Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Start-up Knockalva Enterprises to make organic fertiliser

Published:Friday | March 18, 2016 | 3:00 AM

Start-up to make organic fertiliser

Steven Jackson

Senior Business Reporter

Start-up company Knockalva Enterprises Limited is to launch a locally made organic fertiliser by May as a cheaper alternative for both households and farms.

Led by co-chief executive officers Dr Hansel Beckford, a crop physiologist, and Max Keith, a chartered accountant, Knockalva will produce fertiliser, potting compost and garden soil. It would likely become the only producer in the organic segment of a market otherwise dominated by 'inorganic suppliers' such as Newport-Fersan Limited.

"When compared to the inorganic form, organic fertiliser contributes greater to soil fertility as it promotes good soil structure, improves moisture retention, reduces erosion and nutrient leaching, reduces the incidence of pests and diseases, and maintains nutrient balance," said Beckford in an interview with the Financial Gleaner on Wednesday.

"In the case of soil structure, for example, the organic fractions coat particles like sand, making them stable and less susceptible to erosion and, at the same time, improve the chemical environment in which the plant grows. The benefits of organic fertiliser far outweigh that of its inorganic counterpart," he said.

The company, when in full operation, will sell its products under the brand 'Easi-Gro' in 10-pound and 20-pound packages for the retail trade and 50-pound and 100-pound bulk supplies for commercial users.

"We are 40 per cent less expensive than imported equivalents. Even so, our margins are still good because we are in business to make satisfactory returns on our investment," said Beckford, who projects that KLE will start selling the fertiliser by the end of May.

A week ago, last Friday, Knockalva made a business pitch to Proven Investments Limited for equity investment. It offered a 25 per cent stake to the investment company in exchange for roughly $50 million. Beckford and Keith approached Proven after the company began promoting its 'Full 100' campaign to find ventures to invest in.

Proven is reviewing the pitch and its decision is pending.

Knockalva projects sales in the first year of $168 million supported by commercial and industrial sales to the bauxite, coffee, sugar cane and landscaping sectors. The company's pitch to Proven included the prospect of a large contract from the bauxite sector.

Knockalva secured a loan from the EXIM Bank but declined to reveal the amount. It will also consider seeking financing from other backers.

"The production process is a cutting-edge technique developed through collaborative research and development in the United States and Switzerland and to which we have done some refinement to suit our situation," said Beckford, who will oversee production.

Beckford has some 35 years experience in agriculture and business development in the public and private sectors in Jamaica and the United States.

Beckford and Keith were childhood friends who decided to team up for the fertiliser venture.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com