Efficiency at its Finest – from Bees to Sheep to Windows?

Business is business.

Today started with a visit to the Centre for Apitherapy in Kamianna followed by Sheep Farming with Roman Kluska, followed by a tour of the Fakro rooftop windows factory.

Centre for Apitherapy
apitherapy1Kamianna is a small town of 200, of which 100 are currently employed by the Apitherapy Centre. It is the honey capital of Poland!

However, let’s start at the beginning. Dating back to the 16th century, the villagers were extradited in 1947 to Ukraine.

In 1960, Dr. Henry Ostach arrived in Kamianna. He was a beekeeping enthusiast and a great social activist. From this moment, Kamianna has continued to undergo significant prosperity and development whilst staying humble in tradition and roots.

The hives produce 70kg/hive/yr in a good year.

Some value-added products:

– Pollen (rich source of vitamins)
– Bee bread (used in cancer treatment)
– Propolis solution, ointment, suppositories, intravaginal tablets, cream
– Beeswax candles

apitherapy2The Centre also delivers honey to the Pope.

A little tidbit for my mum – burning beeswax helps calm the nerves of palliative patients as well as relieving the stress and anxiety of those around them.
Queens are produced using artificial insemination, if you can believe it. Here’s a peek inside the laboratory where this is performed.

Ecological Sheep Farming of Roman Kluska
ecosheep2The Kluska farm specializes in Fresian sheep for cheese production using ecological practices including natural breeding and selection of traits. All product is non-GMO and therefore neighbouring sheep are not allowed to pasture on the property for risk of GMO contamination.

This farm business includes a number of elements in the supply chain to keep costs and resources under control including on-farm cheese processing and water treatment facility.

I have to say, these were the cleanest sheep I have seen as they are bred for no hair on the tail.

ecosheep ecosheep4 ecosheep3

Sheep farming facts:
– Produce 1-4L milk/sheep/day
– Milk twice a day with 40 milking stations
– No artificial insemination
– Lambing February – April (sometimes into May)
– 300 ewes, 250 lambs
– Lambing at 1.9
– Not allowed to slaughter on farm for meat
– Wool purchased by external companies
– Price margins poor due to excessive regulations

The Cheese
– 200L milk = 50kg cheese
– 200PLN/kg of cheese retail

The farm is aiming to grow to 1000 sheep and will need to acquire neighbouring land to do so, which is available in the area. The current farm is 100ha and land prices average 100,000-200,000PLN/ha (to get dollars, divide by 3).

FAKRO
FAKRO was established in 1991 by founder and current COO Ryszard Florek from his own woodworking shop established in 1986. Now, FAKRO is world leading, producing 15% of the global share of roof windows.

fakro1 fakro2 fakro3

And, what does this have to do with agriculture? 2 things: 1) they produce windows for barn roofs, 2) they have a from-the-ground-up entrepreneurial business approach that has resulted in much success. Great management is evident here from the people to the product.

Oftentimes, I get asked to bring good business examples from outside of agriculture to provide a new perspective on agriculture and business management, and FAKRO allows us to do just that. Made up of 12 manufacturing companies and 15 foreign subsidiaries all over the world, FAKRO employs 3300 people.

In terms of environmental responsibilities, FAKRO is FSC (meaning they source wood only wherein the rate of new planting exceeds the rate of removal). And, their products help create better energy efficiency for buildings and homes.

FAKRO treated us to a lovely lunch followed by a presentation by Kris. We even got to wear 3-D glasses to see how they use software to view their product from every angle and choose functionality and innovations.

Participants were toured through the factory and also got the chance to see some of their quality control measures.

Their rooftop windows are really quite remarkable – from 180 pivot windows to fire escapes to creating small balconies.

Following the factory tour, we were treated to another wonderful dinner with stuffed peppers, stuffed zucchini, goulash and cold cuts followed by an evening of 10 pin bowling. Razzle dazzle, what a wonderful day we’ve had!

Onto Niedzica castle tomorrow.

-Heather

Advertisements

From Renaissance to Revelation to Revolution

Today began with a historic town visit followed by a farm tour and heritage farm site.

