Newsletter Q3 2023
Every quarter we share a newsletter with everyone in the WelMac circle, to keep everyone up to date on the most recent developments within the company and the macadamia industry.
Dear WelMac Circle,
Firstly, I would like to inform you all that my treatments and operations have all been concluded successfully. Even though I am still recovering from my last surgery, I feel fantastic and am happy to have this ordeal behind me. It is now time again to look forward with renewed energy and enthusiasm. I would like to thank all of you for your help and patience in this trying time, to our team in South Africa and the Netherlands for putting in the extra efforts and to all the people who have supported me.
With the harvest of 2023 concluded, work has started on the harvest for 2024 which is already around the corner. We are focused on pest control as well as nutrition and flowering, with good results. We also received a fantastic report from one of our nutritionists which we are happy to share with you in this newsletter.
Every now and then, a (potential) investor finds themselves near our farm, perhaps during a vacation or a prearranged visit. During such times, we are happy to offer the opportunity to visit Welgevonden. In this case, Mr. Gerard Heijkoop has visited Welgevonden during his travels through South Africa. He was kind enough to write his experience up in a report which we can share with you in this newsletter. I would like to personally take this opportunity to invite anyone who is planning to make a trip to South Africa, to come and visit our farm. Our doors are always open, and we always feel it’s a great bonus for the investor to be able to see what we are doing and how much we have grown. If you are interested, feel free to contact us through email@example.com.
The Spring season kicked off on a good note as we received 70mm of rainfall from 1 August to 23 October with an average maximum day temperature of 31 degrees.
Flowering and pest / disease control
The third quarter of the year is a quiet but challenging period for macadamia as this is the time where flowers are being pollinated followed by petal shedding. We had a very good flower set which was longer than usual. In the past there is an early small flower set followed by the main flowering set.
The pest and disease control program is also in full swing from September to ensure that the flowers are protected. In 2021 we decided to transition into biological pest control as part of our regenerative farming practices. During the last two years more and more products were registered for safe use on macadamia for various pests and today we are proud to confirm that our pest and disease control for 2023/2024 is 50%+ biological which consist of the following options/practises:
- Flower diseases – we apply a beneficial fungus which has a strong territorial function, and this fights back disease-causing pathogens.
- Thrips – Predatorial mites are released into the orchards.
- Stinkbug – beneficial fungi that penetrates the exo-skeleton of the bug.
- Macadamia nut borer moth – beneficial fungi that attacks the egg and larvae in their respective stages.
- The aim is to further reduce the usage of chemical pest and disease control, but this will depend on the climate factors and pest/disease pressure and the season has a long way to go.
In September we released 9,000,000 mites into the orchards as part of our biological pest control. We follow a scouting program where a team of staff scout for pests in the various orchards and the aim is to identify any problems early enough to take the necessary steps to prevent the problem from spreading. In the traditional practice of using chemicals the farmer has the benefit that the chemical spray works very quickly where with biological pest control our production team needs to anticipate the potential problem and act in a preventative manner which is much more intensive practice.
The following months will be a very busy period to ensure that pest and diseases are controlled effectively.
September was the period when soil and leaf samples were taken for analysis to determine the following:
- How much nutrients did the harvest remove from the soil and what is left?
- Which of those nutrients are available for the tree and what needs to be supplied?
- Take corrective measures for any problem areas.
We had to address the soil pH which was becoming too low (4.7) and a low pH prohibits the tree from taking up certain key nutrients. The challenge that we faced apart from costs is that any calcium application takes up to 2 – 3 years to work effectively. We decided on a super fine calcium that we applied through the dripper system.
We noticed significant root development into the mulched material under the trees as well as very good new leaf flush on all the trees and it became evident that the calcium correction worked a lot faster than expected. During a visit from the plant nutritionist Hantie Reed she confirmed that the calcium worked a lot quicker due to the high volume of mulch and positive fungi under the trees which is part of our regenerative farming. The pH is now at 6.4 adjusted from 4.7 in February 2023.
