Photo: Recent Visit by Fijian PM and Delegation to Ilimo Farm
Papua New Guinea has a warm and rainy climate, rich soil, and abundant water resources, and is blessed with naturally adaptable conditions for farming a wide variety of crops.
Despite these favourable factors, the country still relies on imports to feed its population. Among the top imported products are vehicles, fuel and heavy machinery, rice, flour, and meat, which are basic dietary staples which consumers pay inflated prices for due to a lack of domestic commercial production.
Ilimo Farm – PNG's largest vegetable greenhouse and dairy facility
In its commitment to making PNG a self-sustaining agricultural producer, Innovative Agro Industries (IAIs) Ltd has been visible in the country's agriculture sector since 2011, with projects involving farming, greenhouse, poultry, and dairy.
Since its inception IAI have introduced and have been applying Israeli technologies and expertise to PNG to help contribute to the country’s food security and agricultural productivity.
In an interview, President of Innovative Agro Industries, Ilan Weiss said: "By introducing advanced technology and best practices, productivity and quality are set to increase, resulting in better income and welfare for local residents".
In 2014, IAI established the Ilimo farm, which has been producing over 100,000 kilograms of high-quality vegetables and dairy products all year round. This compromises an entire value chain that includes seedlings production, vegetable cultivation, sorting, packaging, and even marketing.
Weiss has been leading IAI in PNG since 2011, and its goal is to address the challenges that will enable PNG to upscale its agricultural output. These include a lack of infrastructure and logistics outside of Port Moresby, financing, governance, and a commercial mindset among farmers.
“To be successful in PNG, one needs to ensure service and control of the full supply and value chain. There are no service providers or opportunities to outsource, and this is the reason that we have developed fully integrated agricultural projects.” Weiss said.
Indeed, Ilimo is one of many projects in action that are helping to transform the lives of local people. Combined, IAI’s developments have provided job opportunities to more than 1,000 Papua New Guineans from all walks of life, the empowerment spreading to hundreds of small-scale farmers and suppliers who can now rely on a steady, commercial income stream.
Such farmers include vegetable producers, in which Weiss highlighted the example of a frozen vegetable enterprise in the Highlands region that is helping to remove the reliance on imported goods.
Recent Visit by Fijian PM and Delegation to Ilimo Farm
On Saturday, 20th May 2023, Innovative Agro Industry was proud to host the Prime Minister of Fiji, Honorable Sitiveni Rabuka, his wife Madam Sulueti Rabuka, and the Fijian delegation at their state-of-the-art Ilimo dairy farm and 9-Mile vegetable farm.
The Honorable Prime Minister and delegation had an enriching experience as they explored the farms, witnessed the entire Grass-to-Glass and Field-to-Fork processes, gaining valuable insights into the farm's agricultural practices, and even had a taste of all 'PNG Made' produce from fresh milk and ice cream, fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as a variety of juices.
IAI were grateful to the Fijian PM and expressed their gratitude towards the delegation and thanked the Prime Minister for recognizing their commitment to food security, sustainability, and their aim in building strong partnerships across the Pacific.
Fijian PM Rabuka and his delegation said the Ilimo farm is one of Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Region's most advanced farms. His delegation will take home methods used at the dairy and fresh produce farms back to Fiji and have it utilised and incorporated into the agricultural space, he added.
Rabuka said: "It was so sad that we have not seen this, the possibility of opportunity in PNG over the last 50 years or so. This morning (Saturday) has been very useful, I’m sure the officials in the delegation will take a lot back with them and try and incorporate them into the agro industries at home (Fiji)."
As host to the visit, IAI’s Weiss said it was a chance “for them to showcase what we were doing in PNG, the progress and advancement we have done in the field of agriculture and food production.”
“We take a lot of pride in what we are doing, put in a lot of passion, agriculture is long-term investment,” he said, noting the Fijian delegation was impressed with what they saw.
Innovative Agro Industry is the only producer of milk, yoghurt, and ice cream in the country, and invests in vegetable production and the frozen potato chip brand Kuk, named after a heritage site in Western Highlands.
IAI Ltd Scope and Social Impacts in PNG
IAI Ltd is an affiliate of the LR Group, a leading global project development company which has been active since the 1980s.
All IAI projects integrate and implement Israeli knowledge and expertise which in turn leads to enhanced production capabilities and profitability.
The company initially set up its first fresh produce farm at Nine-Mile before expanding its footprint throughout the country. The Nine-Mile farm includes six hectares of modern greenhouses, as well as a central packaging and logistics centre.
Currently IAIs projects have generated over 1,000 new direct job opportunities employing Papua New Guineans of all walks of life, from university graduates, professionals to general staff.
The company's projects further engage hundreds of small-scale farmers that supply their Agro Industrial Centres (AICs) throughout the country, turning subsistence farmers into cash cropping farmers.
Each of the company's AICs is tailored for its location and the market demand to create a value and supply chain that will provide food security, import replacement and local capacity building. For example, in Hela Province, near the Southern Highlands, the organisation is formalising plans for a coffee industry rejuvenation development.
A memorandum of understanding was signed between IAI and partners ExxonMobil, Mineral Resources Development Company (MRDC) and local governing authorities in a public private partnership that will impact up to 5,000 people over the next five years through coffee production and marketing.
"This is key to revitalising the industry in PNG. We are looking to plant up to 15 million new coffee trees in the province, and our team has been working with partners including the Coffee Industry Corporation to develop a model that will empower the people of Hela", Weiss said.
"The project will diversify the economic base and further encourage the development of additional small enterprise. Running parallel to the coffee project will be other agriculture initiatives – as coffee takes a long time to grow, we have developed a maize programme to provide feed to our chicken farm in Hela", he added
It is this continued creation of employment and earning opportunities for staff and farmers that forms the central motivation for all of IAI’s future planning and delivery of projects.
Meanwhile, Weiss highlighted the aspect of local content when commenting on the success of building IAI’s training programmes which have resulted in PNG nationals holding key positions in all of its projects.
“The goal is to have a close to 100 percent Papua New Guinean workforce at all levels of our operations,” he says.
"A company is only as good as its workers. We are commercially oriented, obviously, and we are definitely not shy in employing innovation, but what I believe sets us apart is our staff at all levels and the passion they bring to their work notwithstanding the challenges".
1) innovative-agro.com, https://www.innovative-agro.com. Innovative Agriculture (Agro) Industry Limited
2) Oxford Business Group https://oxfordbusinessgroup.com › t... Ilan Weiss, Chairman, Innovative Agro Industry: Interview
3) Loop PNG| Rabuka visits Ilimo Farm https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.looppng.com/png-news/rabuka-visits-ilimo-farm-
4) LR Group https://lr-group.com › project › ilim... Ilimo Dairy Farm, PNG - LR Group - Making Vision Reality