Thursday, January 22, 2015

Nergeta Kiwifruit's European Premiere

An extraordinary achievement for Nergeta and a great step for the promotion of Georgian agriculture: starting 21st January, Nergeta kiwifruit is on the shelves of one of the leading global supermarket chains, Lidl.

Our class I kiwifruit is offered at Lidl stores in following German towns:

Filderstadt-Bernhausen, Plattenhard, Fasanenhof, Fellbach, Plochingen, Sindelfingen, Nagold, Denkendorf, Wendlingen, also in Neckarsulm and Heilbronn. 

Here are the very first photos of this great day in the history of Nergeta:

Konstantine Vekua

Friday, October 26, 2012

Consumer tests give you so much to think about: Feijoa Tasting Day in Wageningen

 Nieuw uit Georgie --- New from Georgia

Georgia and New Zealand have something in common: passion to one exotic fruit: Feijoa. While in these countries everyone loves this fruit and enjoy to consume it fresh as well as convert into jams and even wine, both of us just can't understand how the rest of the world is not as keen on Feijoa as we are ourselves. At Nergeta company we are all passionate about Feijoa too and we too think about the ways of how to make it known and appreciated by consumers outside our country.

Fruit Company's shop is nicest in Wageningen 
because of selection of higher end quality products it offers.
 Our sampling took place in this shop

Before we move to our Feijoa Consumer Tasting Day which Nergeta ran in Wageningen, The Netherlands, I would like to recall some basics of customer acceptance of probably any new fruit:

1. sensory and visual liking: taste, flavour, color, shape, size
2. cost
3. own taste preferences, culture,
4. what is that unique feature of new fruit and how it affects consumer's decision to add this new fruit to her/his existing "default" fruit menu or at least to make her/him interested to buy once a month?
5. how important and "real" are health benefits
6. what is the structure of supply chain and particularly post harvest shelf life which affects availability and marketing period of the fruit: less the storability more difficult to run marketing campaigns

So far only New Zealand made good efforts to market it internationally but it did not end with much success and even if we apply 6th criteria we can see why: Feijoa has only 4 weeks of post-harvest shelf-life and this already fully excluded reliance of supply chain on lower cost sea shipments since transit time from Auckland to London would fully consume its shelf life. Therefore our New Zealand friends had to use expensive air-freight model which made Feijoa one of the most expensive fruit: it was offered at above 10£/kg. One would argue that some fruits actually cost this much or even more but it did not prevent their success and it is true however unlike strawberries and raspberries it is very difficult to sell feijoa type of shape fruit at these price levels. Consumers do pay 3-4£ for 200gr of blueberries but this much blueberries can be enjoyed by 4 persons but it is much more difficult for consumer to pay 1£ for one piece of Feijoa, Kiwifruit, Apple and the kind of round or oval fruits.

Now, coming back to 6th criteria Georgia is in a better position since it can use lower cost truck shipments to Hamburg or Rotterdam and still have another 18-20 days of shelf life after arrival day. This is a quite fundamental structural difference but we still need to pay attention to remaining 5 criteria and get evidences that would justify establishment of export oriented commercial orchards.

This is why we decided to get in face to face contact with consumers and run several product free tasting days and ask questions and receive their comments. This does not mean we will not try to cooperate with chain facilitators such as research institutes, consumer science groups etc.

So, we ran first such free tasting day in a specialized fruit shop in Wageningen, the Netherlands and we found out some previously unexpected consumer impressions and comments, both positive as well as negative. It proved that we need to do such tests many more times and desirably also in cooperation with professional consumer science institutes.

I got 28 consumers to taste our Feijoa and they all answered to some questions and some provided with their impressions without waiting for questions. In first 20 minutes most of consumers who tasted were above 60 years old and female and they mostly disliked the fruit and said they would not buy it in the future. Then saw mostly male and female consumers in between 20 and 40 years and they were mostly liking the fruit and said that they would buy it at least once in a season. This group provided their Feijoa impressions with enthusiasm:

1. male, 28: generally buys exotic fruits and would also buy Feijoa at least once a season. Feijoa reminds him of the taste of Kiwifruit and Passionfruit but says that Feijoa's taste is still unique and he did not expect such a flavour/aroma existed in the nature.

2. Female, 34: Reminds of Passion Fruit, Looks a bit like Fig, thinks that flavor is unique

3. Female, 20: Tastes like Kiwifruit, would buy at least once a season if price is not above 0.50eur per piece.

4. Female, 29: Reminds of Kiwifruit, does not consider the taste as special but likely to buy once a season

5. Female, 62: Unique taste, would definitely buy once in a season

6. Male, 70: Did not like at all

7. Female, 70: Unique, memorable taste, would buy once a year

8. Female, 60: Tastes like bubble gum, pink bubble, would only buy if it is priced cheaply

9. Female, 65: Needs time to get used, curious taste, does not look like anything else, did not like first bite but liked 2nd bite and "second wave" of taste.

10. Female, 60: Strange taste, not bad, needs time to get used

11. Female, 26: Did not like the outer rim of the fruit, but liked juicy part. Taste seemed a bit artificial, a bit un-natural.

