Agricrafters and DP World Romania

Agricrafters and DP World Romania

Date: 18/10/2023

Agricrafters and DP World Romania: the innovative partnership for the export of fresh fruit to the Middle East

Some very good news come from the agricultural and logistics sector in Romania. Agricrafters, a relatively new company in the fresh fruit cultivator’s industry, but it is a very visionary and ambitious company, which has become an important player both in Europe and internationally in recent years.

Since the beginning in the pursuit of excellence and performance, Agricrafters is committed to providing high quality products at competitive prices in all the markets in which the company expands its business. Everything has to happen according to customer expectations and every area of the business is carefully checked and undergoes a constant improvement.

In line with this objective, Agricrafters has planned and implemented, with the help of DP World Romania, an end-to-end logistics network to manage to deliver its production of fresh blueberries in the best conditions, to the Middle East.

The impressive story of the Agricrafters company has its roots in a completely different sphere of activity. In 2005, Gabriel Ciordaș founded Smartware, a successful company, specialized in digital and information technology. Together with George Miclos, who later became General Manager of the agriculture division within Smartware, they decided to start a new phase in the agricultural world. They started from the need to reduce the company's exposure to the IT field, aiming to diversify their activity into other fields. And the potential of the agricultural field to provide high added value on a relatively small agricultural area led them to the field of blueberry cultivation. But, as Mr. George Miclos states, the previous experience in a dynamic business mattered: "I believe that the dynamism in thinking and decision-making helped us the most, as well as looking at this opportunity from the perspective of a businessman and not of an experienced agricultural engineer. For us, the numbers always speak by themselves. "

The surprising road from IT to agriculture

With an ambitious vision and passion, the two, together with a young team, founded Agricrafters, a name carefully chosen to represent agriculture done with mastery, uniting the words agriculture and crafting. The Agricrafters name is relatively new, the brand being launched and registered in 2022, with the purpose of becoming an important regional and European producer of soft fruits (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries): "at the same time, the name has the role of resonating with at least three generations of consumers, who were/are currently also consumers of online games: starcraft , warcraft , mindcraft" , states George Miclos. He also helped to create the division from scratch, successfully implementing a project with European funding, building the team, developing the Agricrafters brand as well as commercial sales relations.

Agricrafters is currently registered as an European Union trademark with plans for global expansion. Agricrafters accessed sub-measure 4.1A (establishment of fruit plantations), receiving a grant of 900,000 Euros, money with which they have started the journey. Subsequently, they focused on growing blueberries and bringing this crop to the highest level of quality. George tells us that "at the time of launching the business idea and submitting the project for European funds, our expertise was at zero level, but slowly, slowly we searched for the necessary experts and hired competent people who could manage the day-to-day activities. At the moment, the company has 3 agronomist engineers who manage the agricultural production activity. We work closely with internal and external experts in this area and adjust our internal procedures according to the latest trends in this field, to ensure that we are at least in line with the big international players. We are always looking for globally successful models and trying to apply cutting-edge techniques."

Located in Bihor County, Holod commune, the Agricrafters farm enjoys four great advantages: it works on a compact lot of land, it benefits from a permanent water supply, it is close to modern road infrastructure and, perhaps most importantly, can access available labor locally, for maintenance and harvest work. At the moment, the Agricrafters team has 15 permanent employees and up to 50 part-timers for maintenance work. At the peak of the season, at harvest time, the team can even grow to 600 people. In addition to the permanent team, Agricrafters benefits from the full and unconditional support of the Smartware specialists, who provide legal, financial, accounting, fiscal, project management and import-export assistance.

Unlike other fruits, blueberries show remarkable resistance to transport over long distances, maintaining their freshness and nutritional value. Even so, perishable products, by their very nature, require reliable services to be able to arrive in the shortest time and in good conditions, from the farm gate to the stores. The pressure from the perishable nature of blueberries can only be reduced by using safe, controlled and predictable transport networks. And thus began the discussions and later the long-term partnership between Agricrafters and DP World in Romania.

Exporting fresh fruit raises a series of specific challenges

In the interview given by George Miclos, he stated that: "Our policy focuses on 3 major criteria: quality, quantity, cost. At the intersection of these 3 criteria, we try to position ourselves to have a profitable business". He also tells us that he puts great importance on other aspects: "To work with experienced people who understand the flows very well and can advise you to make the best decisions for your business ."

The activity is seasonal, the harvesting is between June 15 and August 31. Blueberries are sold both in bulk (3kg in plastic or cardboard boxes) and packaged under our own brand or under the end customer's brand (125-500g casserole). Considering that they have created a business model based on quality, they are looking for those markets that pay the best, but also expect super premium quality. George tells that: " entering several foreign markets was difficult, but once you enter and make a name for yourself, you open more doors".

There is no shortage of challenges. One of the biggest challenges lies in the difficulty of becoming a direct supplier to large retailers, using as much as possible a short distribution chains. This is because, Romanian retail and the foreign markets as well, require a higher quality. At the moment, most of Agricrafters production takes the export route. 99% of production goes abroad - Holland, Germany, UK, Italy, and from this year also to the Middle East.

For Gabriel Ciordaș and his team, it was a strategic decision, likely to streamline logistics costs per kilogram of product sold. Even so, the manager of the agriculture division says that Romanians face a series of specific problems. ”We are still seen externally as a country that has to sell cheap, although we are required to adhere to the same quality standards. It will be a long process until we manage to detach ourselves from the mentality that puts us in the same category as non-EU countries", confesses Mr. Miclos.