Zamosc – Renaissance Town

20130728_091014

Today started with a lovely guided tour of the renaissance town of Zamosc, in the south-western part of Lublin Voivodeship. Zamosc was built up from nothing by Jan Zamoyski in the 16th century. You can see remnants of the fortification walls leftover from the Russian occupation of the 19th century.

20130728_092618

Armenian houses

20130728_093649

The Market Square (100x100m) is the main attraction, and host to a number of cultures including Greek, Armenian, and Polish. Most famous are the Armenian houses, heavy ornate with mythological and cultural symbolism. The Town Hall is most impressive.

20130728_104844

Jan Zamoyski statue

The current mayor of the town is coincidentally of the Zamosc family and has been in power for 3 terms.

Wieslaw Gryn – Crops Farmer

20130728_131204Gryn Farms dates back to 1785, and Wieslaw represents to farms’ 7th generation. Poland’s accession to the EU meant that farmers could finally manage their farms like a business.

20130728_131757

20130728_13180420130728_132601 20130728_13190920130728_134105 20130728_143714Currently 600ha (80ha rented), the farms’ largest plot is 35ha and production includes wheat, corn and rape (canola). Wieslaw utilizes strip-tilling to maximize efficiency while preserving the soil. A true innovator, Wieslaw has custom created machinery to meet his production needs. Such engineering costs the farm 1/3 of retail prices for equipment.

Wieslaw is currently getting 12T/ha corn, 7.9T/ha wheat and 4.5T/ha of rape. Rotation is rape – wheat – corn – wheat, with hopes of introducing soybean between corn and wheat. While on the farm, a load of canola was taken off at 6.9% at 30 degs celcius.

½ of Wieslaw’s product goes to the ship yards for export, which costs 10-15% however the price at the docks is higher than domestic.

Wieslaw currently receives $700US/ha, however he’s looking forward to 2015 when Poland will abolish subsidies so that farmers can be rewarded for managing their business well.

With the land split into parcels, Wieslaw feels a lot of unnecessary time is spent trying to remember what’s going on in which field when 565ha are split into, on average, 6ha sections.

20130728_16161020130728_161659

Wieslaw and other farmers are in active protest against a fracking site being set up just down the road.

Some participants went into the field to look at soil samples from corn, wheat, and also, check out the worm population.

The Gryn family provided us with a wonderful lunch – roast pig, salads, buckwheat, and beer. Wieslaw has got to be one of the most passionate and happy farmers I have ever seen.

Upon our departure, Wieslaw noted that he realizes we are not too different around the world and must continue to work together to feed the world and protect our natural resources.

Guciow Farm

20130728_181749 20130728_182759 20130728_182901Next stop was Guciow Farm, a famous ancient village preserved in its original state. The site includes many fossils collected from17 million years ago, along with a collection of meteorite pieces collected as well. And, of course, agricultural tools like a log used for grain drying and household items like snowshoes made of straw.

We enjoyed a meal of pork meat, bacon and sauerkraut along with tomatoes, cucumbers, eggs and soup to start. Every meal begins with soup (beet, sour cherry, chicken noodle, etc.) followed by potatoes with dill, pork, cabbage salad, followed by cake or some sort of dessert. And, I’m not sure what it is, but the tomatoes here are most excellent, as if just picked from the garden!

Off to our first castle tomorrow, and an apiary – stay tuned!

-Heather

From Flowers to Fertilizer – Big production in Poland

The Post-Congress Tour of Poland is officially underway.

Departing Warsaw, our first stop was JMP flowers owned by the Ptaszek family.

JMP Flowers

anthurium

aranthium colours

The green house is considered the most modern in the world and is derived from a Dutch design. JMP flowers produces the Anthurium, Roses and Orchids. Started in 1977, the family has grown to the largest flower producer in Poland and the second largest producer of anthurium in Europe.

At 11ha, the company employs 100 workers for continuous cutting of over 60 varieties of roses, 4 types of anthurium and several dozen types of orchids. All picking/cutting is done by hand.

Before entering the greenhouses, delegates were required to disinfect hands and feet – a contrast to the lack of biosafety at the pig farm visited earlier in the week.

