Piet Prinsloo, ZZ2 Tomatoes, South Africa – 29 January 2016

ZZ2 tomatoes was a company I had heard about and really wanted to visit because they are vast in size but they have managed to reduce their pesticide usage by 50% using biological farming methods. My contact in ZZ2 was Piet Prinsloo:

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Piet is an interesting guy. He has no background in agriculture but had property companies. After meeting one of the owners of ZZ2 he was offered a job and is now a project manager for them. He was asked by the owners to look into organic farming methods and try to improve the way the company farms. Below are a few figures about the company:

  • produces 240,000t per year of tomatoes outdoors and has a 50% share of the South African Market
  • it has 10% of the onion market
  • produces deciduous dates in the desert in Namibia
  • also produces chillies, avocados, apples, pears and cherries
  • due to sites of farms it can produce tomatoes all year around
  • it employs 9000 people

For the first part of our meeting Piet talked about the business and its philosophy. Out of the project to improve farming methods came their NatuurBoerdery (Natural Farming) brand. The improvement in farming methods has lead to improvement in taste and shelf life. Even though they don’t sell NatuurBoerdery as a premium brand they get a 10-12% premium over competitors due better quality from their customers.

 

After chatting we went to see how they had managed to reduce their pesticide inputs so much. They use Effective Microbes, compost teas and compost.

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Above was one of their big mistakes. It is one of four tea brewers they imported into RSA at a cost of about £10,000 each but it didn’t work. So they made their own:

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They just use IBCs with the tops cut off and bubble air through it using the device below:

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They make 3-5 million litres of tea per year. The teas reduce foliar and soil diseases. They also brew their own EM

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EM is a mix of molasses, brown sugar and EM bugs which is then brewed for 14 days. Then with some of the EM brews they add different extracts for different purposes including chipped weeds. One brew they use for nematode control in the soil. The EM costs them £30 per ha but if they used the chemical method with methyl bromide it would cost £120 and kill everything else in the soil. They also have their own lab where they check the quality of their brews, compost and soils

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They also have a large composting site:

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The compost is made from wood chip, chicken manure and cow manure and is bought into the farm. They then make their compost themselves and have a bespoke machine that waters and turns the compost:

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Once it is composted it is graded and then sent to different uses:

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The finest grade goes to the tomatoes, the medium coarse grade goes to the tree crops like avocados and the coarse stuff goes back through the composting site.

It was great to visit a large company that has managed to employ biological methods on a large scale and meet a man like Piet who is very determined to make it work. Thanks everyone for you time.

AndrewHoward

AndrewHoward

Andrew Howard farms 345ha in a family partnership near Ashford, Kent, growing winter and spring wheat, winter and spring oilseed rape, spring oats, spring barley, winter barley, and field beans. His soils range from heavy weald clay to light sand. Andrew is a committee member of BASE UK, and member of LEAF and the Institute of Agricultural Management. As a Nuffield Scholar, Andrew will study companion cropping around the world.

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