They say that life is that stuff that happens to you while you are out there frantically making plans. And so it is. Not only that. These things that make up life are not straight forward and plain. Well not for me anyway. This is not a complaint, merely an observation.
From exotic mushrooms to snails.
Dreams too do not always turn out the way you would like them to. They also tend to veer of into their own direction, bring in their own characters and replace situations with unexpected ones. So too it was with the years of building up to being able to fulfill the idea of SA’s first really functional and delivering exotic mushroom farm.
Things got in the way
The business plan to address the market appropriately and somewhat aimed at USA funders that were interested came to a million dollars in investment to set up and manage to a point of profitability a production facility of some 40 grow rooms and producing 20 tons of mushrooms a week employing 40 – 45 staff. The plans were completed and submitted in the same week that South Africa was effectively down graded to |Investment junk status and the American investment interest evaporated like proverbial Scotch mist.
We tried for a few months to find Local south African investment interest and in fact received on one hand a letter of intent from a large commercial lender in the financial space and on the other a letter of offer from a leading Agricultural player. Unfortunately this is where political horse radish got in the way and We were not prepared to accept the BEE fronts that were offered to us as the 51% shareholding with control over the board, wives offered as Financial Directors and for what it was worth a partner that had no passion for food production or interest in the business other than being a BEE 51% stake holder.
I walked away from 7 years of study, passion, desire, research, proof of concept, Investment of time and money – Debts and loans I am right now still paying off. Just turned my back on what did not make moral or business sense to me and let the dream go. Sad isn’t it?
But I still wanted to produce food and in some form of managed environment as that appealed to me and forms part of the future of food production.
Then one lunchtime while waiting for my food to be prepared at Mo’s café and reading the Farmers Weekly as … well as I do, there was an article published on farming snails in managed environments and I thought this is interesting and so this journey began, similar yet different. Again the research and the numbers and the dead ends and the decision changes starting with containers, via a whole number of other options and theories and back to containers and a final dramatic shift which lead to Barefoot and Tiptoe Snail Production Facility.
Decisions made, and funding tacitly offered. We shall see.