ASTANA – FoodVentures has been sharing the highest Dutch operating practices in producing greenhouse vegetables with Kazakhstan since 2017. The company is engaged in the construction and operations of high-tech greenhouses.
The Astana Times spoke with the CEO of FoodVentures, Dirk Aleven, to learn about the company’s projects in great demand worldwide.
The FoodVentures company has greenhouses with a total area of 10 hectares in the Aktobe Region, producing about 8,000 tons of vegetables per year. Following sustainable standards, heat and electricity are obtained from burning waste gas, providing the greenhouse with a negative CO2 footprint.
“Kazakhstan’s strategic location and enormous energy resources make the country a strong and important partner for us,” Aleven explained the company’s interest in the region. “FoodVentures operates high-tech greenhouses globally. The cost of tomatoes consists of almost 1/3 of the cost of energy and 1/3 cost of labor. Kazakhstan is, on the one hand, still importing vegetables, and on the other hand, flaring energy. That is unlogical. We thought it was more logical to transform that flare gas into energy/heating to power the greenhouse. The vegetables we can grow year-round in the greenhouses substitute imports and can even create exports. Plus, we create stable and safe year-round jobs.”
Overall, 35 million euros (US$37 million) has been invested in 10 hectares of semi-closed greenhouse and a nursery. Approximately 15 million euros (US$15.9 million) is funded in equity by FoodVentures and an agricultural growth fund funded by Kazakhstan’s Baiterek National company and the Hungarian Exim bank. The remaining is financed by locally provided debt.
Aleven also spoke about the challenges the company faced while implementing the project. It includes the release of the subsidy on the investment, restructuring of debts, and issues in connection to the phytosanitary inspections.
“We have grown more than 80 kilogram/m2 of top quality tomatoes at very competitive costs. And we see the great commitment from the governmental institutions to support foreign investors. The Ministry of Agriculture is actively supporting us in adjusting the subsidy rules so the whole sector will benefit from it. Recent talks make us optimistic solutions will come before the year ends,” said Aleven.
The company also plans to expand its projects in Aktobe soon.
Aleven also welcomed the ongoing reforms to fight corruption in Kazakhstan and noted that “a stable political situation is a must” for every business.