Thursday, 7 January 2021

Croatia Agriculture Production Grows by 1 Billion Kuna in 2020

January 7, 2021 – Within the last month, TCN was pleased to report that Croatia agriculture and food exports had jumped considerably in 2020, while imports of the same had fallen. The success of Croatia agriculture in 2020 has been confirmed by a new report which shows that the industry has grown by almost one billion kuna in a year

The success of the Croatia agriculture sector in 2020 was detailed in a report by Smarter, a consulting company specialising in the agriculture and food industry. Vecernji List published their coverage of the report in recent days.

In the report, figures show that the value of Croatia agriculture production increased by 4.7% compared to the same period during the previous year. Croatia agriculture revenue, therefore, jumped from 17.9 billion HRK to 18.8 billion, an increase of almost one billion kuna. The 12 month period of Croatia agriculture used to compile the figures ends in November within each comparative year.

Figures show that Croatia agriculture experienced excellent results in crop production (wheat, soybeans, corn, etc). This contributing evidence goes some way to explain the good news TCN reported back in December that, according to the country's Central Bureau of Statistics, the total value of Croatia agriculture and food exports in the period from January to September 2020 amounted to 1.7 billion Euros, an increase of 5 percent from the same period in 2019. Within the same period, the value of agricultural and food imports into Croatia was 2.5 billion Euros, a decline of 7.3 percent from last year.

The result of the 2020 successes in Croatia agriculture has been a reduction in the foreign trade deficit by 26.6% in the agriculture and food sector. The improvement in 2020 is being partly attributed to grants and payments under the Rural Development Program (RDP), which have grown significantly creating a stimulus that in part affected the growth of the value of production and the amount that was produced. Increasing profits within the country's agriculture sector is being catalysed by adding value to the raw product which is grown here, via processing and other methods, which happens prior to export taking place.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Croatian AGRIVI Draws 30.2 Million Kuna for Further Global Expansion

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 18th of November, 2020, AGRIVI, a Croatian agro-technological company that has developed a globally leading platform for agricultural production management, has been provided with additional financing, namely, HRK 30.2 million in Series A financing, whose holders are the South Central Ventures Investment Fund (SCV) and the European Investment Fund, and the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR).

In addition to the aforementioned, Fil Rouge Capital and AgriTech Hub also participated in this round of financing. The funds will help Croatia's AGRIVI expand its market reach to key more European markets and even to the United States.

The AGRIVI solution is one of the most complete platforms for managing agricultural production globally and helps farms and agri-food companies to achieve economically and environmentally sustainable agricultural production, which is of enormous importance in current times.

This new round of financing continues into an extremely successful period for AGRIVI, during which it recorded rapid growth in the number of clients, strengthened key managerial positions and gained greater market recognition and momentum, and all that at a time when the food and agricultural sectors are in increasing public focus. Key analytical reports position AGRIVI among key global leaders in farm management. Their user portfolio has grown significantly and today it includes very large brands such as Nestle, Driscoll’s, Kimberly-Clark and BNP Paribas. In addition, the consulting firm EY has recommended AGRIVI solutions as a quick-return project for all countries looking to increase the sustainability of their local production and reduce their impact on climate change.

"AGRIVI has made impressive progress since our first investment back in 2016. They've positioned themselves on the map of the world's leading agro-technological companies as one of the leading platforms for agricultural production management. I'm delighted that the European Investment Fund also recognised the opportunity and participated in our first direct joint venture. I'm convinced that the funds of this round of financing will enable AGRIVI to further accelerate its activities in several business areas and thus increase its contribution to the production of healthy food,'' stated Jure Mikuz, a partner in the South Central Ventures fund.

''The strong progress we've made and the outstanding clients we support have prepared us for the next phase of our growth. We're grateful to South Central Ventures, the European Investment Fund, the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Fil Rouge Capital and AgriTech Hub for supporting our mission to digitise global agriculture. Recent events around the world have attracted additional attention to the food and agricultural sectors, so investor interest in AGRIVI is enormous, which is why we're considering expanding our circle and realising additional funding,'' added Matija Zulj, CEO and founder of AGRIVI.

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Saturday, 14 November 2020

Vesela Motika - Urban Indoor Eco Farm on Tresnjevka

November 14, 2020 - What happens when you give three agronomists and one Excel guy a space of 90 square meters? Believe it or not – a completely eco-based urban indoor farm, Vesela Motika.

Not so long ago, Sergej Lugovic and his colleague Bojan Krnjic started the journey of Urban Farm Solutions. At that time Sergej was a professor at Polytechnic of Zagreb and he often worked with his students on project-based things. They wanted a ready-made growing system to work together on automation, electronics, and software but realized there isn't any plug and play system for that to buy in Croatia.

As time passed, Sergej and Bojan worked on agriculture systems: on the one hand, they have the software and technological solutions. On the other hand, they have the primary cultivation on their farm. All of that is hidden at the indoor farm on Tresnjevka, which has a long tradition of independent food production in Zagreb; there was a dairy, soy factory, and now Vesela Motika (Happy Hoe).


© Vesela Motika

Systems Kostya and Home Garden

They work with primary indoor cultivation of plant crops, equipment development, and complete solutions that are created according to clients' wishes. System Kostya is industrial-based for conventional agriculture, and it is a vertical system, while Home Garden is more if you want a have plants in your house or office. Except that it has a therapeutic feature - Sergej can calculate what you eat, how much you eat, how much you spend on food, so that you can benefit from that aspect, as well.

“Our thing is hyper-local; we don't need equipment from I don't know where because we have the competencies to make them in Croatia. If we could build have the business towers around the world, one of the best guns in the world, the fastest electric car, the best athletes, where are we stuck in other things?”

If you want to grow 2000 seedlings (whose price at the Tresnjevka market is 4 HRK), you need a space of 1.2 meters by 0,6 meters and six floors with shelves for seedlings. This is the Kostya system used in professional agriculture.

Eco seeds are procured from the company Lokvine (near Zagreb). Besides, their entire production is eco: from top nutrients for plants, protection, and substrates to top lighting.


© Vesela Motika

The biggest problem in agriculture - financial and information literacy

Talking to farmers, Sergei realized that they do not know how to calculate the price difference because they do not record costs, do not manage stocks, and do not count their time.

“Because of all this, overkill happens, burning outs, product quality drops, or they start behaving opportunistically and then reselling. Then you are the same thing you are fighting against,” says Sergej, who comes from the field of business analytics. He used to run the Big Data Lab for five years, was among the first 4 employees at SAP Croatia, and had an Internet video company in 2005 (yes, before YouTube).

“If you buy 10kg of tomatoes and sell them, that is around 70 HRK. If you make salsa from those 10 kgs, you might get 120 HRK. But if you bring a person to the farm, to pick a tomato himself, teach him how to make that salsa and take it home, give him accommodation on the farm, you get, for the same 10 kg of tomatoes, 350 HRK (including an overnight stay, meal, etc.),” says Sergej.


© Vesela Motika

YouTube for food

As an active member of the underground electronic music scene and being a DJ for 20 years, Sergej has run nightclubs and organized over 1,000 events. He realized that this underground independent scene culture could be applied to independent food culture. That’s why he prefers to call it independent rather than craft. 

Sergej’s is finishing his Ph.D. in information behavior in which he quantified patterns of behavior of people searching for music in the domain of machine learning. The first paper was published in 2005 about what other industries can learn from the music industry. “Because we went from records to making all the music free. Then I asked a hypothetical question, what would YouTube for food look like?” 

Just as we have free music on YouTube, so we could have free food. It seemed impossible at first, but after research, he realized that 50% of food is thrown away. “If they had a good information system, everyone would have free food,” Sergej concludes.

He made a comparison and said that Google is worth a trillion, now; let's imagine someone investing a trillion in an information system to give food to those who don’t have from those who have a surplus. But of course, he is aware that legislation would try to prevent this.  “We worked on an information system for the Red Cross store in Zagreb, which distributes food free of charge, and they were acquainted with the strict legal regulations.”

Sergej believes that these ways can always be regulated - if someone wants to give his surplus, he sees no obstacle for others to accept it.


© Vesela Motika

Contra concept - big no to from the field to the table

If there are one table and four suppliers trying to be as close to that table as possible, when a customer decides what to buy, he will only take 1 and 3 stays where? But if we look from the “from table to farm” aspect, Sergej, as an information scientist, follows the information: your refrigerator and your desk know how much food you need. If that data could be captured, we can have a lot less food waste, a much clearer information picture of what’s going on. Another premise is that food must be produced as close as possible to where it is consumed because too much money is spent on distribution, cold chains, etc. The impact is not only about eating quality, not polluting the Earth with transport, but also having a therapeutic effect. 

His colleague Bojan grew a lot of things near Popovaca. They concluded that the energy they spend on artificial lighting in Zagreb on the indoor farm is equal to when Bojan goes to Popovaca 7 and a half times a month. “And we can grow one ton in Zagreb, which is 12 tons a year,” says Sergej.

Cognition is a process, don't hurry it

Sergej doesn't worry if something doesn't happen tomorrow; he realizes that everything will come on its own. He teaches his students that if they plant a salad, they will eat it in 30 days. If they plant an olive, they will eat it in 7 years, but they will eat it for 700 years. “I wrote something in my MBA in 1999 that I am doing today. The conclusion was whether the refrigerator would become a competitor to Tesco because the refrigerator has information on how much you eat,” says Sergej.

