You’ve always wanted to live on a large property of land, but prices in the United States and Canada aren’t affordable. You’ve always imagined having having your own agricultural business. You’ve wanted to have a healthier life, but it’s difficult where you currently live. Ecuador is where you can experience this new reality.
The country presents various opportunities to create your own farm and to sell what you produce, both internationally or domestically. Ecuador has friendly export laws and the inexpensive land prices, the perfect combination for creating your own farm-to-table dream.
Choosing the Best Property for a Farm in Ecuador
The opportunities for farming are abundant in Ecuador. We’ve researched how to start a cacao farm, a cattle ranch, and a shrimp farm. We’ve analyzed the prices of various agricultural investments as well. The most important thing to remember is that you have to find the right property. The property should have a natural water source, whether that’s from a well or a stream. Many plots of land in Ecuador aren’t developed with paved roads, but those can easily be built when the land in purchased. Check to see if the land shares public electricity or if it is at least close to an electricity source. Climate is also vital because, with the right climate, you can actually grow crops year round. The coast in the Manabí region is ideal for growing crops--the days are sunny, there is ample rain, and the vegetation provides shade for plants that cannot thrive in direct sunlight.
How to Export Crops from Ecuador
Once you have your farm up and running, perhaps you want to consider shipping the delicious crop back to the U.S. or to other countries. Production can be plentiful in this country. As there are optimal growing seasons year-round, your output can be impressive.The process of exporting products from Ecuador is straightforward; there are three steps. First, you must register your RUC, the account number of your Ecuadorian bank, with SRI (Servicio de Rentas Internas). From there, you’ll receive a certificate with a digital signature or TOKEN from either Banco Central or Security Data. After receiving the certificate, you register your business and information in ECUAPASS, an online database that helps you manage your exporting business.
Ecuador is ranked 69th in the world in terms of exports, even though it is a country of only 12 million people. The major exports are crude petroleum oil, bananas, shrimp, processed fish, cocoa beans and cut flowers (especially roses). The last five years have shown a growth in the percentage of annual exports. The majority of exports from Ecuador, over 35%, go to the United States.
As there are many expats who have relocated to Ecuador, there are plenty of services to help business owners get started. Organizations that assist with translations, consulting, accounting, and secretarial work, all for a minimal price compared to those in the United States, can help get any small business up and running.
Annual Seasons and Inexpensive Labor
Along with exporting to foreign countries, many farms sell internally to the expat and local populations. There are farms with 20-30 products that can sell to customers at any time of the year. Because there can be year-round produce, it’s important to note that manual labor prices are fair and inexpensive here compared to other countries. It’s easy to hire a team of skilled farm workers for a fair price that will support their families and increase crop production.
Selling Within Ecuador
What you produce depends on where you’re located: citrus on the coast, starches and leafy greens in the Sierra, but many crops can grow in both climates. Consider growing speciality items like kale and mushrooms; they sell for a high price in Ecuador. Selling in Ecuador can be at a local level, going to markets and fairs and buying a table, or if your production is high enough, you can sign contracts with larger grocery chains like SuperMaxi or Coral to get your products featured in the grocery stores around Ecuador.
Check out some of these properties that would be great for starting up a small or large-scale farm in Ecuador:
- Listing Type
- Land Listing
- Property Type
- Agricultural Land/Farm
- Jama, Jama, Manabí, Ecuador
- Location Type
- Ocean-Vicinity, Riverfront, Mountain, Countryside
- View Type
- Jungle View, Mountain View, River View, Valley View
- Total Lot Size
- 50.00 ha (123.55 acre)
- Listing Type
- Land Listing
- Property Type
- Agricultural Land/Farm
- Jama, Jama, Manabí, Ecuador
- Location Type
- Countryside, Mountain, Ocean-Vicinity, Riverfront
- View Type
- Jungle View, Mountain View, Valley View
- Total Lot Size
- 92.00 ha (227.34 acre)
- Listing Type
- Land Listing
- Property Type
- Agricultural Land/Farm
- Jama, Jama, Manabí, Ecuador
- Location Type
- Ocean-Vicinity, Riverfront, Mountain, Countryside
- View Type
- Jungle View, Mountain View, River View
- Total Lot Size
- 16.00 ha (39.54 acre)
- Listing Type
- Land Listing
- Property Type
- Agricultural Land/Farm
- Pedernales, Pedernales, Manabí, Ecuador
- Location Type
- Riverfront, Mountain, Countryside
- View Type
- Greenbelt View, Mountain View, River View, Valley View
- Total Lot Size
- 53.00 ha (130.97 acre)
In these tumultuous times, when the climate is volatile and unpredictable, it’s important to research the likelihood of natural disasters in places where you’re looking to buy property. The last few weeks have shown the devastating impact of Hurricanes Harvey, Katia and Irma in the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. Islands and states are now dealing with the aftermath: slowly rebuilding and recovering. It will take years, and billions of dollars, to recover. Livelihoods, communities, cities, and lives were all affected, and our thoughts are with everyone who has been weathering the storms. In Ecuador, we have watched the devastation from afar, and feel grateful for the placement of this country between the Pacific Ocean and Andes mountains, tucked away from the destructive Hurricane Alley.
The position of Ecuador on the western side of South America puts the country well off the path of Hurricane Alley-- the trail of warm water that flows from western Africa through the Caribbean and Central America to southeastern United States. Hurricane Alley is where many of these torrential storms and hurricanes are formed. Thankfully, Ecuador hasn’t been touched by the high winds, threatening floods, storm surges, and devastating aftermath of a hurricane’s trail. In fact, locals can’t even remember the last time a hurricane hit here.
