Enriched by innovation

Mongolian Economy
2020-04-17 17:09:14
Category: Agriculture

It was a snowy and chilly day of April, but we were greeted by a completely different environment in the greenhouses of Mr.Ganbaatar. It was pleasantly warm in the winter greenhouse and the sun was sending its soft rays through polyethylene film walls. The leaves, planted in a straight line like soldiers were spreading, and bees carrying pollen were buzzing everywhere. Under these leaves, we did find the strawberries with some as big as the ankle of an ox. Upon seeing these, I was proud of the hardworking owner, and my mouth started to water.

Korean strawberries “in love” with Mongolia

Mongolians started to plant and harvest vegetables in the 60s. Russian and Bulgarian specialists were the first ones invited to build greenhouses in the steppes of Mongolia. As a result, Devshil and Bornuur greenhouse farms were established, but unfortunately destroyed during the 1990s. The recent years saw a huge increase in the consumption of vegetables and fruits in Mongolia. However, a greenhouse farm system enough to meet increasing demand of the Mongolians is not in place. We plant and harvest vegetables in open-field once a year and consume fresh vegetables only for a few months. Therefore, Mongolia imports thousands of tons of vegetables and fruits every year. The only solution to consume fresh and safe vegetables all year round is the development of greenhouse farms. However, the key to succeed in the greenhouse business is to abandon traditional methods and implement new technology and innovation. Currently, Mongolian companies face many problems including innovation, necessary investment, and human resource that understand the new technologies.

One of few people, trying to make a bold and brave step toward the successful greenhouse business is O.Ganbaatar, Director of Agro Alfa LLC. He first stepped into the agriculture business 12 years ago. Since then, he pursued in dairy farm, potato cultivation and construction businesses and returned to the field recently.

He started a greenhouse business, a main distinction being its four season usage in 2018. His main focus was to operate in accordance with the international standard even though it meant high costs to his business. That`s why he invited Korean specialists to build the greenhouses worth four million won (nine million MNT), resulting a total cost of 20 million won including construction costs.

The June-bearing strawberry variety, called the “Smell of snow” that he planted is native to Korea and could be seeded only from January to April in Japan and Korea. This is due to the very hot temperature in these countries.

Also, the sugar content of the strawberries never reaches 12 units in Korea. While its maximum unit is 14 at the northern parts of Japan.

In Mongolia however, the variety is growing “cheerfully” in any time of year, and its sugar content reached 18 units with a bigger size and redder color. To put it in a single word, Mongolian climate has become the “perfect” fit for the variety. This enabled O.Ganbaatar to harvest the crop until September, and increase production to 300 kg per day. The time to see the outcome of his hard work has come.

He implements an advanced technology called the hydroponic system, which is completely new to Mongolia. To build this kind of greenhouse, you need to double the polyethylene film layers in the wall and the thick insulation layer. The so-called “blanket” should be used inside walls. In other words, it takes a huge effort, as it is the equivalence of building three traditional greenhouses. It shall also be added that these greenhouses use floor heating.

In order to maintain a high standard in human resource policy, he awarded long-term contracts to the Korean specialists, who had agreed to train and prepare the Mongolian specialists. He has witnessed many cases that encountered many hardships due to the lack of well-trained workforce, even though the investments were more than enough.

When completed, these kinds of greenhouses don`t require many workers. At the moment, only five people are working at O.Ganbaatar`s greenhouses, includes two old Korean men who manages to execute the main tasks without any struggle. If there were traditional greenhouses, two dozen workers shall be required to work. Special soil, named “coconut film soil” from Indonesia is used and strawberries shall be planted in one meter above the soil layers. Such raised soil would be advantageous because it is highly resistant to weeds and pests. You also don`t need chemicals to fight the plant diseases. You will only need a special fertilizer.

The story of O.Ganbaatar`s discovery of the “smell of snow” started, when he first met Kim Hak Jae, a Korean businessman, who supplied strawberries from his home country to E-Mart chain stores in Mongolia, 5 years ago. Kim Hak Jae, himself, was really interested in planting the strawberry variety in countries other than Korea and even travelled to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Buryatia of Russia and Mongolia, to find it out. Mongolia was the most suitable country to make his dream come true, was his final decision. He is one of the three Korean experts who mastered a strawberry planting technology and recipient of the President`s award. He has another ambition which is to receive an award from the President of Mongolia. “There is an excellent possibility to develop a strawberry planting technology in Mongolia”, says Mr. Kim.

Strawberry is rich in vitamins and contains two times more vitamins than tomato. In short, it shall be considered an essential fruit for Mongolians. But our country provides its demands mostly by imported fruits and vegetables. Mongolians purchased and consumed total of 9700 tons apples and pears, worth 7 million USD in 2018, according to the National Statistical Office of Mongolia. Also 9700 tons tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers were imported.

The Government of Mongolia declared agriculture shall be one of the main business sectors of the country. But from today`s perspective, it is evident that without development of advanced greenhouse technology and irrigated agriculture, this sector couldn`t make big leap forward. It is one of the main reasons, why we have to admire and applaud the actions of O.Ganbaatar. The vision of Agro Alfa LLC is “Lead an agriculture era by innovation”. He plans to expand production of the company by fully using his 300 hectare land for only greenhouse farming. He had already started building even better greenhouses, using air house technology. If he manages to build these new greenhouses and starts seeding the strawberries by July, then he shall be able to use his greenhouses in rotation. And year of 2020 will be welcomed by new harvests. Air house greenhouses enable to double an output of the crops.

His goal is defined by not only strawberries. In the long run, O.Ganbaatar plans to plant bell peppers, hot peppers and napa cabbages.

Mongolian Economy