How eRobota works: Case study of a blueberry growing enterprise in the Kyiv region

How eRobota works: Case study of a blueberry growing enterprise in the Kyiv region

In 2020, businessman Anatoliy Sobolev, after 20 years of working in financial structures, decided to change his life and started the agrarian enterprise MI-AGRO, which grows blueberries in the Buchansky district of the Kyiv region.

The war hit the economy hard. But the entrepreneur did not give up. And in order to have free funds for development, I took advantage of the state program isRobota, which provides the opportunity to receive a grant for starting and developing one’s own business.

In an interview with Economic Truth, Anatoly told how state grants helped restore production, and what are the features of their attraction for entrepreneurs.

Engineering approach to agrarian business

Radically changing career is nothing new for Anatoly: after graduating from university, the man worked as an engineer for 15 years, after which he decided to enter the financial market. He worked for several years in a bank, and then another 15 years in the insurance market.

Already a retired “engineer, banker and insurer”, as Anatoly calls himself, he wanted to be “closer to his native land”.

“I’m trying to learn as much, deeper, and wider as possible in my short earthly life. I was looking for something new, and my son and friends just wanted to invest in agrarian business, so I decided to try myself in this sector.” explains the entrepreneur.

In 2020, Anatoliy planted the first blueberries in the field between the village of Sytnyaki and the Kyiv-Rivne highway, the entrepreneur expects a harvest from them only this year. In this way, he mastered 4.5 hectares of land, but did not stop there and decided to expand the area of ​​berry orchards.

Military losses

However, the coming of a full-scale war hit the economy hard. At the beginning of March, Anatoliy and his family left for Vinnytsia. While he was away, during the fighting on the territory of the Buchan district, a large-scale fire started in his area, probably due to the arrival of a shell, but it is difficult to determine for sure.

“According to the village’s land defense fighters, the peat first caught fire and burned and smouldered for a long time. When I returned, somewhere in early April, the peat was still smoldering. My workers tried to extinguish everything, but it was a futile effort. It burned from above, and it was still smoldering below until the end of April. Chips and sawdust burned immediately after the ignition started,” the man recalls.

Stocks of peat, sawdust and wood chips for planting a new plot of blueberries on an area of ​​2.2 hectares were completely burned. As a result, the farm lost about UAH 300,000.

Development and recovery support

However, the entrepreneur did not give up and in order to have free funds for recovery and development, he used the opportunities of the state grant program eRobota.

These are micro-grants, grants for planting gardens, berry orchards and arranging greenhouses, grants for processing enterprises. In 2022, the state agreed to issue 2.2 billion grant funds and these resources are already working for business.

Anatoliy had developed work projects in advance, prepared a business plan and submitted all the necessary documents through Diya. His application was processed very quickly – he received a positive response within two weeks.

The entrepreneur opened a special account at Oschadbank, where he deposited his 30% co-financing. It remains to wait for funds from the state. Here I had to get a little nervous.

Berry growing is very dependent on seasonality – it is important to plant in time so that frost does not destroy the seedlings. To do this, you should spend on preparatory work: buy substrates and prepare ridge formation. Due to the delay of money, the deadlines were disrupted. The warm weather and the opportunity to use part of my own funds from the bank account for the necessary purchases saved me.

On September 29, MI-AGRO received the promised grant funding – UAH 800,000. New berry plantations appeared on the area of ​​1.4 hectares. For the spring, only a small area was left free for the Dutch blueberry variety. Anatoly Sobolev expects a harvest from this planting in 2025-2026.

The yield, of course, depends on the proper functioning of the irrigation system, timely application of fertilizers, effective control of pests, and weather conditions. However, Anatoly plans to get 10.5 tons of berries from each hectare in 2025.

What to prepare for when applying for a grant – personal experience

The businessman considers state grant support to be an effective tool for business assistance, but advises potential recipients not to forget several important factors:

The first is the obligations that the entrepreneur has. For a horticulture grant, this means the creation of a certain number of jobs depending on the area of ​​plantations (for MI-AGRO it is about 25 seasonal and three full-time employees), business operation for at least 7 years, return of 50% of the grant amount in the form of taxes and fees. The entrepreneur said that he had difficulty fulfilling one of the conditions – many people, especially those of retirement age, do not want to enter into employment contracts. This problem is especially common in rural areas.

According to his observations, the reason may be that “pensioners do not want to have additional trouble due to paying taxes, because they do not have time or special desire.”

“For someone, this adds additional time limits to a measured retirement vacation. And someone is willing to earn a penny, find employment, and be useful to society,” Anatoliy reflects.

The second factor is the consideration of logistics costs, especially the cost of fuel, in the business plan. Neglecting this can nullify all business development plans and investments in this case will be wasted.

The third factor is the availability of a working project developed by a professional company. It must necessarily contain the arrangement of an automated irrigation system, without which modern gardening is impossible.

The fourth factor is war. The businessman explained that he believes in Ukraine’s victory, but he cannot predict when it will happen. Until then, the hostilities will directly or indirectly affect business.

Move step by step, work for quality, plan work for 3-4 years ahead – these are the approaches of Anatoly Sobolev in conducting his own business. He is convinced that this strategy is effective and successful.

During 2022, more than 2,500 entrepreneurs received grants for business development and creation, which, according to the Ministry of Economy, can create up to 20,000 new jobs.

By in words of the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal, the government extended the YeRobota program for 2023.

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