The fact that Ecuador does not experience hurricanes makes it even more appealing for investment or retirement, especially when compared to other Latin American countries like Panama, Costa Rica, or Mexico. These other countries are exposed to hurricanes that pass through Hurricane Alley. Hurricane Otto tore through Costa Rica and Panama in 2016. Just this past Saturday, Hurricane Katia passed through the east coast of Mexico, creating even more devastation after the huge earthquake that rocked the country. Another storm, Tropical Storm Max which has just been upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, is expected to hit Acapulco, Mexico this week. Simultaneously, Tropical Storm Norma is expected to head toward the Baja California Peninsula.
These are uncertain times we are living in, when shifts in weather are frequent and fierce. Hurricanes don’t just destroy houses and vegetation; they also interrupt the economy and business. The agricultural and fishing industries have been disrupted throughout the Caribbean and Florida these past few weeks as boats and crops were destroyed. Though hurricane activity does interrupt the typical flow of all exports and imports, Ecuador has been able to continue producing and exporting shrimp, roses, cacao, and bananas-- the top exports to other countries. The economy here is moving forward, and on the coast, people are thankful for the sunny days, light rain, and bustling business.
In the last few years, more and more reports have come out showing the effects of climate change on crops. California can't produce almonds and avocados due to extreme drought; the soil of coffee farms in Ethiopia and Brazil is drying out. Changes in temperature and lower precipitation is also affecting cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Everywhere in the world, crops are being hit hard. Chocolate, coffee, avocados, beans, corn, seafood, and wine grapes-- the list goes on and on. But in the midst of these threats of drought, Ecuador remains a land of plenty. Its location on the equator, its rich volcanic soil, and its ample rainy seasons make Ecuador the up-and-coming haven for growing chocolate, coffee, and more.
Coffee and Chocolate in Ecuador
The Perfect Climates
Coffee and cocoa beans are struggling around the world, but the science of growing these crops claims that what is most needed are temperate climates, lots of sun, nutrient-heavy soil, and lots of rain. All throughout Ecuador, from north to south and along the coast, this climate is found. Ecuadorian coffee is becoming more and more popular, a competitor to the Colombian bean, and its due to the unique flavors that emerge from Ecuador's sun, soil, and water.
Chocolate, as well, is on the rise; each year more cocoa beans are exported, and Ecuador still holds the title as the world's best producer of high-quality cocoa. Arriba cocoa, the most popular bean in Ecuador, is a fine aroma, or specialty, bean. The same climate-- abundant land, moderate temperatures, significant rainfall, hot sun-- keeps the crops growing strong. Chocolate is grown in Manabí, Guayas, Esmeraldas, Los Rios, Pichincha, Napo and Sucumbios provinces.
Water, Water, Water
The main reason that coffee and cocoa beans grow so well here when they're struggling in Brazil, Ethiopia, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast, is because of water. Drought is drying up the world, but Ecuador has seen more rain in this past year than any year before. There is no shortage of water in this country. Along the coast, in the highlands, up north-- all regions have significant rainfall seasons which are necessary for a great coffee or cocoa farm.
Inexpensive Labor and Government Support
The farm life in Ecuador is not nearly as difficult as it may seem. Labor is plentiful, as many men and women are seeking opportunities for work, especially after the earthquake. Coffee and chocolate farms require land, water, rich soil, the right equipment, and good workers-- all of these things can be found here. Also, Ecuador's government has been partnering with farmers, especially coffee farmers, by providing free plants and assistance for those starting this endeavor. There is federal and local support for new farms.
Living in the Land of Plenty
For people interested in buying land for coffee or chocolate production, look no further than this small paradise. As the rest of the world struggles to adapt, this country has already done so. All along the coast and throughout the highlands there are small farms-- fincas-- for sale, just waiting to be turned into cocoa or coffee farms. Although the products that we love today are being threatened with the changes in the environment, adaptation is happening, especially here. If you're interested in finding the perfect property for a coffee or cocoa farm, as well as laborers and land managers that you can trust, give us a call. It's time to get started on your next adventure, living in the land of plenty.
All cacao beans are not created equal. Thankfully, Ecuador is home to some of the highest quality beans in the world. Even though Ecuador produces less than 10% of the world’s cacao (cocoa), the country produces more than 70% of the world’s highest quality cacao. This fine flavor cacao (FFC) bean is known as Arriba, or Nacional (National). The flavor of Arriba beans has been called nutty, fruity with a hint of orange, and floral with jasmine tones. It is a diverse flavor that attracts chocolatiers from all over the world. Cacao in Ecuador has had a long time to evolve in its complexity; the cacao trees and their pods have been growing here ever since the pre-Colombian era.
The Arriba aroma is part of the Forastero species of Amazonian bean, which is considered to be one of the three finest categories of beans in the world, along with the Criollo and Trinitario species. The name Arriba traces back to a Swedish explorer who smelled the chocolaty aroma while boating along the Guayas River. He asked locals where it came from and they said, “de río arriba,” meaning upstream. Hence, Arriba beans.
Arriba refers more to the type of cacao produced, rather than the specific bean. The bean is typically called the Nacional, or Nacional Arriba, bean. These beans are designated to be fine-flavor cacao (FFC). There are three major categories of Nacional beans: Arriba Superior Época (ASE) accounts for about 37% of national production. Arriba Superior Selecto (ASS) accounts for about 20% of national production, and Arriba Superior Summer Selecto (ASSS) makes up about 7% of national exports.
