Welcome to our Summer newsletter 2018. We have had an immensely busy summer period but, still managed to get a bit of travel and holiday time in with our families. As is now customary, we would like to thank and welcome all our new Members that have joined since our most recent Spring Newsletter.
About half the trees in place at Cabrils
Tree Development – We managed to visit the IRTA during this period and spend important time reviewing project development with Marcos and the team. I can also confirm that we have ordered a further 50,000 trees, bringing our total holding up to 106,200. This meant we had to move 30,000 trees into a new IRTA facility at Cabrils, near Barcelona but at the coast.
The amazing Espinaler Food Hall – Cabrils
I will get a video of this up on the video page as soon as I can. If you get the chance to visit Cabrils, there’s an amazing place very close that is an homage to all things good to eat and drink in Catalonia. The Espinaler Food Hall. We had lunch there after an exhausting morning installing the trees. https://trufflefarms.com/videos/. This now means we have trees both at IRTA Torre Marmion and IRTA Cabrils – world class Spanish Government plant research facilities.
An aerial map of Domaine Les Jasses
Plantations/Land – What’s been happening at Les Jasses, our 471 hectare estate, 30 minutes north of Montpellier and the Med in France? Well as mentioned in the Spring Newsletter, the bureaucracy rumbles on and has resulted in us effectively having to give up 100 hectares on the high plateau of our land. This is because… ”wait for it” our land has two public roads across it and therefore it is technically 3 pieces of land, not one. These roads effectively mean that certain public bodies can exert a right of pre-emption…and they have. An area adjacent to the land we are losing is a large natural reserve managed by our two local communes (municipalities). They have been wishing to exert the right of pre-emption and gave notice of this in 2005. It has been inevitable that they would use the sale to us to achieve this, as the previous owner refused to sell them the land during his many decades of ownership. One takes it personally, as this land was very plantable, without huge costs of clearance. However, in the end there is just no point in fighting it legally, despite having a strong case as, this would be two years and wouldn’t guarantee to win the case.
High Yielding Teruel Plantation using substrates minus sexed truffle spore and bacteria components we apply
Protecting what remains – So we are down to 371 hectares. What we plan to do, is exercise our right during our ownership to build farm buildings on the plateau area we are retaining after 5 years. This effectively will kill off the right of future pre-emption of those 216 hectares because of the central public road that goes right through, separating the lower and upper parts of the land.
Delay or No Delay – This right of pre-emption appeared to be putting us back from our completion date of end October set out in the agreement. However, having resolved the pre-emption we are now looking again at trying to complete by end of October.
However, because of the delaying period we put back the bore hole survey and related drilling works. Also, the irrigation and sensor planning had been pushed back. This meant ultimately that planting was also pushed back. As of 10 days ago, all of that has been pulled forward again and we once again have hope of planting before Christmas this year. It is now all hands to the pump to accelerate our activities and machinery buying to get the big jobs done.
Planting Plans – The plan is to plant up to 40 hectares by the end of March 2019 in total this season. This is planting that is 9 and 7 hectares respectively more than the two highest yielding plantations in Europe which, are both in the Teruel area of Spain and we’re only just getting started. We are nothing if not ambitious.
The big truck and trailer came 3 times with trees, substrate and pallets of pots for re-planting.
Tree Development – With our occupation of Les Jasses and to ease capacity in Barcelona, as well as acclimatise our older trees we brought 5,000 now 6-year-old trees and 3,500 now 4-year-old trees up to the Estate and re-potted them in the new substrate. Again, there is a short video showing this process that will be up on the video pages. This was a large and carefully planned logistical exercise carried out over 9 very hard, very long days. It also chose to bless us with very heavy rain for about 5 of those days. Not great for working in but great for the trees. We also needed to set up an automated and filtered watering system for the trees once they had been re-potted and set out securely in the yard. Fortunately, there is a large ancient and clean water well we were able to use for the first few weeks. This has saved us some water charges and got us through most of the summer dry months. However, now we are on mains water and no doubt the bill will be rocketing, until we get the new bore holes drilled as part of setting up the new planting irrigation system.
Getting the last of the trees re-potted and laid out in the Yard
Next Works Programme – There are a range of works that need to be completed over the coming months. These include the hydrology surveys that are being carried out as I’m writing, in preparation for bore hole drilling. Then head equipment and pumping stations will need to be established. We may have to dam an upper slope to the north east to create a water reservoir, but this depends on the outcome of the new bore hole drillings. With our two existing bore holes this is a safe back up plan to retain. Whilst they are adequate for dam reservoir filling, they would not meet our needs for our preferred “live-draw-on-demand” system preference.
Now 6 Yr Old trees re-potted in 3.5l pots with our latest substrate containing, male truffle spores and 3 types of bacteria that are present in high yielding truffle farms
We anticipate receiving our plantation and irrigation layouts from the teams in Spain, in the next 10 days. These will include contingency plans for reservoir and non-reservoir feeds. We have already begun our equipment acquisition, with the purchase of a pickup truck for general off/on road transit and pulling and the first quad bike for rough terrain access with winch and a mighty beast of an engine.
Fencing – we are awaiting contractor pricing for the perimeter of the initial 40 hectares and subject to the quotes we receive we will make a decision on whether to engage a contractor or just supply only and erect in-house. Time will likely play a significant role in this particular decision but, we have the option to initially self-install some lower animal-proof protective fencing for the first years which, can be erected and electrified relatively swiftly. The idea then would be to install full contract security fencing, once the crop level justifies fully securitising against theft and human intrusion.
Land Clearance – This is a critical activity given that much of our land will need to be cleared to varying degrees pre-planting. Essentially, we cannot replant where wild Mediterranean Oaks have previously been without a two-year break after clearance. This is because the land needs to be naturally voided of the existing sporal infrastructure that the soil will be contaminated with. A critical other factor is the nature of the limestone rock strata that is highly variable across Les Jasses. Our tests and analysis over the summer have shown that even the hardest rock strata can be broken up with relatively small plant machinery. However, the planned acquisition of a twenty-ton excavator will, accelerate our land clearance programme significantly over the coming winter. One of the benefits of clearance with the combination of soil and rock strata we have is that after the process is complete we’ll be left with not near-perfect soil, but the perfect soil and small stones upper layer for modern truffle farming. Add our substrate composite to this and it really does make us as a team even more excited about the genuine possibility we all harbour for Les Jasses, having the potential to be the World’s greatest truffle farm.