Creating sustainability at Naturally Harvest Ltd Kenya

Sustainability is about saving the planet and caring for people. But in order to do so, companies need to turn a profit. Sustainability also means creating a profitable continuity. Naturally Harvest Ltd Kenya is supportive of sustainability being certified in Fair Trade, MPS A, MPS SQ and KFC (Silver Status). But there is more to be told.

Jay Williams, Managing Director of Harvest Flower Kenya, took over the business from his father, the late John Williams, who founded Harvest Flowers Ltd in 1995. John Williams was one of the first rose growers to set up in Kenya.

Jay has been involved in the company for twelve years, six of which were spent running their UK flower import company before returning to Kenya in October 2016 after John passed away. “When I returned to Kenya it was evident that my father had established a very strong business platform but Harvest Flowers required re-structuring to be aligned with market developments. In addition, we had to streamline the business and reduce costs against rising inflation rates in Kenya. I will continue my father’s legacy but also build on it and take responsibility for the 820 employees who depend on Harvest Flowers. Our first challenge was to identify the right people, the right processes and simplify the supply chain.”

Three flower farms

Harvest Ltd has three flower farms located at both high and low altitudes. Harvest Flowers (23 hectares) is based in Athi River, located 20km from the International airport (JKIA) at an altitude of 1550 meters above sea level. It specialises in growing large intermediate and spray roses for the retail market. Athi River is the perfect location for producing high yielding varieties due to its high daily temperatures and many hours of sunlight.

The two high altitude farms branded Aberdare Roses are made up of seventeen hectares combined. They are located in the foothills of the iconic Aberdare mountain range 2400 meters above sea level, perfect for growing the large headed T-hybrid rose and premium spray roses. There are plans to expand an additional twenty hectares at high altitude farms in the next two years.

Back to the auction

“For the past ten years our roses were sold through direct sales channels,” Jay continues. “When my father ran the company this was the right business model. But the industry changed and our company needs to adapt to the market. Our marketing strategy for our Athi farm is 100% direct sales to a variety of international large scale importers located worldwide.

Our two high altitude farms sell via our partner, Fresco Flowers, to Royal FloraHolland Aalsmeer. There were too many direct clients which complicated the business process. When dealing with direct sales, a company requires clients buying large weekly volumes to pay in a timely manner. Buyers in continental Europe and the wider market purchase premium roses via the auction and pay on a weekly basis. By simplifying this process we can turn our full attention to producing the highest quality roses on a consistent basis to achieve the best net price for the farm.

Fresco Flowers is a leading Dutch packing company with a great network of local and international buyers. By working with Fresco we can ensure our quality and packaging is second to none. It allows us to widen our market through online sales and the auction. We see this cooperation with Fresco Flowers and Royal FloraHolland (via the auction) as a strategic one enabling us to create a better future for our company.”

People, process, product

“We have re-structured our company by making key strategic decisions,” Jay concludes. “We have a clear direction for the future of the business. Aberdares Roses is the brand name for T-Hybrid and Premium spray roses auctioned daily through Fresco Flowers. Harvest Flowers sells directly to the retail market. In 2018, we’ll start a complete re-planting with intermediate varieties not only matching the retail market demand but also producing a high yield per square meter.

Being a reliable supplier is extremely important to our customers, both direct- and auction-based. It’s all about having the right people, simple processes and the right product to suit your market. These three have to be aligned to create a reliable supply chain and position ourselves as the leader within the market.

In addition, we created a simple but effective digital stock management system on the three farms. This gives us complete transparency and accountability with our team and also allows our clients to have real-time analysis of our stock which is integrated into our sales process. We are one of the first farms in Kenya to adapt this approach. By working on all of the above we are assured of creating a sustainable future for the business.”

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