They are working on some projects that are still in the early stage of development but are already talking to the people working on the buildings' projects. If a building, a socio-technological system, is built together with a biosystem, there can be a farm in the basement. The lamps' heat goes up, heats the building, and the people who live in that building have fresh vegetables on hand. Besides, each building would have one agronomist.

Furthermore, they created an app that has four functions: it is a multivendor (combines transit warehouse for multiple suppliers, logistics, route planning), transaction system (immediately issues invoices, delivery notes - when you click “buy,” 12 documents are created automatically), finance management and has a farm and inventory self-management module. They have developed very demanding software that requires a larger volume of sales to make it cost-effective. “Friend, who runs a farm and make one of the best cheese in Croatia, told me that I have a Jaguar in the garage; there will come a time when I will park it in front.” 

As much as the corona crisis gave them time to build an even stronger story, it still brought them to their knees in some things. “And that's okay. Because looking at physics, everything that sinks has a repressive force, as well,” concludes Sergej.


© Vesela Motika

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Sunday, 13 September 2020

Nearly 930,500 kg of Food Donated in the First Six Months

ZAGREB, September 13, 2020 - In the first six months of 2020, 930,424 kg of food was donated, up 6.3% on the year, the Agriculture Ministry said this week, underlining the increase "despite the aggravating circumstances" in the wake of coronavirus measures.

The ministry said preventing the creation of food waste was one of its major strategies and that the importance of sustainable food production and consumption was becoming increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The electronic food donation system has helped small dairy farms affected by the corona crisis, with 176 tonnes of their product purchased and freely distributed to 78 food donation mediators, eventually finding their way to the needy, the ministry said.

In recent years, the ministry said, it has been intensively working on advancing the food donation system and increasing the amount of donated food.

It is essential to ensure all the prerequisites so that safe and quality food which could end up as waste finds its way to the needy, the ministry said.

The e-donation system was launched in 2018 to expedite the distribution of surplus food and to facilitate communication between donors and mediators as well as cooperation with all stakeholders in the food donation chain, the ministry said.

It called on everyone in the food business and humanitarian organisations which mediate in food donation to take part in e-donation and contribute to socially and environmentally responsible business of their firms.


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Saturday, 4 July 2020

Chamber of Agriculture Urges Consumers to Buy Domestic Vegetables

ZAGREB, July 4, 2020 - The Croatian Chamber of Agriculture (HPK) on Saturday called on consumers, buyers, and retailers to help domestic farmers by buying their vegetables because the corona crisis has put them in unenviable market position and this year's yield risks going to waste.

Domestic farmers are desperate as they have no one to sell their product to and the yield risks staying in the fields instead of in stores and farmers' markets, Vjekoslav Budnec, chair of the HPK vegetable farming committee, told a press conference

"Due to the fear of a vegetable shortage in the wake of the corona crisis, vegetable farming increased this spring, which was the goal, to raise self-sufficiency," HPK leaders said.

This year's yield is good but farmers have no one to sell it to as buyers knock the purchase price below the producer price, they added.

"Unfortunately, tourism and tourist consumption as one of the essential sales channels have been absent, while the import and placement of cheap vegetables and market surpluses from the EU and regional markets through retail chains have continued," HPK said.

HPK president Mladen Jakopovic called on consumers to buy domestic vegetables as a way to protect domestic production as well as on retail chains to put more domestic vegetables on their shelves.

HPK expects the government to define a clear vegetable farming strategy.

Its leaders said Croatia imported 56,072 tonnes of vegetables worth €46.37 million in the first three months of this year.

Jakopovic said this was up 11.4% in quantity year on year but that the value was the same, "which proves that even during the corona crisis, world market surpluses were arriving in Croatia at lower prices."

He added that the import of every vegetable was increasing.

According to estimates, there are some 39,000 vegetable farms in Croatia. Their average size is 0.32 hectares, resulting in a low yield per hectare and low competitiveness.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Coronavirus: Should Croatia Engage Unemployed in Agricultural Work?

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Denis Matijevic writes on the 2nd of April, 2020, countries like Austria, Germany and France have already launched websites where unemployed people who are not affected by the coronavirus pandemic can apply to work in the agriculture sector.

A large number of European Union countries facing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic are calling for agricultural ''patriotism'' and are warning that agriculture and food production should not stop at this point. The biggest challenge for them is the lack of manpower, which will come to the forefront in an even stronger way once the harvest season begins.

