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A farm visit exceeds expectations

21 May 2019

Article

Paul Rackstraw, MD of Futuregrowth, visited the Futuregrowth Agri-Fund 2 Bonathaba and Zwartfontein farms on 8 February 2019.

He was very impressed by what he saw, notwithstanding the extreme drought conditions in the region, and found the Fund’s farms to be a beacon of success, particularly compared to other farms in the area. Paul wanted to get a first-hand feel for the way the operator is running the farms and to put into reality the investment proposals that he was part of approving, as a member of the Fund’s Investment Committee. He also wanted to get an indication of the impact of the drought on the farm operations.

Impressions
“My first impression was incredibly positive. The farm is very neat and well maintained. This includes the roads, entrance, building, irrigation, valves, tankage, orchards and vineyards. It felt like a ‘new house’. In addition, the sheer scale of the expansion on the Zwartfontein portion is hard to describe, you have to see it in real life to appreciate it.

“The packhouse is extremely neat, and appears to have been altered in a very clever and efficient way to minimise costs. Fruit was being packed and about 300 packers were hard at work while I was there. The environment was friendly, calm and very well organised.

Everything was orderly and gave the impression of a well-oiled machine. The bathrooms, cleaning and eating areas were very neat and tidy and well maintained. Safety signage was in place and a lot of emphasis has been placed on fire safety. I met some of the farm managers and there seems to have been a good transfer of skills with the farm managers and packhouse managers.

“The crèches and housing on the farm were equally impressive. Clearly, a lot of thought went into the design and aesthetics, to create an attractive environment.

“Managing the farm has been a balancing act between supporting current production and keeping new plantings alive. The technology and methods used for applying water to the vineyards and orchards have achieved significant savings in water usage and facilitated the survival of the farms over this challenging period. Looking at neighbouring farms you can see that this is not always the case. It appears that the drought has cost about 30% of production this year. It could have been a lot worse.

“It must have been a really tough two to three years on the farm, especially with the farm being in an expansion phase. I am not a farmer, but what I saw was impressive and way in excess of what I even expected, even had the farm been running through good times.”