopian people. Improved varieties of potato, vegetables and oil seed crops are introduced, registered and made available for those farmers on commercial basis. Better breeds of dairy cattle are bred and selected to enhance the local milk production.

All dividends of this business are re-invested in Ethiopia to further support the developing agro-economy. As spin-off of this commercial activity, the companies supply adequate medical care for employees and the neighboring villages.


D. Basic data


Group

This information sheet compiles the activities of Solagrow PLC and its four Ethiopian sister-PLC’s (private limited company’s). The main shareholder of the sister-PLC's (70% of shares) is the Dutch foundation Stichting The Cornerstone, Veenendaal. The second shareholder (30% of shares and owner of Solagrow PLC) is the managing director of the group, mr. Jan J. van de Haar. The Van de Haar-family lives in Ethiopia since 2007.

Company names and investment activity

Solagrow PLC                                        -  Potato varieties and export

Cropgrow Crop Production PLC        -  Vegetable production

Hidi Seedgrow PLC                              -  Potato and seed production

Cowgrow Breeding PLC                      -  Breeding and selection of dairy cows

Investgrow Development PLC           -  Machinery rental and medical health care 

 


Office address

The Grow-group has got its central office at Egdu, Hidi. The remote village Hidi is located 15 kilometer east of the city Debre Zeit, almost 50 kilometer south-east of the capital Addis Abeba. The office phone number is +251-116-569 216.


Vision

The vision of the enterprise is: To become the main partner in the agro(export)-sector of Ethiopia with respect to the commercial introduction, production and sales of improved breeds of dairy cattle and varieties of potato, vegetables and other food crops, combining Dutch quality and expertise with Ethiopian agricultural skills.


Mission

The main products of our group are 1) the quality seeds of potato and other food crops and 2) heifers of improved dairy breeds.

Our mission is to optimize the production and supply of these products in Ethiopia and to maximize the (export)market for these products to support the food security and agro-economy of Ethiopia. Furthermore, to profile our companies into durable and profitable enterprises, in which our employees can develop and perform best.


Company values

The basic drive behind our activities is the fact that God our Creator gave us this world and our Lord Jesus Christ is blessing us graciously in all aspects of life. Our responsibility is to cultivate and nurture the earth and to share the blessings we got with our neighbors that received less.

We want to design our sharing attitude according to the next four points:

1.       Share production tools, to enable your neighbor to produce his own food. Providing food can just be an emergency tool in case the production tools failed.

2.       Share on a commercial basis, or by loan. Giving for free dishonors and spoils people who have the capacity to produce by themselves.

3.       Focus on the basic needs: food, water and medical care.

4.       Be there and stay there. Temporary projects usually yield temporary fruits. Join the farmer’s community and learn to understand how to co-operate them best.

Finally, honest and fair co-operation and trade is the divine result of the acknowledgement of the Ten Commandments, given to us to serve in love.


Brief history of the group

Triggered by the nice results of growing potatoes in the desert areas of Israel, Egypt and Mali, Jan van de Haar decided in 2006 to change his job from research manager at HZPC Holland BV into entrepreneur in (potato) seed business in one of the world’s poorest countries, Ethiopia. This initiative got technical and financial support of HZPC, the Dutch government (PSOM/PSI) and by a group of retiring businessmen, who desired to invest in the Ethiopian economy. These businessmen established a non-profit investment foundation, Stichting The Cornerstone. Solagrow PLC was started in 2006 and the practical work started in Debre Zeit in 2007. Soon it seemed to be necessary to establish two sister-companies on rotation crops (Cropgrow) and on seeds (Seedgrow). Furthermore, on instigation of the sons of Van de Haar, the breeding company Cowgrow was started, to develop a strong and high-yielding breed of milk cow for this country. Finally, to support the mechanization of small-holder farms, Investgrow was founded, which also took the license for the provision of medical health care in our area. By now, this group of companies share their headquarter facilities and staffs at Egdu to maximize their mutual development.