Food supplies around the world are facing increasing obstacles, including export restrictions, and large producers naturally want to secure their citizens' supply. Numerous countries have reiterated the need for self-sufficiency in food production, and there is a concern that some governments may restrict the flow of basic food products to secure domestic supply in the face of supply chain disruptions.

One of the problems that is particularly striking is that in most EU countries, OPG owners are senior citizens, who are particularly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. According to some figures, as many as 59.7 per cent of OPG owners in the EU are over 65 years of age.

For this reason, numerous governments are trying to find ways to engage those who can work in agriculture, with a focus on those who have already lost their jobs (such as hospitality workers), to help with agriculture work in combination with volunteering and securing an income.

Some countries believe that one of the financial measures could be one that would ensure that part of the financial support for the unemployed could be diverted to farmers, so that volunteers could earn a decent income.

They're calling on hospitality workers who have lost their jobs, such as waiters and cooks.

Austria currently lacks 5,000 workers for their harvest, and as spring approaches, more and more people are going to be needed. Their meat processing industry isn't in a better position either, as they lack as many as 9000 workers. For this reason, the Austrian Government is urging citizens who are currently free and have no work obligations, to apply and support the agriculture sector. To facilitate this, the government has launched a website through which interested parties can apply.

The appeal was addressed primarily to hospitality and gastronomy employees who are not currently employed, but is also extends to students.

Over recent years, many workers from other EU countries or third countries have been arriving in Germany to undertake seasonal work in agriculture, such as picking asparagus and strawberries, and the coronavirus crisis has caused the countries many difficulties in terms of their labour supply.

About 286,000 seasonal workers work in German fields each year, with most of them coming from other countries. Currently, the most affected people in this field in Germany are fruit and vegetable growers who totally rely on foreign seasonal workers.

The French Government has also called on employees who are currently laid off or aren't working due to the coronavirus pandemic, to make themselves available to help farmers with seasonal work. Leaders of the FNSEA, France's main agricultural union, warn that they currently lack around 200,000 people in agriculture.

The FNSEA has also launched a website where residents of France can register to make themselves available to farmers who need workers.

To encourage people to register, those who volunteer will be able to combine their partial unemployment benefits with their wages earned by engaging in seasonal work in agriculture, which are roughly equivalent to the minimum wage.

The possible decline in production across Europe, the difficulty in supplying and the closure of some countries for export could leave the global market without some types of products and food. Croatia, as a major food importer, could be primarily affected by the supply of pork, milk, vegetables and fruit.

Therefore, it is now an opportunity to seriously start thinking about turning things around rather dramatically in terms of Croatian agriculture. At this point, it is necessary to take immediate steps to adopt crisis and rapid measures that will ensure a secure supply and remove obstacles to food production.

Once the coronavirus crisis is over, it will be necessary to make a shift and change the business model for agriculture, raising production and self-sufficiency, and being aware that agriculture and food production is one of the most important strategic branches of the entire economy.

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Thursday, 5 September 2019

Value of Croatian Agricultural Production Drops Significantly

As Novac/Zlatko Simic writes on the 3rd of September, 2019, the value of Croatian agricultural production has unfortunately fallen from 33 billion kuna to a mere 16 billion kuna, the number of pigs has dropped dramatically from 2 million to about 800,000, and Croatian milk production has fallen from 900 million to only 400 million litres.

Considering that Croatia has increased its meadow and pasture surface areas from 300,000 hectares to as much as 600,000 hectares, and that only twelve percent of Croatian farmers pay their taxes while remaining below the taxman's shears, it is still evident that agricultural policies in this country, at least so far, have not managed to rectify the many challenges facing producers before and after Croatia's accession to the European Union.

Due to all of the negative trends in agriculture, Croatia needs a much clearer agricultural strategy that will be based on the real and current situation in production, productivity, and aid distribution. However, the direction in which the World Bank started to develop a strategy for that is not good for the Croatian Ministry of Agriculture, and there is a lot of ambiguity to be found in it. In addition, it also contains information that does not maintain or stay quite true to the real and rather unfortunate current situation in Croatian agriculture.

This is the main conclusion from an expert discussion on a World Bank document entitled Sector Status and Analysis of Public Expenditure on Agriculture and Rural Development, recently published on the Ministry of Agriculture's website, which should ideally have underpinned the future development of the Croatian agriculture strategy.

The gathering on all things agricultural brought together representatives of agricultural associations, producers, institutions and large agricultural companies, who emphasised the fact that the World Bank, which hired its own experts as well as Croatian ones, did not adequately address the problems of the Croatian agricultural industry, the reasons for the decline in production, and the inefficiency of large funds that failed in investment in agriculture.

The group also argued that as yet, no concrete results have actually been produced.

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