15 years redefining flower growing business, cultivating quality Roses

15 years redefining flower growing business, cultivating quality Roses


Behind the over 60 hectares of land under rose production, dozens of towering, modern greenhouses, a cocktail of premium flower varieties that continue to excite international markets and the more than 1,000 workers who tend to the flowers with surgical precision, is the story of resilience, hard work, commitment, team work and sacrifice that best describes PJ Dave Flora.
The flower farm has for the last 15 years made its mark in the global floriculture map runs its operations in the picturesque Isinya area of Kajiado County.

As one of the offshoots of the family-owned business, the company traces its history about 15 years ago. PJ Dave Flora was initially set up as a social responsibility project, to contribute towards job creation for the people as desired by the founders Mrs. Elizabeth Dave and the late Mr. Pravin Dave, May God rest his soul in peace.

The business has evolved from the initial 20 hectares to 63 hectares, employing more than 1150 members of staff and growing 20 different intermediate and 12 different spray roses’ varieties among them, Ace Pink, Athena, Belle Rose, Belle Vue, Julischka, La Belle, Madam Red, Memory, Moonwalk, Tamara and many more.

The flowers have received impressive market reception which has inspired the flower farm to grow its market reach to Europe, Australia, Middle East and Russia among others. The flagship variety Rhodos, a red rose with a large head and thornless stem, has had a phenomenal uptake across various markets due to its large head size, long vase life, and the ability to travel well. 40 ha which is about 65 per cent, of the total area under flower production at PJ Dave Flora is under Rhodos.

“We started the parent company some 30 years ago as a vegetable farm before diversifying into flower production. It has been a very exciting and fulfilling journey. The values that inspired us to start the first venture to date, including hard work, resilience, team work and passion for what we do have been the hallmark that have defined the DNA of the farm. We are glad to have imparted those values to our workers who are the driving force of our company. From the initial 20 hectares we have grown the PJ Dave flora farm to 63 hectares,” said Elizabeth Dave the Board Chairperson of P.J. Dave flora.

Guided by the philosophies of consistency, quality and maintaining good relationship with clients, the flower farm has made considerable investments in the processes and innovations to ensure that high standards are observed across the entire flower chain including growing, production, post-harvest, grading, packaging and transportation, to mention just but few.

The farm has embraced hydroponic technology to grow flowers while using pumice and soil as the main growing media. It also uses a water purification process dubbed reverse osmosis to remove excess salt from borehole water. To tame pests and diseases PJ Dave Flora has adopted both chemical and biological solutions through the Integrated Pest Management model with major emphasis on minimal use of chemicals and fertilizers.

With the cost of energy eating up a lion share of the company’s revenue, the flower farm in 2018 installed a 360 kilowatts solar power plant, which services nearly 30% of the power requirement of the farm.

“Every decision we make in the flower business has to have our customers, employees and environment considerations in mind. What is it that they want, how do they want it and when do they want it? That informs the varieties we grow, how we grow them, what technologies we embrace to ensure quality is top notch and which markets need what flowers. This has been greatly inspired by our late founder Mr. Dave who was visionary and could foresee a lot of things which guided most of his business decisions,” says Santosh Kulkarni the Managing Director of PJ Dave Flora. Santosh points out an example of growing Rhodos, the flagship variety of the farm saying that Mr. & Mrs. Dave saw the potential it would have in the market and pushed to have the farm grow it and export it exclusively. “That is how we have modeled our business and will continue to follow same philosophy,” added Santosh.

Exporting an estimated 60 million stems each year through auctions and direct markets means that the company has had to invest in uninterrupted and seamless production while ensuring that quality is not compromised at any point. “The greatest asset we have as a company is our workers who have embraced the company as their family. The commitment and dedication of the workers in different units has made growing flowers an exciting and enjoyable venture. We have become one big family united by our passion for flowers,” said Janki Dave, Executive Director of the farm.
But the company has had to contend with a number of challenges including exorbitant freight charges that make the flowers uncompetitive in the export markets, the high cost of inputs including chemicals and fertilizers, labour costs, taxes and levies some which are duplicated across national and county governments. “Kenyan flowers are regarded highly world over. But it is becoming unsustainable to grow flowers with the high costs. Considering that the floriculture industry is one of the greatest foreign exchange earners of the country, the government should consider a raft of measures that will make the business sustainable .The government need to offer more incentives, than are are currently enjoyed to make the industry a major player in the global arena, considering the labour intensive nature of the industry, the much needed jobs can be created, and also transfer of technology that is likely to turn around other agricultural activities as well. One of the ways is to engage industry players,” Santosh added.

And while, like the rest of the flower farms, and indeed all businesses, PJ Dave Flora was hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions that came with it, the farm made a decision not to abandon the flowers but to keep maintaining them. In a classic example of resilience and zeal, once the markets opened up, customers’ appreciation of the quality of flowers inspired the company to keep going. “When we couldn’t export the flowers due to cancellation of flights, we were cutting them and discarding the same. But we continued to maintain the crop through irrigation and fertilization. Following the philosophy of our founder, we could foresee that the closure would not last long so we needed to keep our flowers in good shape,” said Santosh.
P.J. Dave flora farm is certified by Fair trade, MPS A, KFC silver and SEDEX. They have invested in a number of CSR activities. Key among them is education by building schools and paying school fees to needy students, regular free medical clinics on the farm for staff, distribution of gas cylinders to staff and providing watering troughs for herders within the community.
Inspired by market trends and customers’ feedback, the company’s management say it is open to expand but is currently more focused on growing top grade flowers while cultivating its relationship with its customers.

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