E. Business organization


Group structure

The five PLC’s are independent sister-companies. Solagrow PLC is practically serving as a holding company, as it possesses most of the buildings, machineries and other facilities. The objectives of Solagrow, Seedgrow and Cropgrow are intertwined, as it focuses respectively on the introduction of potato technology, the production of (potato) seed and the cropping of rotational vegetable crops. Cowgrow PLC has its own focus on dairy breeding, as has Investgrow on machinery rental and health care. The perinatal and first-aid Clinic Hidi is part of Investgrow.

Our business is split up in the divisions of Research, Crop production, Outgrowers, Storage, Quality, Sales and Dairy Breeding. The supporting departments (like finance or logistics) are centralized on Hidi and support all PLC’s.

Currently over 270 employees got a permanent job, including Jan sr. (general manager) and Jacomijn van de Haar (general manager Investgrow & manager Clinic Hidi). The management includes 2 MSc's, 9 BSc’s and 3 BA’s and a number of Diploma-agronomists.


Locations

The main Egdu-compound (8°48'41.37"N - 39° 3'56.56"E) at Hidi contains the offices, the grading & storage facilities, the plant and molecular laboratory and an 8 hectare experimental field. At this site also the breeding program on dairy cows is performed. From Debre Zeit this site can be reached over a 13 kilometer gravel road.

The second location Filtino, just between Hidi en Debre Zeit, is a plot of 20 hectares irrigated land used as demonstration field. Here the continuous production of all marketable varieties is done, enabling us to demonstrate the daily fresh supply of every vegetable.

The third location is a 100 hectare highland valley at 3,000 m.a.s.l. in Haro Wenchi. This farm, just between Ambo and Woliso, is mainly used for the first propagation of basic seed imported from The Netherlands. Basic seed only can be imported in the early spring and at that period the climate in Wenchi has a perfect low temperature, similar to the cold springs in The Netherlands. A same 100 ha highland farm was obtained in Doba (Arsi) in October 2011.

The second propagation of this basic seed has to be done in the period September-December. At that season it is freezing (down to -15 degrees Celsius) in Wenchi and Doba. Therefore we need to perform the autumn propagation step at altitudes between 1,600-2,100 m.a.sl. Since 2013 we obtained four midland farms: Mahoney (Tigray, 30 ha), Koga/Merawi (Amhara, 52 ha), Amora Meda (Gurage SNNPR, 50 ha) and Hosanna (Hadya SNNPR, 37 ha).

With this we will get arable land for the three purposes at three altitudes: 1) for basic seed production: the extreme highland (2,400-3,000 m.a.s.l.) of Wenchi and Doba, 2) for large-scale seed and vegetable production: the medium highlands (around 1,800 m.a.s.l.) in the Rift Valley, Tigray, SNNPP and Amhara and 3) for demonstration: our Filtino-land at 1,900 m.a.s.l. in the midst of the main consumers markets of Addis Abeba and Nazret. Each of those farms is serving as a nucleus farm providing the surrounding farmers with demonstration fields and required inputs (seeds, crop expertise, mechanization and market links).


Network and market chain

As our commercial quality production of potato seed is still unique in Ethiopia, Solagrow is esteemed as an imported player to improve the Ethiopian potato sector. Therefore Solagrow established strong relationships with the stakeholders of the potato chain. For research a good co-operation with the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research has been made, as well as with the international institutes as CIP (Peru, Ethiopia-branch) and ILRI (rotational crops and fodder/dairy). Beside this Solagrow is partner in a CFC-funded international potato seed project. Finally, Solagrow gets close collaboration with Adama University and Wageningen University on the improvement of crop production by our target-group, the Ethiopian small-holder farmers.

Originally Solagrow took the production and (export) trade of potato seed as core business. Soon it became clear that we had to broaden our focus on two sides: 1) to take the whole potato chain into consideration, from seed to ware to market, and 2) to include the seeds and markets of the rotational crops.