The Cacao Controversy: Natural or Genetically Modified?
Nacional beans are the purest form of cacao from Ecuador; their flavor is what first captured the interest and investments of foreign buyers. However, over the last three decades, these beans have been replaced by the genetically modified CCN-51 beans which are more fungus and disease-resistant. CCN-51 beans are easier to grow. In fact, they now make up 36% of the country’s exports, barely trailing the Arriba Superior Época bean production. CCN-51 is a hybrid of the Trinitario and Nacional beans. Their popularity increased after El Niño destroyed many of the Nacional trees in 1997 and 1998.
Estimates say that small farm owners plant 30-40% Nacional beans and 60-70% bulk beans (often CCN-51). This mixing of flavors dilutes the overall quality of the crop, and is one of the reasons why the price of cacao has fallen about 30% over the last 10 years. However, the CCN-51 variety also produces significantly more; therefore, the total quantity of exported cacao beans has increased threefold in those same past 10 years. Herein lies the controversial terrain of cacao: CCN-51 beans are lower quality, require less work, produce more raw beans, but are sold at a lower price. On the other hand, Nacional beans are higher quality, require more work, produce fewer raw beans, but sell for a higher price. This conundrum is something for any investor and farmer to consider when starting a cacao plantation: fine flavor Nacional beans or disease-resistant CCN-51?
Fair Trade and Nacional Bean Preservation
The decline of Nacional trees has resulted in more grassroots efforts to preserve the Nacional beans. This movement stems from a global trend toward organic and fair-trade farms. For example, Pacari, the most well known chocolate company in Ecuador, works with farmers that only use Nacional beans, and it pays higher wages for these beans. Though growing Nacional beans requires more attention to detail in the fermenting and processing stages, these beans are the key to Ecuador’s distinct cacao flavor. They are still highly desired amongst foreign markets.
Cacao Farm Owners
Small farm owners make up about 90% of Ecuador’s cacao producers. Farm size ranges between one and five hectares. Due to limitations in technology and investments, many farmers still utilize rudimentary methods and are limited in their use of insecticides or modern fertilizers. However, in 2013 the Ecuadorian government created a program, the National Cocoa Program, to help prune plants and minimize disease. Over 20,000 families in 15 different provinces have benefited from this program.
Best Regions for Cacao
80% of the country’s cacao production takes place on the coast in the Manabí, Los Rios, and Guayas regions. The combination of mineral rich volcanic soil and the warm climate helps the beans grow best. About 7% of cacao is also cultivated in the Amazon provinces. There are also some plantations in southern Ecuador as well.
Profit Potential of Cacao
For farmers in Ecuador, cacao is still the most lucrative cash crop. Most of the cacao that is exported goes to the United States, the European Union, or Mexico. Cacao from Ecuador is typically exported as a bean, rather than a semi-processed product like cacao paste, powder, or butter. As of 2015, farmers made roughly $28 per 100 pounds of common cacao beans (CCN-51) but for fine flavor cacao Nacional beans farmers earn $80 per 100 pounds. Pacari, a fair trade organization based in Quito, pays $150 for 100 pounds of Nacional beans. To help farmers get started, Pacari owners Santiago Peralta and his wife Carla Barboto even offer classes on the growing, fermenting, harvesting, and pruning processes.
Peralta, Pacari’s founder, explained his belief in the power of cacao succinctly and beautifully in Jarrett’s article for NBC News. Peralta explains, “Cacao is not just a way to get money…there’s a consciousness…(farmers) carry a responsibility. If chocolate can’t succeed, I don’t see any other food succeeding. Chocolate is the most loved food on earth.”
Gain Report. (2015). USDA Foreign Agriculture Service. Retrieved from URL.
Cacao en Ecuador. (2015). Anecacao. Retrieved from URL.
Ecuador and Cacao. (2015). Chocolate Tours. Retrieved from URL.
Whitehead, Kate. (2015). From Bean to Chocolate Bar. Post Magazine. Retrieved from URL.
Jarrett, Tracy. (2016). This Couple Aims to Make Ecuador the Cradle of Fine Chocolate Making. (2016). NBC News. Retrieved from URL.
The Cocoa Bean. (n.d.) Chocolate Revolution. Retrieved from URL.
Ecuador Cacao: Some of the Best Chocolate in the World. (n.d). Quasar Expeditions. Retrieved from URL.
Stern, Jeffrey (2012). Understanding Ecuador. Heirloom Cacao Preservation. Retrieved from URL.
Young Farmers Secure Fine Flavour Cocoa. (n.d.)VECO. Retrieved from URL.
Vanek Smith, Casey (2015). Ecuador’s Answer to the Global Cocoa Shortage. NPR. Retrieved from URL.
Nieburg, Oliver (2016). CCN-51: Ecuador’s Shining Light or a Risky Monocrop? Confectionary News.com. Retrieved from URL.
Have you ever wanted to have a garden, grow your own produce, without all of the labor that typical gardening requires? There are many systems for growing healthy, organic plants, but one system that has risen in popularity recently is aquaponics.
What is Aquaponics?
