The path of the sea buckthorn: from a small farmer to an owner of an agro-industrial hub

June 28, 2022
Calea cătinii: de la un mic producător agricol la un proprietar de hub agroindustrial

Igor Golban is one of the first producers of organic sea buckthorn and products derived from it in the Republic of Moldova

Igor Golban became one of the first producers of sea buckthorn in the Republic of Moldova, cultivating this plant organically. He has come a long way, so far: cultivated nuts, worked at a winery, bought some agricultural land in his home village, started to cultivate in 2019 nuts and almonds in Ștefan-Voda district, according to an organic system and established an enterprise.

The decision to dedicate himself to cultivating sea buckthorn was based on a thorough analysis and feasibility study carried out in the European Union, which convinced him that he has to make a new step forward: “Although people did not know too much about sea buckthorn, we decided to plant it on our land, because we studied its benefits for people’s health, as well as its profit potential. It was registering increasing trends on the European market. Sea buckthorn is a strong antioxidant, powerful booster for the immune system and has a lot of beneficial effects for the human body. It was not by chance, when it started being called Romanian ginseng and a wonder of nature,” says the entrepreneur.

The first harvest was collected in three years after planting, being followed by an intense promotion on social media at fairs and exhibitions. Now, the sea buckthorn became a real start in “Biantti” company established by Igor Golban, which produces a wide range of organic items from this wonder-fruit, but also from its nuts and seeds.

Willing to develop his business, Igor Golban has applied to access funds offered by development partners, so as endow the enterprise with modern equipment, but also to increase the export potential. The entrepreneur has participated in several grant competitions conducted by the “Advanced cross-river capacities for trade” (AdTrade) UNDP Project. Thanks to the financial assistance obtained from Sweden and the United Kingdom within AdTrade/UNDP Project, “Biantti” became one of the few Moldovan companies with a closed technological cycle for production, hence being environmentally friendly and economically efficient.

“Thanks to the modern equipment and innovative technologies, we succeeded to create a complete working cycle, due to which we do not source out any external services and produce a wide range of organic products, without production waste.”
Igor Golban

The received funds were used to buy installations for extracting and pasteurizing sea buckhorn juice, equipment for fruit dehydration and freezing through heat shock, products’ packing and oil processing. Moreover, a sewerage system, a wastewater basin and a water bio-treatment unit were built.

It was also with UNDP support that the company bought an organic production and bottling line for sea buckthorn oil. This was possible thanks to the support of “Migration and local development” project, funded by the Government of Switzerland. Besides, Igor Golban was included in the local and regional touristic circuit, the tourists having the possibility to visit the plantation and to see the oil bottling process.

The innovative technologies allow the full use of the products ending up in the barn, but also an increased processing efficiency and speed: “For instance, with the help of the modern line of procured equipment, we use the sea buckthorn in its entirety. First of all, we get the juice. The remaining pulp is used to produce tea; the seeds are separated through a special sieve and afterwards used to produce cold pressed oil. Nothing is thrown away. If before, we would process up to 300 kg/day, now with the help of this modern equipment, the company may process up to 3-4 tons of products per day”.

The social impact will grow alongside the business development: “Besides being so useful, these innovative technologies also have a social impact, as the enterprise is planning to create over 27 jobs and to offer organically certified products to its clients”.

11 people are working now in the company, 5 of them being with disabilities. “We provided transportation services for those coming from the city, and the employees from rural area got accommodation with all necessary conditions,” says the entrepreneur.

Other fruits and berries are going to be processed at “Biantti”, as the technology procured through AdTrade Project opened new possibilities for production and promotion on the foreign market. Hence, Igor Golban succeeded to obtain internationally recognized quality certificates, and this serves as a real “business card” to conquer new trade markets: “Now, 90% of the products obtained within Biantti company are sold on the domestic market and only 10% are meant for export. Starting this year, we plan to reverse this figure”.

Thanks to AdTrade, Igor Golban benefited from entrepreneurial courses and counselling for business development and identification of new markets. All these have determined him to start a transformation of the enterprise into a real agro-industrial hub or logistical processing center for small producers from Moldova. This would imply buying and processing production from the farmers in the country, and afterwards exporting it. “We want to develop a digitalized and technologized business, to have good reputation on the market for our organic and qualitative products,” concludes the entrepreneur.