With this approach we can support the farmers with a complete package of quality seeds, including the access to the final consumer and export market. Especially the Middle East export market is quickly developing and can be served by Ethiopian farmers and exporters.

For potato seeds Solagrow is the sole representative of HZPC Holland BV. For vegetable seeds Cropgrow took the representation of Bejo Seeds BV (Warmenhuizen, The Netherlands) and of Pop Vriend Seeds BV (Andijk, The Netherlands). For linseed Solagrow is the representative of Van de Bilt Zaden BV. This guarantees the continuous supply of the new and improved varieties of the main food crops for Ethiopia.


F. Facilities and products


Potato seed

The supply of potato seed in Ethiopia needs at least three propagations starting from TC and minitubers to get a seed price at an acceptable level. Solagrow got its basic seed farm with minituber-facilities at Wenchi and installed the complete crop & harvest line for potato seed. At Hidi, Wenchi and Doba large storage facilities enable the proper storage of seed during the three months dormancy. To certify the required phytosanitary quality of potato seed, Solagrow established its own plant and molecular laboratory (ELISA and QPCR). With this complete seed line, Solagrow is the unique licensed potato seed producer in Ethiopia, capable to produce seed at export level.


Seeds of rotational crops

Cropgrow obtained several lots of basic seed of the most important local varieties of rotation crops from research stations. To improve the quality of these selections we started the maintenance breeding of the entries. Seeds of improved and hybrid varieties are imported from The Netherlands and distributed by our nucleus farms in the seven regions of Ethiopia.

Most of the mechanization needed for this seed production is compatible to the field machinery of the potato crop. Additional seeding machines, choppers and threshers are available and will be added. The potato laboratory can also be used for testing seed qualities like germination rates.


Dairy breeding

Cowgrow got a large cow stable with milking machines and AI-facilities. Starting from a basic gene pool herd of 105 Borana-heifers, we gained over 125 Hobo cross-breeds of Holstein-Frisian and these local resistant Borana breeds. Using these genetic Hobo-lines we are aiming to get three-way-crossbreeds incorporating the robust Jersey breed. Part of the activities is aimed to build a dairy sector in close collaboration with the local farmers at Hidi, financially supported by the Frisian foundation Farm Friends Netherland.


Vegetable chain

To ensure the profitability of the seed business, farmers are supported to establish a strong link to the consumer markets. The introduction of high-quality varieties opens the opportunity to export quality crops to the export markets of Middle East and Europe.


Health care

At all our farms (Hidi, Filtino, Wenchi) fresh drinking water is supplied to the neighboring villages for free from our water wells and springs. This facility is combined with basic medical care for employees and villagers. Our Clinic Hidi provides at every site the preventive and basic curative health care. At Hidi the clinic even has its own ultrasound and ambulance. To get an impression of this work, please visit the Dutch clinic website.


G. Market and competition


Products
- The main products of our enterprises are farm inputs: seeds, heifers and cropping technology. For both categories the market supply in Ethiopia is limited. Most of the available varieties are landraces or old-fashioned open pollinators. Another problem is that the quality of the seed lots - even of the better varieties - is moderate, usually with low germination rates.


Price
- Ethiopian farmers are used to low prices for low quality seeds. To prevent any risk, they as well prefer to invest as little as possible. Quality seed though has its price and farmers have to get used to do these investments, resulting in a major improvement of income later on, after the crop has been sold. This farmers attitude requires a careful price setting combined with passionate introduction of our varieties.


People
- As quality seed is a prerequisite for exporters, they are the first target group that is used to buy quality inputs. Secondly, as Ethiopia has to increase its food production per area, quality seed of highly productive varieties will show to be a strong tool for smallholder farmers to diversify and enhance their income.


Place
- The major food and vegetable production areas are nearby the major cities: Addis Abeba, Zeway and the Awash area. Those intensive cropping areas are our first focus to market our seeds. The second focus is the group of areas that produce for export, like Hosanna, Koga and Mahoney/Raya.