Even though aquaponics has really only gained popularity since the 1990s, it is a system that has existed for centuries. Aquaponics combines aquaculture- the raising of aquatic animals like fish, snails or prawns- with hydroponics- plant cultivation in water. It has been traced back to the Aztecs who used to create floating rafts for their plants to grow. These rafts would rest atop islands in lake shallows and the plants would absorb the waste and run-off, convert it into plant food, and the plants would flourish. Similar systems have also been traced back to South China, Thailand and Indonesia, where farmers grew rice paddies and cultivated fish in wet fields.
The Science Behind the System
At its core, the system of aquaponics is a simple cycle that produces both fish and plants for consumption. It is an organic process, and really the cycle is an entire ecosystem. There are three vital live components for any successful aquaponics system: fish, plants, and bacteria. Essentially, the tanks with the fish grow bacteria. The bacteria-filled water is filtered through the plant roots and turned into plant food. The nutrient-rich plant food helps the plants grow stronger and faster.
Methods for plant growth
There are two main methods for an aquaponics system. Researching these two options will show you the ideal plants, fish, and set-up for each method.
You have a grow bed filled with some type of media, meaning a material like gravel, rocks, etc. You plant the plants in the media bed. Because of the gravel’s properties, you don’t need to have a more advanced filtration system. The water from the fish tank comes into the media bed with the plants and the gravel helps filter out the bacteria and convert it to plant food.
This system is best for people looking to start aquaponics as a hobby, rather than have a full production system.
Raft/Deep Culture Method:
For this method, you create floating rafts from a material like Styrofoam. First, you cut holes in the rafts, and then you plant your plants so that their roots dangle in the water. This system does require a more advanced filtration process. It is the best method for commercial use because the rafts can be easily replicated, they tend to be very large meaning you can plant more plants, and once the crops finish, you can reuse the rafts again.
In terms of materials, you’ll need to investigate how to set up your tanks as well as the sizes of the tanks. Most people start with a 1:1 ratio of fish tank size to plant tank size. At least one tank is needed for the fish and depending on your method, one or more tanks are needed for the plants. You’ll need a pH tester so that you can determine the bacteria levels in the fish tank. You’ll also need access to power for both a water pump and an air pump.
Before you can plant your crops, you’ll need to get the correct level of bacteria. There are many tips online for how to get started. Some people start with fish, feeding them minimally, and wait 4-6 weeks for the bacteria to convert naturally. Others start without fish, using a chemical like ammonium to jumpstart the bacteria process. This cycle can take 10 days to 3 weeks before you add the fish and start planting.
You’ll need to take into account the seasons and weather when you start planning. Thankfully, the weather in Ecuador is ideal for aquaponics. The fish tanks do not need sun, but the plants need 4-6 hours of sun a day. If you only have one outdoor space, you can cover the fish beds with plants, or build a greenhouse, to help insulate the process. Situate the tanks in an open space so that you can monitor the tanks from all angles.
Depending on whether this is a commercial or just a personal endeavor, the costs vary from several hundred to several thousand dollars. The cost of labor in Ecuador is lower than many other countries, meaning that you can get the tanks and filtration systems built quickly and inexpensively. Much of the equipment needed- tanks, filters, pumps, media material, fish, and plants- can be found in the larger cities in Ecuador.
When an earthquake rumbles, we are reminded of how human we are. The earthquake that hit Ecuador on April 16 shocked this country. It was unexpected, and the effects will continue to be felt in the upcoming months and years. Over 650 lives were lost, many homes along the coast were destroyed, and thousands of individuals are waiting to figure out what to do next. Instantly, Ecuador was in the spotlight, and the world and citizens of Ecuador responded. Donations continue to be driven in daily, organizations are mobilizing on the ground, and life is resuming.
After a natural disaster hits, one of the most important steps in the process of recovery is regrowth. Ecuador is rebuilding. This process will take months and years, but in this span of time, the coast of Ecuador has the possibility to rebuild in a way never before imagined. As families along the coast move towards the city, choosing not to rebuild the small homes in which they had lived, there will be opportunities appearing along the coastline to own some of the most scenic beachfront property in the country. Many of the beachfront properties will be sold for significantly lower prices. Homes and developments that were previously made with cheaper material and lower construction standards have the possibility to be redesigned and rebuilt with more durable materials and with new vision in mind.
Though the process will take time, the economy of Ecuador will rebound, and the properties on the coast will continue to be some of the most beautiful properties in the world. They will be available at a fraction of the cost of other beachfront views. Homeowners here are starting to envision, through the destruction, a chance to build the coastal communities of Ecuador into well-made, well-designed communities of individuals. For foreign investors, this translates into the possibility to buy properties, at a nominal cost, that have never been on the market before. It is the time to become part of the momentum as Ecuador rebuilds and continues to grow.
This country, it cannot be said enough, is a place of immense beauty. Its biological diversity cannot be eclipsed. The climates vary from region to region, with perfect autumn and spring breezes in the mountains, and rejuvenating heat along the coast.In the last eight years, the government has focused on tourism, on rebranding the country, and on building up local systems of education, welfare, and health. To live here is to live in an Eden, a heavenly existence that will continue to move forward, to grow and to expand. Even in the aftermath of an earthquake, the country continues to offer its inhabitants, tourists, and future investors the opportunity to become a part of its incredible paradise.
One of the most common concerns when it comes to investing in international property is the simple fear, “What if it doesn’t turn out to be what I expected? I know investments can be risky, but how do I know that this property will be built on time? Will it be developed according to the plans? Will it actually look how it appears in pictures?” It is vitally important to do diligent research when working with a developer in foreign countries. Worst-case scenarios range from your entire investment being lost to ending up with an empty piece of land in a “community” that will never actually be developed. To avoid becoming one of the horror stories of international investment, read on.