12. Female, 60: Very sweet inside (caramel like juice), she would buy it to eat with yogurt

13. Female, 60: Surprising, positive, a cross of Banana and Kiwifruit, would likely enjoy in fruit salad

14. Female, 40: looks and tastes a bit like Cactus, certainly very different taste

15. Female, 42: a bit of Pear like, a bit of Melon, looks a bit like Lime, exotic cut profile, would like with fruit salad.

16. Female, 70: Very nice, better than Kiwifruit, slightly bitter but sweet enough, took one home for husband

17. Male, 45 with ~10 years old daughter: Liked a lot, especially liked juicy part, did not like the texture of outside rim.

Here are some of the pictures of today's event:

Table cover, plates, spoons, the fruit, Ready to Go!

Do you find cut profile attractive? --- this was one of the questions I asked to Dutch consumers

The Dutch lady tastes Feijoa for the first time

There were nice moments when our consumes talked to each other and shared their Feijoa impressions

Konstantine Vekua

The blogger is horticultural entrepreneur from Georgia, co-founder of Nergeta Ltd. He currently is doing Master's at Van Hall Larenstein, Wageningen University and will be in the Netherlands till September 2013

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bees for pollination of kiwifruit

Did you know that each hectare of kiwifruit orchard needs 8 bee families for good pollination result during flowering in May?  Bees must be brought after about 10% of flowers opening, not before and their exit should face morning sun to let them get out and work as early as possible. Why are bees needed? Because pollen of male flowers should come in contact with female flowers and intensity of such contact results in more bigger sized kiwifruit at the harvest time. Only well pollinate flowers can produce good sized fruit and for farmers it is very important since the price difference between small and big sized kiwifruit (of say between 75gr/piece and 120gr/piece) can be double.

In Georgia we do not yet have specialized pollination beekeeper contractors. Therefore to be on the safe side, we decided to invest in our own bee program. We collected our bee families in village Mukhuri, Samegrelo area --- place known as beekeeping cluster and just under the Caucasian mountains.

 One interesting fact is that Georgian Grey Bee specie has the longest proboscis (7.2mm) in the world and is known for high honey and wax productivity, fertility of queen bees, resistance to cold winter, long wings, a weak swarming ability, effective collection of nectar and honey even in the conditions of their scarcity, active defense of nests, an ability to work in foggy and drizzly weather


Picture: our bees just returned from mountains

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Samegrelo Micro-Zone Unaffected by Frost Siege

If you are agricultural entrepreneur looking for new locations in so called "Eastern Europe" to invest in horticultural ventures and develop fruit or vegetables enterprises then you need to read this post and look at exhibited 2 meteo maps.

So far Dutch, English or German horticultural ventures have been focusing on countries like Romania, Bulgaria, Poland etc. There are several reasons for this such as lower cost of production, promising local market sizes, proximity to their original, home markets, understandable legal and operating environment.

However, there is one more country further east as well as farther south across Black Sea: Georgia. While for political considerations this country is mostly mentioned as  (a distant) Eastern Europe, for climatic and growing conditions it should never be considered together with Eastern Europe.

Georgia's unique climate is made up by 3500m to 5000m high Greater Caucasus mountains range on the north which stops cold Nordic air masses. On its south there is 2500-3500m high Minor Caucasus mountains range which moderate too hot air masses from Arabian deserts. Within Georgia in the west side, there is one particular region called Samegrelo which additionally gets humidity in Summer and warm air in Winter from Black Sea. During recent frost siege over wider region Samegrelo also experienced frosts but not below -3C on 3 nights while during most critical period daytime temperatures mostly maintained +4C...+8C.

In other "normal" years average temperature of coldest month of January is between +5C and +9C.

Now the promised maps. You see Samegrelo as being circled on the east side of Black Sea.

Map 1: while in most of eastern Europe temperatures dropped below -20C, 
Samegrelo area remained positive temperature region

Map 2: Green colored areas are positive temperature areas. 
As you can see that even within Georgia, Samegrelo is the warmest zone.

Maps belong to Swiss based weather forecasting services company Meteoblue AG. 

The author of this entry is horticultural entrepreneur Konstantine Vekua who together with his German and New Zealand friends are developing selected fruits value chains in Samegrelo, Georgia. The company already manages 24ha kiwifruit orchard and plans to develop berries, feijoa and persimmon orchards by the end of year.

To contact me, email:  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Let's check the roots

If you are growing perennial crops, you will have to wait at least 3 years before seeing first crop and first results of your efforts. For some fruit crops this can take 5-7 years. In between you have to think if everything will be fine. Imagine, worrying about what's going to come around in 5 years time! This seems quite a struggle but if you know what signs to watch and check, then it is a lot easier to deal with anxiety. 

Here, after exactly a year, we put out some plants from last year's planting campaign. We wanted to see how well the root system has developed and what we have seen exceeded our expectations. This means everything is going in right direction and we should keep our good work.

Picture: Comparing root volumes of the plant (left) which was planted last year and the plant (right) which we just got from nursery few days ago. A year ago the plant on the left was as small as the one on the right.

Picture: Closer look at the well growing kiwifruit plant

To contact the blogger, email: