I was recently at a conference in Johannesburg and had the chance to speak with my colleague Paul Elliot, Managing Director South Africa and Tanzania. While we were talking, he really surprised me with a story about a unique and remarkable farming project that was started in our unit in Tanzania. In 2015, our Dar es Saalam team built a greenhouse to supply their facility with its own fresh ingredients. Paul gave me a lot of insight into this amazing project and I would like to share it with you!
Paul, why did you decide to build a greenhouse?
The reason we started this project was because of a lack of suppliers in the region who met our quality standards and the high cost of importing goods in the region. Just imagine – one kilo of chives costs about 30 USD in Tanzania!
Such high costs apply to herbs, as well as lettuce and other vegetables. In addition to that, we had to rely on a supplier from Serengeti who charged us surplus fees because he does not sell his products in the local currency. He also demanded a minimum order size of two tons per week. Moreover, there was no alternative if the supplier didn´t deliver the products. With this predicament, and the fact that hygiene standards like clean water and a reliable infrastructure cannot be taken for granted in our region, we started looking for alternatives.
So how did you come up with the idea and how was it implemented?
It was our Executive Chef in Tanzania, Rizaah Ellis, who came up with the idea of building our own greenhouse. Once this idea was spread to the team, they seriously started thinking about going into farming themselves and developed a concept on how to do so – complete with hydroponics and drip irrigation.
Then, in November last year, a twenty five by thirty square meter greenhouse and garden area were officially opened. The greenhouse and garden are located at the unit, so access is easy and everything can be sourced fresh and as required.
What are you growing?
We are growing many herbs, such as basil, mint, dill, rosemary, oregano and sage. We also grow different sorts of tomatoes, red onions, ginger, chilies, peppers, butternut squash and many other vegetables.
What impact has the project had so far?
The benefits of the first harvest after the project started have included a dramatic decrease in food costs, better quality in our products, no more problems with delayed deliveries and positive feedback from a few of our major customers. We are now able to ensure regular availability and high quality products while reducing our food costs significantly. It is also very important for us to be able to show our customers around the greenhouse so they can see where the products we use come from and can directly select what they want.
How do the employees in DAR feel about the project?
The team in our Dar es Salaam unit is proud that this “crazy idea” turned out so well. It is a pleasure to see how dedicated our employees are to cultivating the plants. It also is a great opportunity for everyone to learn more about safe farming.
Do you think this could be a footprint project for other CSCs in the region?
I believe that the Greenhouse project could be extended to other CSC’s in Africa in locations such as Luanda, Nairobi and Lagos. They also experience the same types of problems we experience in DAR.
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? LSG Sky Chefs goes farming – who would have guessed? I will certainly keep you posted if this idea further spreads around in our network. And I will for sure take a look at the greenhouse in DAR, if I get the chance! Meanwhile, Paul sent me some pics which I am happy to share with you. What do you think about it? Are you growing your own vegetables and herbs at home, too?