The Unfortunate Scenarios
A few years back, an individual invested hundreds of thousands to purchase a condominium in a development on the coast at a fair price. He assumed it would be developed, with roads, a swimming pool, and a clubhouse facility based on the price that he paid and the promises of the developers. Years passed, he visited the property and was shocked to find that he was actually the owner of simply an empty lot. The condominiums had not yet been constructed, nor had the roads or other infrastructure been built. Water main leakages were common, and the electricity was wired through carelessly constructed poles and cables.
Promises of building soon to commence cannot placate that anxiety, fear, or anger when expectations have been formed and investments have been made. This scenario has happened countless times, and due to binding contracts, the individual is stuck making monthly payments on something that is the opposite of what was promised.
Another unfortunate scenario can unfold if you don’t have someone checking on the property consistently. If you don’t have a connection with a real estate agent or manager who can monitor the property, there is the possibility that somebody could become a squatter on the property and, after a year of living there, assume squatter’s rights. After that, you cannot retrieve the property.
We illustrate these examples to show you that bad investments can happen, especially if you aren’t practicing due diligence in your investment research. If you aren’t working with a knowledgeable individual, you could become victim to the handful of greedy developers who only want your money and don’t want to build something that will generate a return on your investment.
How to Avoid the Horror Story
First of all, if you are working from your home in Canada or the United States to locate and acquire a foreign property, it is recommended that you work with a real estate agent who is on the ground in your desired region. In Ecuador, it is ideal when the agent speaks English but also has connections in the Spanish-speaking communities. Agents can introduce you to a wealth of properties only listed on licensed agent sites. They have access to countless properties with a myriad of purposes: farming in the country, renting in the city, or relaxing at the beach. If you are working with an agent, make sure the agent has positive reviews from previous clients. If you take your time to select the right agent, the right agent can help you locate and purchase your ideal property. Then, once you have the property and are satisfied with the purchase, you can work with your agent to develop your ideas and transform the property into a renter’s paradise, a thriving farm, or a dream vacation home.
Things to Know about Investing in South America
Unfortunately, just trusting intuition is not enough when it comes to foreign investments. Language is a factor; many real estate listings have one price for the Spanish site and a different price for the English price. There are also lots of beautiful promises: the allure of a development on the coast, or a community of condominiums in the city. But it is vitally important to know who is developing the community and what their track record is. Never buy sight unseen, no matter what the developer promises.
Time does work differently in South America. For Ecuadorians, it is not strange to be a few hours, days, weeks, or months late on promises. It is part of the culture, and something to eventually embrace, but when purchasing a property it is important to choose developers who will stick to their schedule as closely as possible. Also, you must be diligent with the contract that you sign with developers. Read it carefully and work with a licensed individual to make sure that you have protections if the project is not being built on schedule.
There are obviously risks involved in any investment, but you can circumnavigate many of these risks if you work with a licensed real estate agent who understands the culture, the region, and the people. If you are interested in learning about the diverse properties in all regions of Ecuador, you can contact John Vollmecke, owner of Ecuador Homes and Land. With his experience and credentials, he will honestly assist you in the process of buying your new property.
DO NOT LET YOUR DREAMS TURN INTO NIGHTMARES!
Want to live in harmony with nature? Tired of paying mountains of utility bills? Want to reduce your carbon footprint by trying something a little different, a little more efficient, and a little more natural? It may be time to try living off the grid.
Our carbon footprint is made up of how much carbon waste we produce: eating unseasonal foods and many meats, using household goods, loss of heat through poor insulation, overall consumption of goods and indirect and direct energy expenditures.
If you are considering minimizing your carbon footprint in a drastic way by living off the grid and adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle, why not consider a new country to begin this adventure?
Living off the Grid in Ecuador
Ecuador, the most bio diverse country on the planet, is one of the only countries that has guaranteed the legal rights of Mother Earth in its Constitution. Ecuadorian's live in harmony with nature. The average carbon footprint in Ecuador is 2 tons. In America, the average carbon footprint is 20 tons of waste.
Not only is property in Ecuador inexpensive in comparison to other retirement destinations, but the land is also filled with natural resources that beckon you to return to nature.
Properties along the coast in Jama, Canoa and Bahía de Caráquez, as well as inland in the Sierra, are abundant in fertile soil and ample water sources. These towns tend to attract similarly minded individuals, individuals who want to live off the grid, reduce their carbon footprint, and live in harmony with nature. If you are interested in learning more about this lifestyle transition, here is a brief overview of information to help you get started.
What is “Living off the Grid?”
Off-grid systems are designed to function without reliance on the electricity grid. In their purest form, these houses and lifestyles operate without the municipal water supply, sewer, natural gas, electric power grid or other similar utilities. Organic farming provides healthy, chemical-free and delicious produce alternatives to the options in many grocery stores or supermarkets.
How do I prepare my property for off the grid living?
You can generate your own electric power through a variety of alternative energy sources. Solar panels, micro hydropower generators or wind turbines are three of the most popular alternative resources. In Ecuador along the sunny coast, solar energy panels are a feasible option. If you have ample water sources on coastal or inland properties, micro hydropower could work best. If you want to live more inland, in the Sierra communities closer to Cuenca, then harnessing power through wind turbines could be the most efficient alternative.
For cooking, propane gas is actually one of the cleanest fuels to use, and the government heavily subsidizes it. A refill tank of propane gas costs around $2.50 and it lasts many months. Propane gas has a lower carbon content compared to “natural gas” that is usually pumped through a city, and it can’t hurt water or soil because it is not toxic.
By purchasing a property with a local water source, such as a well, pond, lake or stream, you can create your own clean water source. Pumps or filtration systems may be required depending on what water source you have available. Similarly, depending on how “off the grid” you are willing to go, you will need to invest in a septic tank or a waterless composting system.
Growing a variety of vegetables, fruits and grains is relatively easy in Ecuador compared to other regions and climates. On the coast, tropical fruits like mangoes, limes, bananas and passion fruit grow easily. Grains like rice, quinoa and corn can be harvested in the slighter dryer regions or floodplains. Vegetables also take to the ground quickly. Some common vegetables include eggplants, carrots, zucchini, onions, Swiss chard, lettuce, and arugula.
After considering these factors, perhaps you’re realizing it is quite feasible to move to Ecuador and live off the grid. A return to living off the grid has become a trend for many individuals from first world countries in the last few decades. While it is not a lifestyle change for everyone, striving to live this self-sufficient way benefits individuals, communities and the environment. If you are interested in locating properties in Ecuador that are ideal for off the grid living, contact John Vollmecke to get started in your new lifestyle.
The U.S. government allows individuals to own property in foreign countries through using his/her retirement account.
Investing in real estate by using a self-directed IRA (SDIRA) is an excellent opportunity to diversify your portfolio while building real wealth. However, there are some important rules you must follow to take advantage of this opportunity. Once you understand the rules, learning how to invest in real estate through your SDIRA becomes easier to understand.
In the end, you own a property free and clear for your retirement years.
The funds used to purchase the home must be from a retirement account. These funds can be rolled over into your Real Estate IRA without incurring any penalties.
You and “qualified persons” may not occupy, rent or vacation in the property until you retire. Qualified persons include yourself, your spouse, parents, grandparents/great-grandparents, and children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren and their spouses. None of the above persons can provide labor for property maintenance either.
You may, however, occupy the property at the age of 59.5 At that time, you will pay the deferred taxes and close out the account. Taxes will be based on a current appraisal, the amount of rental payments held in the account, and your tax bracket. Keep in mind the tax rate may be based on retirement income, not your current employment.
All expenses related to property owned by your self-directed IRA are paid from funds available in your IRA. A special checking account must be opened through which to pay all expenses. These expenses include structural repairs, remodeling, maintenance, improvements, property taxes, association fees, general bills, Home Owners Association fees, etc. Yearly contributions may be made to the IRA to cover such fees.
All rental income generated from the property must be deposited directly to your SDIRA checking account. Never mix these rental payments and your personal checking account.
You must keep diligent and timely records for the IRS. The self-directed is just that, self-directed. If this is not your style, do not attempt to use the SDIRA.
Investing in real estate through your IRA offers many benefits. However, there are strict rules to follow on how real estate IRA investments work. Failure to adhere to the laws can lead to fines from the IRS as well as potentially negative tax implications.
First, identify your funds. You can use any retirement funds. Funds must be rolled over into the SDIRA to incur no tax penalties. Funds must cover the purchase price of the home plus additional reserves to cover property taxes, insurance, Home Owners Association fees, maintenance, and so forth.
If this sounds like an intriguing opportunity to end up with a free and clear property, give John a call or an email for more specifics.
The sun is sliding towards the horizon. Waves roll against rocks on the shore below.You stare down a green stretch of perfectly trimmed grass. Slight wind. On one side, mountains stretch up, seemingly into the clouds. 18 holes. Par-72. World-renowned golf course architect Steve Smyers is finally bringing his designs to Ecuador, and he’s never been more excited about such an enticing environment.
One of the things that first captured Steve’s attention was the diversity of the land. He claims he loves visiting difficult terrain, unveiling its potential, and bringing the beautiful game of golf with him. About the course, he was particularly intrigued with the biodiversity. "It's called Costa Jama, and it has four different ecosystems."
Costa Jama Golf Resort and Spa will be completed later this year. The nickname for the project? “The Pebble Beach of South America.” When comparing these two stunning properties in Ecuador and California, the similarities are striking. Ocean views as you drive the ball down sprawling fairways. Silhouettes of mountains in the distance. Giant trees shading the green. Smyers describes his vision as he turns the terrain into reality:
"It's right on the Equator, where the mountains meet the Pacific Ocean, with three finishing holes right on the water or playing directly towards it. It also traverses a jungle, a ravine, a riverside, and winds into the foothills of the mountains. We even play along the side of a river! It's an absolutely spectacular natural setting for golf."
In the meantime, as the course and resort are being finished, it’s not too late to find excellent property in the surrounding coastal cities. If you love golf, enjoy the beach, and want to live in a country that values environmental preservation and quality of life, look no further than Bahia de Caraquez, Canoa, or Jama, Ecuador.
Costa Jama golf course, located north of Jama, is part of the Costa Jama Beach and Golf Resort. Properties in Jama provide close access to the course and community. Although Jama is an entirely self-sufficient town, complete with all expected amenities and stores, it is also located only a four hours’ drive from Quito. The close proximity makes international travel much easier.
Canoa, a more laid-back fishing village, offers surfers and beach lovers a natural refuge. The town has a laid-back vibe, and isn’t frequented by many tourists in comparison to other cities along the coast. It’s located only forty-five minutes from Jama, making every day golfing a distinct possibility. Both cities have oceanfront properties for sale, but when looking to purchase property, it’s important to work with someone who knows the area.
John Vollmecke of Ecuador Homes and Land has over thirty-five years of real estate experience in the States and has brought that vast experience to Ecuador. When he moved to Ecuador in 2013, he moved to Manta, another coastal town. Since then, he’s also lived in Jama and Canoa, making him quite knowledgeable about what the areas are really like. Get in touch with him if you want to learn more about property possibilities in Jama or Canoa. After taking in the view of the ocean, you might even get him to join you in a game of golf.
http://www.pebblebeach.com/ http://www.stevesmyers.com/CostaJama_MP_1-3000.pdf http://news.cybergolf.com/golf_news/the_sixcontinent_club_with_new_course_in_ecuador_smyers_joins_one_of_golfs http://www.golfcoursearchitecture.net/content/steve-smyers-first-south-american-course-set-to-be-completed-later-this-year
We all have that fear. Maybe you feel a sharp pain in your stomach, an ache in your muscles, or a lump under your skin. Your mind spins as your fingers frantically research online: WebMD, Mayo Clinic. Sometimes, we don’t have time to research. We just have to go to the hospital and hope for the best. In the United States, the price of health care can contribute to that fear. How much will this cost? What will my insurance cover? Do I have to stay overnight? When something happens to our bodies, we are emotionally and physically drained. One of the most amazing things about living in Ecuador is the affordable cost and the high quality of its health care system. If something should happen to you while living down here, there are many safe, inexpensive, and well-equipped facilities to visit, as well as many qualified doctors and technicians.
History of Health Care in Ecuador
Since Rafael Correa’s presidency began in 2007, the quality of health care has improved dramatically in the country. Annual funding for health care has more than doubled in the past few years, and the country has soared towards the top of South American countries in health care quality. A Bloomberg survey in 2014 ranked countries around the world in terms of health care cost and efficiency. Ecuador ranked 20th. The United States ranked 46th. Ecuador’s government has purchased new equipment and built new facilities. You can expect excellent care in cities like Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, but also in many smaller cities as well. There are some doctors who do only speak Spanish in Ecuador, but many speak English as well. In fact, many of the doctors studied in Europe, Canada or the United States. All of these factors contribute to an environment where you pay less and are treated well.
Costs of Health Care
Costs for health care in Ecuador average about 10-30% the cost of American procedures. Listen to this story and imagine how it would have played out in the United States. A friend recently had to spend two nights in the hospital. He had blood tests, worked with a cardiologist, received a hernia operation, and had his appendix removed in the process. All costs, without any insurance, were $2,200. Compare that to the United States. Just the cost of a hernia operation, without insurance, ranges from $4,200-$6,200. Adding two overnight stays, blood work, consultations, and an emergency appendix removal could skyrocket the cost into the tens of thousands. In Ecuador, if you get sick or fall or your body breaks down, you can heal and recover without fearing the financial repercussions.
When looking for a general doctor visit, appointments can usually be scheduled the same day, or within a day or two. Visiting a general practitioner in Ecuador usually costs between $25 and $35, and specialist visits typically cost between $35-$50. Alternative remedies are also available, like Reiki or homeopathy. Homeopathic doctors can cost up to $50, but that includes consultation and the remedies. Nearly all other health care factors are inexpensive as well: ambulatory costs, hospital stays, lab work, and basic procedures. For example, removing a lump under local anesthesia and getting a biopsy costs around $100. A basic intestinal test for parasites or amoebas, along with lab work and antibiotics, costs around $15. If something happens to cause you fear, you can quickly make an appointment, set up tests, and receive medications promptly.
Public vs. Private
There are two major insurance options: Social Security, also known as IESS, or private providers. There is also public health care, open to those without insurance. The Constitution of Ecuador mandates that no one be denied medical care. Many people also choose to save and “self-insure,” meaning they just put away a small amount of money each month in case something should happen. Because of the low costs, this can be a very feasible method to prepare for medical emergencies.
Thousands of foreign residents who opt for the IESS option, as of 2015, pay $73.47 per month with a dependent or spouse paying $12.62 extra. This cost is extremely livable. Sometimes, there are difficulties with this bureaucratic system, and it can be a little challenging maneuvering the paperwork if you don’t speak Spanish. But overall, this is an excellent option for anyone, Spanish or English-speaking, who wants basic, inexpensive coverage.
Private health care options vary in cost. With the IESS system gaining more popularity, many once private specialists are now also working in the public sphere. The most expensive options for private care are in Guayaquil and Quito, with options in Cuenca being slightly cheaper. Coastal private clinics and physicians are even less expensive than in Guayaquil, Quito, or Cuenca, but they maintain the same promise of quality and service.
Wrap it up…in a cast
When considering relocating to any country, one of the most important factors to consider is health care. Hopefully this article has painted an introductory picture of what to expect, insurance options to consider, and the quality of facilities and doctors. The Bloomberg survey mentioned earlier also ranked Ecuador very high in terms how the country spends its money on health care: $332 per capita for health care. In comparison, the United States spends $8,608 per capita for health care. Ecuador has found ways to support patients with high quality of service, a variety of options, and inexpensive options. If you’re interested in moving someplace where you can focus on living, rather than paying back a stream of health-related bills, Ecuador is one of the best options. You’ll have more time and money to do the things you love while feeling energized to explore this breathtaking country.
When you choose to invest in property in another country, you diversify your assets as well as your lifestyle. South America is a land of rich culture, traditional practices, and natural wonders. There is so much here to experience, to learn about, and to explore. Think back. Where did you imagine traveling when you were younger? The destinations of your dreams and the topics of college conversations?
