A state-of-the-art seed producing companies in Ethiopia visited

Staff from the ENSP project and a Plantum representative visited two cutting-edge seed producing companies: Nunhems, which is situated in the Amhara region close to Arerti town, and Solagrow PLC, a potato seed producer company situated around Bishoftu city.

Ben Depraetere, Managing Director of Nunhems Ethiopia PLC and Country Head of BASF’s vegetable seed business in Ethiopia, welcomed the guests and provided a brief overview of the facility, which is BASF’s first high-tech greenhouse complex in Africa and provides an ideal year-round production condition for sweet pepper, tomato, cucumber, and water melon. He continues by explaining that the company is producing some vegetables seed in the green house and on farmers field as out-growers scheme.  The company expanded its operations to other parts of the country, including Bahir Dar, Modjo, SNNPR, and Tigray regions. In expanding the operation, it transfers knowledge and skills to out-growers in the respective areas by demonstrating drip irrigation methods, mulch application, and seed production using net cages. Furthermore, through demonstrations and trainings, the company is introducing new vegetable varieties, integrated pest management practices, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). The company created 70 permanent and more than 100 seasonal employment opportunities.

The delegates visited various areas of the facility, including the fully automated climate control system, which includes humidity, heating, and irrigation. They also visited the seed and pollen extraction rooms, seed storage, waste disposal, and other facilities.

Following the visit, the delegates discussed the challenges of the company, the collaboration with ENSP project, the role of Ethiopian Seed Association (ESA) in supporting of its members in particular and the sector in general, the ambition of the company in the coming ten years and others. Ben mentioned scarcity of water, shortage of hard currency, and the political instability are the main challenges facing the company.

The company is the member of ESA and expects strong support from the association to alleviate the challenges the company facing. However, Ben said the association is not strong enough to support the company. Furthermore, Ben suggested members engaged in vegetable seed sector have to come on board and actively engage to strengthen the association. He added the association need to develop different modalities which targets all its members specific needs and service demands.

The delegation then visited SolaGrow PLC, where Jan J. Van De HAAR, country agent for HZPC, briefed them on the company’s operations. He stated that, despite facing various challenges, the PLC has made a significant contribution to the country’s potato seed tuber production system since its inception in 2006. SolaGrow PLC is currently a sustainable source of potato seed tubers of various varieties for potato producing farmers by multiplying mini-tubers with stem-cuttings. The company also intends to demonstrate various potato-related technologies at eight demonstration sites during this irrigation season. Jan stated that, in addition to seed, we transfer skill and knowledge to the surrounding producers. It also offered 34 young people with employment opportunities.

The two seed producing companies are among the seven international seed companies selected to be supported by ENSP. The ENSP delegates appreciated the two companies for hosting the visit, and reaffirmed their commitment to work together.