Earth Gen created pilot test planting in 2013 in Laos and Vietnam. In 2014 Earth Gen’s began large-scale agricultural operations in Northern Laos with the planting on the first portion of 10,000 acres. The 700 planted acres are will be harvested in September of 2014. After the first harvest the same castor bean plants will produce up to two more harvest every 12 months providing an estimated annual crop of 2,000 metric tons from this first 700-acre planting. World castor bean prices are $650 to $700 per ton. At this time all of Earth Gen castor bean crop is being sold as a feed- stock for chemical processors in China, Japan, Taiwan and Europe, with the long-term goal of increasing castor bean production to a level where manufacturing demand for castor bean oil and its derivatives will be satisfied and castor bean oil will be available to be used as a biofuel feedstock.
Because Earth Gen’s operations start with selecting the proper farmland and farmers to work with, the Company has developed a very specific method governing land and farm selection. The process includes the following research, tasks and issues on the proposed farm location.
- Location elements, including what is the closest large city, district, village and exact grid coordinates
- Does the individual farmer have the legal ownership of the land? What is evidence of ownership or legal right to use the land? If the land belongs to a village and is under control of village chief or mayor, how many villagers have legal rights to use the land?
- General size of the land and description such as flat, hilly, existing plant growth or rocky.
- Land use history.
- Availability of nearby land for possible expansion of operations
- Survey the land and make sure the size corresponds to what is in the land deed or description.
- What is the nature of access to the land, dirt road or paved, and what are the nearby major highways. Will it be feasible to bring in machinery for farm production?
- The site should be able to produce a harvest that will fill one 18-ton container (minimum of 10 hectares).
- What is the soil type? Measure soil samples in order to determine if adequate nutrient levels and chemical balance of the soil.
- Irrigation, are there natural water resources to set up an irrigation system or will we be relying on rainwater? Cost evaluation to set up an irrigation system?
- What land preparation will be required to start planting, clear small trees, low brush, weeds and grasses.
- Farm infrastructure; are there buildings, fencing, roads, utility lines set up to begin the operation?
After completing the land evaluations protocol, Earth Gen will then work with the farmer to complete the following:
Prior to Planting:
- Land preparation is a critical component of successful and sustainable castor farming and should be emphasized accordingly.
- The land should be ripped and disked vertically and horizontally, at least 35cm deep (deeper if possible) to ensure the soil is loosened up to allow proper drainage, soil composition is more evenly distributed, and nutrient levels are blended evenly.
- Castor plants prefer deep, moderately fertile, slightly acidic soil and require soil with adequate levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
- Soil samples should be taken prior to sowing.
- Ordinarily the yield is 2000 to 3000 kg/ha. The yield can be above this with strict adherence to cultivation methods along with irrigation.
- Plants sprout after 7-14 days. Seeds take 100 to 120 days from seedlings emergence to the main fruit ears becoming ripe and reach a height prior to harvest of about six to seven feet
- In the beginning stages of the planting, the plant should be watered every other day until it gains some strength. Castor oil plants require water every 12-14 days, but require it more frequently with wind and high temperatures.
The Planting Process:
- Each seed is buried in the soil, four to five inches deep. Fill the hole with water and soil until it is completely covered. Three seeds are planted per location
- After two to three weeks pesticide may be applied.
- Each plant has a three to four year life so no there is no need to replant every harvest (two to three harvests are possible each year), unless the region of the farm is at a higher elevation and cooler climate, which will slow plant rejuvenation.
- Once the stalks with the castor bean capsules are harvested they are moved to a sheltered location to dry for three to four weeks. After the capsules are dried they are processed in equipment that splits open the pods to separate the seeds inside. The seeds are collected and excess dirt and any plant material is removed.
- The seeds are stored in 75 to 150 pound poly-lined bags to keep the seeds from absorbing any additional moisture.
Most of Earth Gen’s preliminary operations have been in Laos and Vietnam. However, Earth Gen has also been developing relationships in other Southeast Asia countries such as Cambodia as possible areas of expansion in the region when and if additional working capital and management capabilities are available. Early in 2013, Earth Gen management also started to investigate opportunities to develop master agents in Latin America. The start of operations in Latin America will depend on completing the first phase of planting in Southeast Asia and approaching the goal of over 10,000 hectares under cultivation. The achievement of Earth Gen’s planting goals will be dependent on having the working capital to sustain operations at the proper level, along with the ability to make agreements with enough farmers willing to convert their farmland to grow castor beans or obtain land that is not currently under cultivation on a basis that meets the Company’s economic operating goals.