The Good Rabbit Story
“A nation who invests in agriculture and the next generation of farmers, invests in its own future and safety.” – Hennie Viljoen, Director of P349 (Pty) Ltd.
Hennie and his family have always had a heart for uplifting rural agriculture communities. Their journey began when they established Amos Agrimin in 1993. This is a faith-based agricultural enterprise with the vision: Living and Farming God’s Way.
In South Africa, commercial farmers’ knowledge, skills, practical experience, work ethic and wealth have been developed over generations. They possess business and leadership skills which will be lost if they fail to pass the baton to the next generation of farmers, a generation that needs to reflect the demographic of our society.
In light of this, Hennie and Janetta established GF4GF (Good Foundations for Good Fruit) in 2011. They started a training centre to cultivate a new generation of farmers and leaders with skills and integrity to positively impact rural-agriculture communities.
On the 17th of October 2019 a firm known as Coniglio, which had essentially controlled the whole rabbit farming Industry in South Africa, was liquidated. Various causes were behind the failure, although the rabbits were not the ones to blame.
Agri-Edu Provisions (their own small farming business) was established in 2019 with the vision to eventually farm rabbits on the GF4GF centres. With the support of the rabbit farming, Hennie and his team developed a sustainable business model which could result in real job creation. The journey, however, started with a focus on revitalising the industry.
“We developed a model to effectively address these challenges and started to look for investors to establish rabbit farming on the GF4GF Centres,” says Hennie.
The process started by bringing the farmers together to work out how they had been making losses, the challenges they faced, and then getting them to take ownership of the current situation. They then established RASA (Rabbit Association of South Africa) to draw on the expertise of the farmers.
After realising that they needed funding and having met with numerous financial institutions, Hennie phoned Impact Investment Africa’s Chris Hart as a last resort – to seek help in funding their dream. Chris was on holiday at the time, but nevertheless he took the time to hear Hennie’s cause and jumped at the opportunity to join hands with them and help realise this project. This was seen as an ideal project for S12J investors.
“Impact Investment Africa didn’t confine us to a set of norms; they took our hands and walked this extremely difficult road with us. Even though they also faced tribulation caused by the pandemic, they still put their clients first,” says Hennie.
“If you want to start a business with no capital; S12J is the only viable option,” states Hennie, “it is the perfect vehicle to get innovative initiatives to their end destination regardless of the road to travel.”
They drafted a business plan and registered P349 (Pty) Ltd, which is the qualifying company for S12J investment. 50% of the shares were dedicated to the GF4GF centres.
They bought the abattoir at Carletonville from the Coniglio liquidator on the 15th of November 2019. They renovated it, and they started to process the rabbits in December 2019. Hester Bibbey, who share a rural development vision, joined the team to assist with marketing. It was a tedious process to obtain all the necessary certificates and permits, and to introduce a new brand for RASA members’ produce. The Good Rabbit Meat brand was established in March 2020, and with this they entered the market and gained first-hand experience of the registration process, testing and compliance, as well as packaging, traceability and the health-declaration process.
In September last year, Good Rabbit Meat signed an export contract with Qatar. They have also had fruitful negotiations with large retailers and conducted in-store campaigning. With the help of a professional marketing team, they managed to survive the pandemic – which is a testimony in itself. The plan going forward is to build trust and to further grow the industry.
|Not only will rabbit meat production support the economy, but it also supports a healthy lifestyle. Rabbit meat is:
· Healthy white meat
· High in protein
· Low in calories
· Low in saturated fat
· Contains no antibiotics or growth hormones
· High in vitamin B3 and B12, phosphorus, potassium and selenium
The benefits of rabbit farming includes:
· No greenhouse gases
· Rabbits consume little water
· And they consume less food per kg of meat produced compared to other farmed meats
Even though the industry had been unstable, and there were fears for its future, Hennie and his team pursued their passion through their love of the venture and their faith in a successful outcome.
- To date, they have one training centre in the Eastern Cape, two in the Northern Cape, one in the Free State – and they are in the process of establishing another branch in the North West. The long-term dream, of course, is to open abattoirs in these regions as well – as there is only the one at the moment.
- They aim to target local and export markets with the rabbit meat. Work is underway to start exporting to Zimbabwe.
- RASA, which is an inclusive producer association, has expanded from 38 members to 98 members.
- Rabbit meat has been registered as an Agri-commodity as part of the livestock improvement act in 2019, which was a welcome development.
The challenge now is to align quality farmers with the demands of the market. The team wants to create a viable future for farmers and for the processors, and of course to further professionalise the industry.
Impact investment Africa and P349 (Pty) Ltd are aligned perfectly to truly make an impact on South Africa.
Share in the GOODness through a company who envisions GOOD training farms, GOOD farmers with GOOD job opportunities, GOOD abattoirs and GOOD products.