Anthurium

aranthium pinkAt 11 years old, the crop becomes economically unviable, however technically, the plant could live forever. Once cut, the flower can live from 3-7 weeks.

aranthium lots

greenhousesJMP embrace innovation. Typically anthurium produces leaf-flower-leaf-flower, limiting the amount of flowers you can derive from a single plant. However, JMP discovered that if they cut the leaves when they’re young, they’ll maximize photosynthesis for the flower without crowding out room for more propagation per m2. This resulted in a 20% increase in production, and also, a decrease In labour as employees could move through the flowers much quicker with less greenery crowding. Now, other greenhouses are adopting this method.

Roses

Rose production is extremely labour intensive. Roses are cut up to 3-4 times per day, which required 4.5 persons per hectare cutting 50,000 stems per day. Employees receive 1 day off per week.

Roses can receive 1.5-7 PLN/stem. Employees are paid a salary (12 PLN/hr) plus incentives for more stems/hr. Our host commented that when an employee sees their friend working hard, they’ll work harder too. All employees are Polish locals, to ‘give the employees a sense of pride and belonging to the company’.

JMP’s rose production represents the largest air conditioned project in the EU.

Orchids

orchidsOrchids represent 5hs of production and is the most automated of the 3 flowers. Orchides are photograohed 360 degrees so that the employees can input desirable traits into a computer and the automated assembly line can gather such plants for shipping.

When JMP started into this business, import of orchids nearly ended in Poland.

In terms of the 3 flowers, orchids are the higher cost, but bring in more revenue to cover the other production, followed by roses and finally anthurium. 1ha of the orchid greenhouse without plants can buy 8ha of a tomato greenhouse totally loaded with plants.

As a competive advantage, JMP can start flower production 2 weeks in advance of others. JMP also uses high tech data collection instruments to determine the forecast (ex. Cloud cover) 2 hours in advance, and also track employee productivity to make management decisions. For instance, if the company garners increased value from a certain crop, only to find out the production costs an hour per day more in labour, it may not be financially viable to pursue that crop anymore.

Future goals are to have less employees, however earning higher salaries. JMP does not receive any subsidies from the EU because there are no specialists able to evaluate production.

Grupa Azoty – Pulawy

pulawyOur next stop was the Pulawy fertilizer plant that specializes in the production of nitrogen fertilizer (urea) and is one of the world’s largest producers of melamine. Grupa also offers engineering plastics, from OXO alcohols through to plasticizers and pigments. Their own R&D, design and servixing units allow them to render various services.

Of most interest…the CO2 as a waste product from the company’s main production is being used under high pressure and temperature to extract oils from pumpkin, blackcurrant, raspberries, hops and other products. The hops extract is being used to supply 30% of German beer company’s requirements (ex. Carlsberg), and some extracts are going for $1mill/kg due to their cancer treatment qualities.

Tonight we are off to Zamosc and starting tomorrow with a guided tour of the renaissance city followed by 2 farm visits: Wieslaw Gryn and Guciow Farm.

-Heather

 

Politics, Policy, People – a Science for Polish agriculture

Today’s itinerary consisted of the opening ceremony featuring a number of key industry players including Poland’s Minister of Agriculture Stanislaw Kalemba followed by 3 blocks of plenary sessions, 4 paper presentation sessions and another wonderful meal prepared by the University.

Participants gained an understanding of the context within Polish agriculture has transformed, continues to change and the future outlook.

While all of the speakers were fascinating and I encourage you to go to ifma19.org or read further, or look for the paper presentations on ifmaonline.org following the Congress, I will share just a bit of what some of the presenters had to say.

Leszek Balcerowicz, former Deputy Prime Minister and current department head and professor at the Warsaw School of Economics spoke about Poland’s transformation (beginning in 1989) from communism to democracy and capitalization’s role in creating sustainable (thereby competitive) economic models.

Professor Balcerowicz made the comment – you can have capitalism without democracy, but you cannot have democracy without capitalism. In Poland and other countries, Balcerowicz demonstrated a dramatic increase in per capital GDP following the move away from communism – as the state towards competitiveness.

Standford University’s Scott Rozelle shared his perspective on how China has gone from zero to hero in terms of economic development, and lessons that other countries may take away as such, especially those developed nations that are being well outdone by the BRICS nations in economic growth and development. Rozelle posits that upon studying the last 50 years, one of the main driving forces for growth and development is agriculture – it is in fact the underlying trigger.

