Camel Thorn Horticulture is South Africa's main importer of Jiffy products. Based in Johannesburg, it offers coco growing media and peat products, all with Jiffy's certifications and guarantees. The Jiffy range already includes seedling pellets, compostable pots, growbags, microgreen trays and planks, Preforma plugs, growblocks, and its assortment is constantly expanding.
Different solutions for different crops
"We offer solutions for a wide range of crops," says Jules Kieser, Director of Camel Thorn. "That's because many different crops thrive in South Africa thanks to the different climate zones. In the south and west, you'll see mainly berries, wine, cut flowers, and veggies. There's lots and lots of forestry along the east coast. And the sub-tropical north is fantastic for macadamias, forestry, and fruit such as mangoes, lychees, bananas, and granadillas.
Coco pellets to grow everything from veg to forestry
When it started in 2016, Camel Thorn focused on Jiffy coco products, imported directly from Jiffy's manufacturing plants in Sri Lanka. The Jiffy-7C pellet was particularly well received. "The coco peat pellet is still very popular, especially the 40 x 45 pellet for vegetables and the 60 x 120 for macadamia seedlings and forestry," says Jules. "Just recently, Jiffy Preforma plugs Europe has really taken off for high-value crops."
Hydroponic growing media
These days, Camel Thorn mainly serves macadamia growers, and horticulturalists specialize in produce like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and leafy greens. Hydroponic farming and other indoor ag methods have expanded rapidly in South Africa. Already, 30% of the country's lettuces are grown under cover. Many of these crops are exported: Nuts to China and the US, and flowers, fruit, and other produce to Europe.
"The growers' international clients insist on them using quality products like our coco growing media because they comply with their Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) requirements, and they have all the certificates of analysis they need. Jiffy products are unique: we can guarantee them. Unlike the competition, the composition of the growing media is always consistent. The products are RHP-certified, produced at ISO-certified locations, and meet global quality standards."
Jules is well aware that the products can seem expensive to growers at first. That's why he has identified situations where Jiffy can save growers money and run multiple trials to prove it. "For things like granadilla and macadamia cuttings, Jiffy-7C coco pellets reduce rooting times by 30%."
Transforming the market
Red Sun Hortitech, one of South Africa's biggest macadamia nurseries, is a Camel Thorn customer. The first nursery to focus on cuttings, it ran a lot of trials and found that coco growing media – specifically Jiffy-7Cs – were the best in terms of the speed of rooting and water and labor savings. Red Sun's business grew as a result, and many other macadamia nurseries have followed. From supplying only the local market, they now have holding nurseries in a number of African countries. In fact, their approach is so successful that it has attracted global interest.
No more transplant shock
"It is amazing to see how we can transform businesses like that. Another example is the protea flower sector. Proteas are very susceptible to transplant shock. If you plant them in a normal plastic container and disturb the roots during transplantation, they just die. But we've shown growers that the young plants can go straight into the ground with pot and all, thanks to our compostable Jiffy Pot strips."
"Customers often compliment us on our service levels. We have good people who take the time to speak to customers about how to get the most out of the coco-growing media and other products. It's been very relationship-driven. We've grown by over 30% per year for the last five years, and we've only just begun."
Supporting reforestation projects
Jules and his team have just set up in the Western Cape, the center of the country's berry, fruit, and wine industry, and they are looking beyond South Africa's borders. When Camel Thorn started, it won a lot of reforestation contracts in Eastern and Central Africa. Before Covid, they were planting 6 million trees a year in Tanzania alone on former tobacco fields. "The reforestation projects are now starting up again, and we are going back in."
Coming soon: Jiffy's substrates
Camel Thorn is continually expanding the range of products available through its account managers and direct from the website. It will soon include Jiffy substrates for professional and home growers of berries and other crops. The first trials are now running.