She was so impressed with the results that she firmly believes that Welmac have broken new ground in farming practices specifically related to pH correction and soil nutrition. The results we had can now help other farmers reduce their costs of fertilizer and enable them to make soil adjustments a lot faster should they be willing to follow regenerative farming.
Below is the feedback from Hantie Reed:
Progress Report: Welmac 2023/10/11
Re. visit during September 2023:
Trichardt and his team are well on their way to achieve proper regeneration farming for Macadamia. The following areas have been fully achieved to date:
- Coverage of soil surface
- Excellent amount of white feeder roots
- Biodiversity in soil environment regarding microbes
- Minimal soil disturbance
- Use of chemicals especially for Thrip infestation has been reduced by using natural predators.
The above constitutes to working with nature and not against it.
The use of specifically formulated liquid lime has increased problematic soil pH to optimum levels in a period of only 6 months. Soil pH was tested at dripper (point of application) and up to 500mm from dripper where pH has changed favorably to required values. The amount of lime added is far less than amount required from conventional dry lime products. pH also changed to required depth of 300mm. This shows superior product usage and equally superior management practices.
Trees look extremely healthy, and flowering is normal with racemes growing longer which means that more nuts can be set and kept without pushing one another off relating to better expected yields. Young trees are doing exceptionally well and growth in canopy is above average for tree age. This can be contributed to regenerative practices and management of specific organic material and microbes used to break down different material at specific times. One thing that really caught my attention is tree health. No fungal infections were spotted, and foliage had deep green colour which shows that trees are responding positively to all treatments. The use of chemical fertilizers will probably be reduced in future as trees are able to take up more and more nutrients from the soil, because of proper organic material management. It is important to note that nitrogen applications will be reduced as breakdown of organic material releases nitrogen for plant uptake. The use of phosphorous and potassium as nutrients will be managed according to soil and leaf analysis to ensure optimal supply and uptake of nutrients.
Workshop and maintenance
Due to the large area of the farm, we need flexible transportation methods for section managers and maintenance staff to service various points effectively, up until now we made use of quadbikes which worked well but they had very high maintenance costs.
We replaced the quadbikes with three electric scooters that have a load bay and can last the entire day when charged overnight. The units are very easy to maintain and the most expensive part on them is the battery which cost less than R7000. We bought three units and will expand them as the operation is growing.
The workshop built a very effective machine for rolling up steel wire which we use for fences as it is very difficult to handle a normal roll of steel wire regardless if the fence is being taken down or put up. This machine saves time and prevents the wire from bundling.
Supporting our Families and Charities with Our Vegetable Garden
Our vegetable garden is an ongoing project which is performing beyond expectations. It's fantastic to know that our vegetable garden is making a difference in our community. Vegetable gardens are not only environmentally friendly, but they also serve as a way to provide fresh produce to those in need. Having a vegetable garden is a rewarding experience that allows us to have control over the quality and freshness of the produce we consume. It can also be a way to reduce our carbon footprint and save money on grocery bills.
Our garden's ability to supply our workforce of 95 families with vegetables is impressive and makes a significant impact on food security. We also donate vegetables to various charities in our region, ranging from orphanages to old age homes and feeding schemes for less fortunate people in our community.
While maintaining a vegetable garden may require effort and time, the benefits are worth it. In addition to promoting healthy eating habits, it encourages sustainable living and community engagement.
With the rainy season approaching, providing good conditions for planting, we are seeing an increase in interest for young macadamia trees. Over the last 2 months we have invoiced roughly 2200 trees and had a few customer visits to procure trees in the coming months.
Our Avocado trees have taken well and have drawn some interest. With local demand we will be expanding their production.
After experimenting with different mediums we found that rough compost and peat moss mix had the best results. I am confident that we are now able to produce vegetable seedlings of high quality.
