EBRD and EU help Georgian apple grower achieve fruitful results

By Nina Tsintsadze

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New technology protects yields and environment in AgroGori

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. But what if the doctor grows an apple orchard?

“We live in interesting times. I used to be a doctor, today, I am a happy gardener at this beautiful super intensive apple orchard,” says Zurab Gojiashvili, director of AgroGori, an apple grower in a village close to Gori, Georgia.

The EBRD and the European Union (EU) have helped the business invest in modern technology.

Farming with a mission

Zurab’s love story with gardening began back in 2014 and culminated in the creation of a super-intensive apple orchard conforming to European standards: AgroGori.

‘’When we decided to kick off production, the high quality varieties of apples our customers love were absent from the market. There was a lack of modern technologies, anti-hail systems and storage areas, which made it impossible to supply local produce out of season,’’ says Zurab.

With support from the EBRD and the EU, Zurab’s dream of running AgroGori as a truly European-standard-compliant orchard came to fruition.

Scaling up SMEs

The EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line is a flagship programme which provides small and medium-sized enterprises with much-needed financing to upgrade their facilities to European standards in order to produce high quality goods and services for customers at home and abroad. Once the investment has succeeded, the SMEs are eligible for up to 15 per cent cash-back incentives, funded by the EU, under the EU4Business initiative.

AgroGori has already benefitted from the programme which is also available in Moldova and Ukraine, and set to cover all Eastern Partnership countries.

“From the outset, we wanted to build a garden meeting the highest European standards with the best yields and modern technology. The acknowledgement from the European institutions that our orchard truly ticks all these boxes was of utmost importance to us,” says Zurab.

With the loan, Zurab acquired Italian apple and pear seedlings, and arranged anti-hail nets and drip irrigation.

“Our irrigation system saves water, protects the environment and prevents soil erosion. It is very smart: its waters trees when they need it, with the amount they require. The anti-hail system is one of the most important elements for sustainable farming.”

Zurab notes a spillover effect that followed this successful investment:

“Our labour has culture changed. We are part of Europe – at least, that’s how we feel in Gori. Our collaboration showed us the importance of the efficient use of electricity and water, workplace safety and waste management.”

AgroGori harvests up to 1,000 tonnes of apples per season. But the question remains, what is the secret of growing delicious apples at AgroGori?

“It is the Caucasus: we are blessed here with mild temperature at night, which makes our apples so red and tasty,” smiles Zurab.

The company is halfway through the next stage of development: new storage units and refrigerators will help Zurab and his employees to ramp up production volume and make Gori-grown apples famous beyond Georgia.

 

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