Irrigation technology is developing quite fast, and in a fast-developing market like China, this technology seems to develop even faster. According to Mr. Brian Li from AgriPlus, in recent years a new trend has been developing in China’s irrigation business. Nowadays, more and more high-tech irrigation systems make use of the cloud. All data is saved in the cloud and is connected to your smartphone. In this way the grower has a quick overview of the current conditions of his irrigation system. “At first we thought this trend was not that important. It started about three years ago and it did not seem to add any new value to the irrigation systems. However, as time passed by, it turned out to be very popular among the investors and growers. Since it is very convenient for the grower to use this technology, they can save time from walking to the pumphouse every day.”
“Now we are also working on our own cloud system, to fulfil this demand. If we do not grow with this trend, it is possible we'll lose some market share, and that would be a pity, because our irrigation system’s quality is very high, though we only lack this cloud-based technology.”
Besides irrigation systems, AgriPlus also provides services for projects with climate control and substrate growing. For their core equipment they are working together with Dutch, Israel, and British companies. “We combine all the knowledge of these companies together to deliver the best products for our Chinese projects. For example, the last couple of years, 80% of our projects consisted of berry production projects. We had three different blueberry projects, which together consisted of almost 500 hectares in total. In order to deliver them the best services, we went to many different berry-producing countries to learn from their techniques and knowledge and combine this into our China projects. In this way, we were able to deliver them the most advanced services on blueberry production.”
AgriPlus is a company that is working together with private investors. As Mr. Brian explains, five years ago there were not a lot of investments in the agricultural sector, but this has changed over time. This did not happen spontaneously, but has to do with a current trend in the consumer market as well. Nowadays, consumers are more concerned about food safety, so they are also willing to pay a higher price for fruits and vegetables. Therefore, for private investors it is more profitable than before to invest in this business, since consumers are now willing to pay the higher prices for greenhouse crops. “The state-owned enterprises also invest a lot in this business, but we believe in the commercial projects from private investors, because they care more about the quality and the result of each project. Those are the points we are strong in. For example, we recently finished a 40-hectare project in Yunnan and within the first year, this investor already gained back his total investment. The ROI of our projects is very high.”
Furthermore, almost 50 to 60% of AgriPlus’ investors are foreign investors. According to Mr. Brian, these good connections with foreign investors have to do with the fact that his company can operate in English and he himself was the CEO of Israeli company Netafim and worked for Dutch company Grodan as chief representative. So, he has a lot of knowledge about this business and for a lot of investors this generates trust, which is reflected in their cooperation with AgriPlus.
However, as Mr. Brian pointed out, the size of all projects has also changed. In the beginning, projects from 2 to 3 hectares were quite large projects, but nowadays they mostly start from 10 hectares. “The size is now always 10 hectares and above. It is not very cost-effective if you start with a smaller project. Furthermore, another current trend; we make use of is substrate growing, because this also increases the yield per hectare and can deliver a very solid quality. In China, we are in a stage where we have oversupply of agricultural products, though, not all products are good for the market, because they lack quality and therefore cannot be sold. With our projects we try to bring back this quality and make growing more profitable again.”
If you are interested in this kind of growing technique, next week AgriPlus will join the Horti China fair of 2018 in Shanghai. “Our company will be present at Horti China, and our main focus will be on substrate growing. Our provider of the substrate is a Dutch company named Grodan. Their substrate solid is of very high quality, 85% of the Dutch tomato growers in the Netherlands use this product to grow their tomatoes. We are the exclusive distributor of this product in China. Grodan Crop experts will be present at our booth as well and we welcome all interested persons to visit our booth, 2HF026. During this fair, I will give a lecture on how to choose the right substrate for growing your Berry crops.”