The export of perishable products, however, raises a number of logistical problems for a manufacturer. Their nature makes these products require special transport conditions: controlled temperature, speed and, above all, predictability. The same quality from harvesting must be kept until the point of sale, to the final consumer. Otherwise, the whole effort is in vain and more than that, there are penalties from external partners.

DP World Romania proved to be the perfect partner for Agricrafters, offering them their vast expertise in the logistics field. The multi -modal approach and the high degree of global coverage allow DP World to offer manufacturers services dedicated to specific needs, by creating secure logistics chains. At the same time, this approach offers options for cold transport, storage and distribution, respecting good sustainability practices. Both the infrastructure created and the detailed monitoring systems and state-of-the-art equipment ensure reliable flows and operations. Thus, Agricrafters products benefit from the advantage of ensuring an adequate and constant temperature throughout the logistics chain (temperature, O2/CO2 concentration, humidity, etc.).

Top logistics: the secret of successful exporters

DP World in Romania aims to promote intermodal transport end-to-end as the preferred solution for their customers, developing logistics centers interconnected with the Constanța terminal to facilitate an efficient and sustainable delivery of goods.

DP World is a reliable partner and a source of know-how for Agricrafters. The company provided specialized containers, designed to maintain the optimal temperature during transport, but also options for the monitoring of the goods during the entire period of transit.

This partnership eliminated logistical hurdles and ensured that the fruit arrived in impeccable conditions to Middle Eastern markets. ”Entering foreign markets was difficult. Romanian products are usually seen with scepticism. It is also very important that the infrastructure provided is of good quality, that the means of transport are in good working order, that they do not break down on the route, that the containers are well maintained and checked and that there are options for the monitoring of the goods during the transit period ", explains George Miclos.

All these are basic aspects in ensuring a modern logistics chain. But there are also a number of essential safety measures when it comes to transporting temperature-controlled goods.” As a first consideration in the case of refrigerated or controlled atmosphere containers, the first step is to prepare the container for loading, followed by the compliance with the date and the time of loading. Another aspect, equally important, is the transit time to the destination. Our advantage over other transports of goods in containers with only temperature control is that during the entire period of transport one can check whether the internal parameters are constant. Thus, the goods are transported in good conditions ", explains Alex Popovici, Sales Director within DP World Romania.

Failure to comply with these rigorous procedures or transport conditions would cause the perishable goods to end up in an inadequate state, or even to depreciate completely, Mr. Popovici also says. "Our desire to perform and be the first in this field, determines that the services offered are of high quality and still at competitive prices. We want intermodal transport to become a way for all customers to deliver their goods, creating logistics centers that will be connected to the terminals in Constanța and more recently in Aiud", he confesses.

The scaling potential at peak times is an important aspect for manufacturers. DP World has the global capability to deliver scalable solutions for customer and consumer needs. Correct scheduling of transit times (loading-unloading schedule), modern equipment, solid communication between teams and sustainable standards - these are promises they make every day, including in the case of the transport of perishable goods by sea and by road. In these situations, "the preparation of the container is done even before positioning for loading, in the PTI phase (pre- trip inspection), when its technical condition is checked and odorization is done to eliminate odours that could affect the quality of the products to be loaded", recalls Mr. Popovici.

Successful partnerships for innovation and scaling-up

These are just some of the reasons why Agricrafters has chosen DP World as its logistics partner, in an effort to ensure fresh and quality fruit for consumers in the Middle East. Currently, Agricrafters are among the first Romanian producers to choose the temperature-controlled export option to the Middle East, although it would have been easier for them if they had frozen the fruits. ”We have sought to differentiate ourselves and seek alternative markets to lessen the impact of the price war that usually occurs mid-season on the European continent. We have identified strategic partners who have trusted us to make these deliveries for them in the Middle East. With the help of DP World Romania, we managed to identify the most advantageous logistical solutions from a technical and financial point of view to achieve them ", says George Miclos.

Agricrafters' vision is ambitious: to become a trusted global supplier, while maintaining product quality and therefore customer satisfaction. With a dedicated team and a solid partnership, Agricrafters marks an important step towards the sustainable and innovative development of Romanian agriculture. "Next year we intend to start in May with fruit from Portugal, after which we will switch to fruit from Serbia, then to our own production from Romania and again Ukraine, to try to have deliveries at least four months a year in the Middle East", says Mr. Miclos.

A huge step in business development is the perfecting of the strategic partnership with Agrovision Corp, the company with the most aggressive development in the production and trade of blueberries worldwide. Through this association, Agricrafters will plant considerable areas of SEKOIA blueberries in Romania in the coming years, varieties developed by Fall Creek nurseries. These varieties represent the next level of quality for blueberries, being firmer, tastier, of greater calibre and with a longer shelf life than conventional varieties. The first step will be carried out in the spring of 2024 when Agricrafters will plant the first 62 hectares within Bihor county, this being the first important stage of a 5-year development plan. Blueberries of the SEKOIA variety produced by Agricrafters will reach the market as well traditional in Europe but of course also in the Near and Far East through close collaboration with DP World.

Through this innovative move, Agricrafters opened a new era in the Romanian agricultural and export industry. The team led by Gabriel Ciordaș and George Miclos proved that passion and determination can turn an ambitious vision into reality. By focusing on growing the highest quality blueberries, Agricrafters has been able to create an innovative and efficient production and supply chain for the export of fresh fruit to the Middle East. Agricrafters thus contributes to the sustainable and innovative development of Romanian agriculture. And as their expansion projects are implemented, with the support of DP World Romania for smart, secure and scalable logistics solutions, Agricrafters will assert itself as a reliable global supplier with a solid vision for the future of fresh fruit production and consumption. In order to be able to see a small part of what happens at Agricrafters, we invite you to access the link below: