Articles

Bilancia goes for the long term in Kazakhstan

Bilancia has horticulture projects in Kazakhstan and delivers in those projects the knowledge and skills to get a good production. To create this situation Bilancia horticulture projects BV selects Dutch growers and together with this grower,  Bilancia adopts the project.

“We are going for the long term, not for the short one” says Jan Vrins, one of the directors of Bilancia.   Often it’s a traject with trials and errors, however when people learn we are glad. In this article we show you some of our experiences in Kazakhstan.

First of all, it must be clear that every project needs a long term thinking. We often meet advisors who promise very high (sometimes unrealistic) figures of production, just to get a project for a few months. For the investor it is interesting to get an high production, but it is also disappointing when these amount will not be realised.

In Kazakhstan we know that the intensity of light in Aqtobe is very high. So,  this will not give any problems. However we also know that the wellwater is terrible and asks often for osmose, before using. Besides that, the amount of water in the region is not very high and on the long term (coming 10 years) we expect problems in the watersupply.

Bilancia has adopted a project of a foreign greenhouse builder who didn’t finish his work conform the appointments. This greenhouse builder thinks on the short term because he don’t get the possibility to sell new projects in Kazakhstan.   The same situation will come for those advisors who promise high figures in production and they cannot realise this.

The main crops in Kazakhstan are at this moment: cucumbers (midi) and tomatoes. We don’t see peppers and cut flowers. The surface of Kazakhstan is 5 times France and the climate is quit different in the regions. So has the region of Chimkent very hot summers (50 degrees C) and cold winters (minus 30 degrees C). In Tekili (at the east site againt the Chinese border, you will have in the summer period temperatures of 30 degrees and in wintertime minus 15 and in Aqtobe (North west) winters (minus 20 C)  and summers (+ 35 degrees).

The development of the horticulture in Kazakhstan goes very fast. Investors and the government  take care for the money, however even the government is looking for cheap greenhouses, cheap materials etc. Often this cheap buying is on the long term expensive buying, because  when you look to the results or the lifetime of some products, you can better buy immediately a good product, that has proved it selves.

Some of the people will never learn from their decisions and we have seen several greenhouses that collapsed by the heavy weight of the plants. Nobody wants this, however, when you have warned the owner and he doesn’t listen, it can happen.

Management

In every project we see the same: management that doesn’t come in the paths between the plants, but stay on the middle path. It is always a struggle to get them to work with and between the people, so they can control and improve the skills of them.

A good management is very important, so you will get a good communication structure and everybody knows in time what has to be done.

Sometimes the results are disappointing, however with patience and talking we increase the level of knowledge and skills. In The Netherlands we take years of education and courses. We cannot expect within 2 or 3 years people in Kazakhstan will reach that level. It goes with steps and when we all communicate on an honest and open way, we will reach the point at the end, that the people in Kazakhstan can reach a reasonable production themselves.

Knowledge and practical skills do not finish in 1 year.

The investment that is made at the start of a horticulture project in Knowledge and Expertise is not a one-year action, but should be written off over a number of years.

Bilancia Horticulture Projects BV tries by means of on-site supervision and training to get start-up horticulture projects on the rails. This requires an investment from the owner / investor in knowledge and expertise. Also projects that have been under way for some time and want to make improvements, approach Bilancia with the request for support. But, as soon as the investment starts, the problems begin. The first comment you hear is “Can not it be a lot cheaper?”. Because they have not taken these costs into account. Costs that – due to a higher yield that can be achieved with the knowledge and expertise – can be recouped even in 1 year, But this knowledge and expertise is not used for 1 year, but for a considerable number of years., What an investment … that earns itself back very thick.

Investment??? We only know that in “hardware” something that you can take hold of and not in things like “software”, which you can not actually take hold of.

In the first year, the ROI (return on investment) of the investment in knowledge and skills will not be recouped optimally, because mistakes will undoubtedly be made, which entail costs. But you must learn from your mistakes and it is the way to optimize your own people and streamline the processes in the organization.

If you do not invest in the knowledge and skills, then you do not know what you could have achieved in production. Not only in the first year, but also during all subsequent years.

In Russia we assisted a tomato-growing company. The company had just been built by a Dutch greenhouse builder. A few kilometers away was also a greenhouse built by a Dutch greenhouse builder. The management of the latter company did not find it necessary to invest in knowledge and expertise, the first company thought this was necessary. Both projects started growing tomatoes. At the end of the first year the balance sheet was drawn up and it was clear that the difference in yield was 15% higher in this case. Well you can say that with such a higher yield. That, due to lack of knowledge and skills, many mistakes are made and that therefore the yield can be left behind, one does not understand. And that is also difficult to make concrete. Because people are happy when they have reached 45 kilograms per m2 (company 2), where they have easily gained 55 to 60 kilograms per m2 (with company 1) with the right knowledge and skills. For clarity: The same varieties of tomatoes were grown.

The result is that the investors of company 1, decided to build a new greenhouse. But again with good guidance and training to ensure that the foundation is well laid, A foundation on which one can then continue to build.