We had some visitors from the Endangered Wild-life Trust who came to observe the regenerative farming practices we do here at Welmac. During their visit we took them through our young food forest, and they were very intrigued by the system. They had studied the theory behind regenerative farming but hadn’t seen any farms in person, they gained a lot from the visit. They all left the farm with a few vetiver grass plants that they can plant at their homes to prevent soil erosion in the future!
our bio-reactors have been breeding beneficial microbes. over their life span we have been monitoring them with samples under the microscope and we have found that the ratios of microbes over this period have been changing from a larger percentage non-beneficial to beneficial as they break down the organic matter and multiply in numbers. with a large diversity of microbes this can be used as a microbial inoculant and help improve soil health in our orchards and nursery. We are also breeding red wiggler earth worms in our reactors which can be introduced to the orchards to help break down the mulch material.
Processors indicate that the stock for 2023 sold well therefore demand have picked up significantly. Most regions experienced good yield levels but due to low quality the processors struggled to fill orders. The South African Macadamia Growers Association is driving product development and consumer awareness to an extent, but it remains the responsibility of the farmer and processors to partner with entities who can do product development.
Prices for 2024 are expected to improve from the low levels of 2022/23 as the demand is increasing and high volumes of nuts were left unharvested due to the low-price levels. We are confident that the prices are back onto an upwards curve.
Investor visit to the farm
Every now and then a (potential) investor has the opportunity to visit our farm. Recently, Mr. Gerard Heijkoop visited Welgevonden. Here you can read his report on his visit that he was kind enough to write for us.
“Hello Mr. Heijkoop, how are you?” Herman Claassen, de algemeen manager van Welgevonden Farm, kwam mij al tegemoet toen ik uit mijn oude Landrover stapte.
“English or Afrikaans?” vroeg ik.
“Afrikaans is wat ons hier praat” zei Herman.
“Baie goed. Dan praat ons maar Afrikaans” zei ik, en de rest van het bezoek hebben we Afrikaans gepraat. Door mijn emigratie van 1976 tot 1981 naar Zuid Afrika heb ik goed Afrikaans geleerd, en dat kwam van pas.
Herman nam mij mee naar de vergaderruimte, waar Trichard Erasmus , de farm manager, al aanwezig was. Ook kwam Liza van Zyl, de administratief medewerkster kennis maken. Na de gebruikelijke introducties over en weer vertelden Herman en Trichard over de farm.
Na een snelle lichte lunch gingen we met z’n drieën op weg om de farm met eigen ogen te zien. We begonnen bij de bomen die al op de farm stonden bij de overname. Trichard legde uit hoe de nieuwe aanpak van Welmac werkte. De ultra low flow irrigatie met bemesting resulteert in een gebruik van water dat minder dan 40 % is van wat algemeen gebruikelijk is. Dit is van groot belang, vooral omdat het plaatselijke klimaat al hoe droger wordt. Water is letterlijk van levensbelang voor de macadamiabomen.
Al het organische materiaal dat van de bomen afkomt, bladeren, takken, etc. wordt direct onder de bomen gelegd, ook het gras dat tussen de bomen groeit, wordt na het maaien onder de bomen gelegd. Door de rotting, die spontaan optreedt, en de werking van schimmels, krijgen de wortels van de bomen voedingsstoffen uit de compost die daar ontstaat, en groeien heel fijnmazig uit. Dit bespaart een groot deel, tot de helft, van de toevoeging van kunstmest en verbetert de levensvatbaarheid van de bomen en de hoeveelheid en kwaliteit van de macadamianoten. Dit is het uitgangspunt van regeneratieve landbouw, zoals dit op de Welgevonden farm wordt bedreven. Een ander aspect is, dat de bomen elk jaar worden teruggesnoeid, hetgeen zorgt voor een goede en effectieve blootstelling aan de zon om fotosynthese en groei van macadamianoten mogelijk te maken
Welgevonden farm is 850 hectare groot. Ten tijde van de overname was 80 hectare beplant met macadamiabomen. Deze 80 hectare bracht tot verleden jaar alle oogst van de farm op. Inmiddels is een totaal van 250 hectare beplant, en de bomen die in 2018 geplant zijn hebben dit jaar hun eerste oogst geleverd. Binnen de komende paar jaren zal het gehele areaal van 250 hectare een goede oogst geven.