China, which has grown by one California annually over the last 30 years, stimulated growth through:

–          Institutional reform

–          Market liberation

–          Investment in agricultural technologies (and ready-access) – ex. Irrigation

Further to the first point, in 1978 China had 40,000 state farms. What happened when China broke these farms into 200 million family farms (one football field per family) was a 50% increase in productivity as the farmers themselves could individually see the benefits or fruits of their labour and it was an incentive to do well.

Rozelle’s conclusion: the greatest role for government is R&D and extension as for the public good.

Tomasz Zdziebkowski of Top Farms (Spearhead International) spoke to his program managing 70k hectares in in EU using a new farm management conceptualization stemming from an organizational chart that dismantles the concept of the Farm Manager because fundamentally, the Farm Manager cannot do everything in practice, nor is this good management. So, we start with a Board, and separate managers for various productions cross-sectioning with managers in Mechanization, Finance & Administration, and supporting departments. The Farm Manager moves to occupy one of these positions. While the concept of establishing a defined org chart isn’t new (see Dick Wittman’s work from the US), Tomasz adds a Management Information System that fundamentally allows his farms to compare apples to apples ranging from Inputs and Mechanization Costs to Overrun and storage, land tax, subsidies, estate charges and general overhead before subsidies. And, the Farm Manager is not responsible for all of these aspects, but is aware of them.

Moving into policy, Jerry Plewa of the European Commission spoke of the CAP (ag policy). I found it quite interesting to draw comparisons with the Growing Forward 2 policy framework.

CAP is framed within:

Production Competitiveness Sustainability

GF2 is framed within:

Competitiveness Marketing Innovation

I am often curious as to how semantics play a role in the adoption of conceptual frameworks.

The EU has moved to cross-compliance (similar to Canada) – ex. Farmers must fulfill climate and environmental requirements in order to receive support including crop diversity (at least 3 crops), permanent pasture and ecological focus areas for between 4%-7% of land (land is not touched by fertilizers for example).

Other changes include dismantling any quota systems (sugar by 2017, dairy by 2015), investment in the creation of producer groups, increased support for shortening of supply chains, and increased investment in public research, development and knowledge transfer.

Also, under previous policy, all farmers of all types received equal subsidies, and there is now a move towards receipt of subsidies that reflect the nature of individual farm businesses.

Poland will offer duty free quota free on all imports (interesting: more imports come from developing countries than US, UK, Canada, NZ added together).

Ultimate goal of CAP: to create an environment where farmers can be profitable, without compromising the environment.

One aspect of CAP programming that peaked my interest was ‘Retirement Incentives’ – I’d like to learn more about this as the Congress goes on.

Joe Outlaw from the Ag & Food Policy Centre enjoys a very close relationship with Congress and the Farm Bill. Mr. Outlaw was very candid in his discussion. The US is looking to cut the food program by over $20 billion annually.

Outlaw notes that the new Farm Bill will only help when things are really bad as thresholds for kicking in are unprecedentedly low. He predicts corn will drop to $4/bu which is reaching CoP territory – and, we may have a severe problem in that the Farm Bill is really designed to help farmers in times of need – last year $65 billion out of $200 billion went unspent because times were good.

Outlaw spoke of the Dairy Producers Margin Protection program and the Dairy Market Stabilization Program. Ultimately, aiming to decrease production in the US.

Newcastle University’s David Harvey drew some interesting connections between Darwinian and Adam Smith theory related to the survival of the fittest (and his agricultural economics perspective as such). Harvey worked for Ag Canada for some time and was instrumental in bringing about the Western Grains Stabilization Program.

Yelto Zimmer presented on AgriBenchmark – a tool using international partners to create international benchmarks and look at trends and best practices.

Edward Gacek stressed the importance of farmer involvement in Participatory Plant Breeding Programs to create the real context for studying the practical results when science meets implementation at the farm level.

And finally, Roman Izdebski of EkoysteEM reminded us all of the importance of soil health and sustainable practices.

Following these plenary sessions, participants enjoyed paper session – we could choose 4 of approx. 30 offerings on various topics. More later!

Canadian delegates, please feel free to ass your 2 cents – what presentations stood out for you?

We’re off to our first day of farm tours today – I’m looking at the fruit value chain while others are looking at vegetable, dairy, research and other topics.

Questions and comments are welcome!

-Heather