Promotion
- The best way of promotion in Ethiopia is the demonstration of the performance of the varieties at farmer’s levels. This approach is supported by simple and adequate branding, providing easy access to the seed selling points. Close collaboration with the local development agents and the inclusion of local crops and varieties will contribute to the adoption of our varieties where they perform better and give a significant increase of profit and/or reduction of risks.


Competition

Although the markets for vegetable seeds and heifers are free markets, competitors on quality inputs did not develop yet. The main reasons for this are among others the common difficulties of a developing market, the lack of investment capital of farmers and the problems of logistics. Furthermore procedure for the registration of varieties and the protection of breeder rights need to be developed strongly before hybrid varieties will find their way to this country. Still we are in the pioneering phase of this developing sector and normally competitors will follow soon.


H. Business strategy

Our main strategy is first to select the best performing varieties and to get them approved at governmental level, then to demonstrate their high performance in farmers practice and finally to supply them to the farmers in their regular sales points. Additionally, we will support the product chain by contributing to the development of the final links to the consumers and export markets.


Variety introduction

Trials are performed to test potential better-yielding varieties. At the same time we contribute to the selection process of our Dutch breeding partners. Based on those trials the registration tests will be done in collaboration with the Ethiopian research stations. After getting released, the introduction of the variety will be initiated at farmers’ level to make them aware of the practical advantage of the new cultivar.


Demonstration farms

To accomplish our mission our enterprise needs one production and demonstration farm in each important vegetable growing region. By now we achieved this in Debre Zeit, around Ambo/Woliso, 100 km west of the capital and around Bekoji, 150 km southeast of the capital. In 2013 we gained four more nucleus farms, two in SNNPR, one in Amhara and one in Tigray. Every farm will serve as training facility for the surrounding farmers, showing them how to grow excellent vegetables from our seeds. The best farmers in each area will be invited to become a contract farmer to contribute to the complicated production of seeds and vegetables with export quality. To support those contract farmers we established a good relationship with agricultural universities to collaborate on the training of farmers groups by involving their students. Each farm will have at least 100 ha of crop production that will serve as back-up of the outgrower’s production. At first those farms will use furrow-irrigation as the major water supply to the crops. In due time this traditional technique will be replaced by the more efficient and water-saving irrigation techniques.


Seed sales points

Besides selling seeds at the demo-farms, small seed shops will be opened in the main cities and regional farmers’ villages. Most of the shops will also sell the fresh products of our vegetables daily, which will serve as the best promotion of our seeds.


Associations

As the vegetable sector still is immature, we cannot limit our focus to the seed links only. Therefore our approach is to get involved in the final links of producing vegetables for the consumers market and for processing. Supporting these final links of the vegetable chain will as well support our primary seed links of the same chain. Our farms will produce large amounts of quality vegetables to be able to catch a significant market share, locally and at export destinations. At the same time we will stimulate farmers to associate in groups that will guarantee a nonstop weekly supply of our vegetables. Whenever needed we will link our farmers groups to supplier of fertilizers, crop protection tools and machinery.

With those major steps we gradually will gain the acceptance of quality seeds of our varieties. Adoption of new and expensive varieties that give a better and more stable yield takes time. By steadily working on the selection and introduction of the really better cultivars, we expect to build our position as the preferred partner in this category of farmer supplies.


Dairy breeding

The strategy of dairy breeding is to start from the Borana-breed, a dual purpose breed that suits milk and beef production. This resistant breed will be intercrossed with improved red Holstein-Frisians to obtain the Hobo crossbreed. Stringently selected Hobo’s will be intercrossed again with Jersey, to incorporate its efficiency of roughage conversion. Based on the balanced set of selection criteria a robust dairy cow that combines fodder conversion efficiency with high milk production even under the sub-optimal conditions as can be expected at local farmer level. Selling these “Jobo”-heifers will be combined by a practical training of the farmers on basic dairy management.


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