Er loopt een doorgaande weg dwars door Welgevonden farm.
Het gedeelte aan de andere kant van de weg is nog niet ontwikkeld en beplant met macadamiabomen. Er is door het Ministerie van Landbouw toestemming om in totaal 550 hectare aan macadamiabomen op de farm te hebben. Er kan dus nog ongeveer 300 hectare worden ontwikkeld. Dit zal geleidelijk in de komende jaren gebeuren. De farm zal dus de komende jaren flink groeien en al binnen twee tot drie jaar winstgevend zijn.
Naast macadamianoten kweekt de farm ook macadamiabomen voor eigen gebruik en verkoop aan andere farms. Deze bomen zijn nieuwe soorten met goede eigenschappen voor wat betreft hoeveelheid noten per oogst, etc.
Momenteel verkoopt Welmac zijn noten in de (harde) schil (Nut-in-shell) aan kraakfabrieken, die daarna de verdere marketing voor hun rekening nemen. In de installaties toekomst wil Welmac een gedeelte van de oogst zelf op de markt brengen, liefst onder een eigen merknaam. Dit zal nog meer bekendheid geven voor Welmac, en de verkoop van kwaliteitsnoten bevorderen.
Op dit moment geeft de farm permanent werk aan ongeveer honderd plaatselijke mensen. In de oogsttijd, februari tot augustus, komen daar nog enige tientallen seizoenarbeiders bij. Welmac zorgt goed voor haar personeel, en betaalt meer dan farms in de directe omgeving. Ook krijgen de werknemers een pensioenregeling om ook voor de toekomst een inkomen te garanderen. Dit wordt gewaardeerd door de werknemers.
s’ Avonds was er een braai, een Zuid-Afrikaanse barbecue, samen met Herman en Trichard. Na een gezonde nachtrust en lekker ontbijt, reed Herman me nog even rond over de farm. We zagen een stukje land, waar een “food forest” wordt aangelegd, allerlei planten en bomen die vruchten leveren, zoals bananen, mango’s en avocado’s, worden door elkaar geplant.
Rond kwart over tien nam ik afscheid van Herman, Trichard en Liza en reed weer naar Johannesburg. Al met al was het zeer informatief bezoek, omgeven door hartelijke gastvrijheid.
Mijn indruk van Welgevonden Macadamia Farm is als volgt:
- er wordt zeer inventief gewerkt aan de optimalisatie van het verbouwen van macadamianoten
- door de al aanwezige nieuwe aanplant wordt er verwacht dat de komende jaren de oogst flink zal toenemen en het punt zal worden bereikt waarop de farm winstgevend wordt\
- de nog onontgonnen hectares worden in de komende jaren geleidelijk ontwikkeld, waardoor de uitbreiding hanteerbaar blijft
- Welmac zal de komende jaren steeds meer de marketing en verkoopketen naar de klant toe uitbreiden, en een eigen brand/handelsmerk ontwikkelen
- momenteel is het een goed moment om in Welmac te investeren, gezien de bovenstaande verwachtingen.
Recipe: Macadamia and Banana Bread
This recipe is quick and easy as you can just use one mixing bowl or a food processor. Using macadamia oil instead of butter keeps the bread moist and also makes this recipe dairy free.
- 3 ripe bananas, peeled
- ⅓ cup macadamia oil
- 1 egg
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1½ cups plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- ¾ cup macadamias, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 175°C and line a loaf pan with baking paper.
- In a food processor or mixing bowl, combine bananas and macadamia oil, blend or stir to combine.
- Add the egg and mix until combined, then add sugar, cinnamon, flour, and baking soda. Blend for several minutes until the mix is well combined. There may still be some small lumps of banana, which is fine.
- Fold through half the chopped macadamia nuts.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin then sprinkle remaining macadamias evenly across the top of the mixture. Gently press them in with your hands.
- Bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out almost clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Stored in an airtight container, this bread will keep for several days.