Perhaps you were sipping Malbec and eating steak in Mendoza. Or were you watching the sun set against the backdrop of the Patagonia in Chile? Maybe you were in the Galapagos, walking across warm sand and snapping photos of the very finches that inspired Charles Darwin. Purchasing property in a South American country can set you up with a home base to continue exploring the rest of this mystical continent.
Right now, one of the best countries in which to invest is Ecuador.
Ecuador appeals to investors for many reasons. If you want to diversify your assets and extend into the realms of property, owning foreign property is one of the most rational choices. Recently in Ecuador, there has been a huge increase in the number of people who are visiting. In 2014, 1.5 million tourists visited Ecuador. Estimates at the beginning of 2015 expected a 7% increase from the year before. This country attracts more and more tourists each year. Sometimes, those same tourists become so infatuated with the people, culture and land, they decide to invest in their own home and property here. Ecuador Home and Lands, a real estate company that services coastal and interior regions, can attest to the dramatic growth in property investments over the past three years.
One reason many people want to invest is that property prices in Ecuador are very inexpensive compared to prices in the United States. Compared to property in Europe, prices are extraordinary. The purchase of property could start as an investment, but it could also morph into your retirement home or vacation destination. There are a myriad of options. Do you see yourself on the coast? If so, look to Guayaquil, Jama, and Canoa. What about embracing the organic lifestyle in the mountains, living close to one of the top-ranked cities in the world? Look around Cuenca. Ecuador truly has everything. When you travel across the country, you feel as though you’re entering different worlds: you see communities untouched by industrialization and cities thriving with the latest amenities.
Ama la Vida
There’s a very important slogan in Ecuador: Ama la vida. Love life. This national brand came about under the leadership of President Correa, and the words embody the ambiance of this country.
When you come to Ecuador, you find exactly what the country promises: a deep love for the lives of others and for the unquenchable beauty of nature.
Because so many people want to explore this country, renting out your property for shorter and longer periods of time is an excellent way to subsidize the initial purchasing cost. You can use the cash flow generated from rentals and travel around the rest of the continent and country: Machu Picchu in Peru, the Galapagos Islands, Patagonia in Chile, Mendoza in Argentina, and the Salt Flats in Bolivia.
Property for All
In contrast to many countries, you do not need to be a resident to own property in Ecuador. In fact, owning property can be a gateway to becoming a resident. If you are interested in owning property, it’s important to realize that buying property here differs from the typical processes in Canada or the United States. Most transactions occur between the buyer, seller, real estate agent and notary. In fact, many experts recommend paying for the property in cash, as there are high interest rates. Paying in cash can create greater bargaining power too. Working with a real estate agent in the region that interests you can be incredibly helpful.
Ecuador does have some multiple listing services, like MLS-Ecuador, that help real estate agents communicate across city lines and share properties. In Ecuador, it is the law that a real estate agent has a license in order to sell properties. When you know the cities that intrigue you, you can find an agent who will guide you along the way. Ecuador Homes and Land works hard to match properties with your dreams, whether you are interested in owning property for portfolio diversification, retirement possibilities, or vacation rentals. Get in touch. Start loving life.
The Organic Life in Ecuador
Have you ever daydreamed about having a little slice of property? Eating fresh carrots from your garden? Picking fresh mint for your tea? If you are relocating to Ecuador, you are entering one of the most fertile, friendly regions in the world for organically grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Working with an organization like EcuadorHomesandLand™ can help you locate the best property, find workers to help plant, and begin this next step of your life.
The Land, Soil and Climate in Ecuador
If you want to grow crops, the first thing to investigate is the land on the property. What is the soil quality? Ideal farming soil must be rich with nutrients, which we have plenty of here. The land is seeped with local, natural ingredients. If you want extra help preparing the land, you can work with your real estate agent to find a crew of skilled workers. Clearing the plot can be the most difficult part, but it is essential to do this correctly. Whether you’re just making a small greenhouse to protect tomatoes, or you’re clearing a larger area for rows of lettuce, Swiss chard, and Lacinato kale, you will have to tend to the soil first.
After your soil is ready, you can rely on the perfect weather in Ecuador to help grow just about any crop. The environment is one of the best incentives to relocate here. The days rotate between cool, misting rain and warm, sunny afternoons. Being so close to the equator means that Ecuador doesn’t experience extreme temperatures. The entire country also always enjoys 12 hours of daily sunlight. Natural landscapes are full of creeks, rivers, and ponds, and it is relatively simple to divert water to help your crops grow. The rain helps many crops grow well, but just make sure you investigate how much water your crops require and decide whether or not to build a small shelter, like a greenhouse, for some of the more delicate plants like heirloom tomatoes.
Best Plants to Grow in Ecuador
One of the best things about farming in Ecuador is the diversity of vegetables, herbs and fruits you can grow here. Most seeds endemic to North America or Canada can grow well here. Much depends on the region where you live. Ecuador has four distinct regions, each with its own unique climate. Citrus fruits tend to do better in the coastal climates. In the Sierra, tree tomatoes, granadilla, and leafy greens flourish abundantly.
One tip is to look at the growing conditions on the seed packets and determine the best kind of climate in which they thrive. For example, basil can first be grown indoors and then transferred to warm, well-saturated soil outside. It needs ample water to grow. Heirloom tomatoes, however, do better in tall, enclosed spaces, like a greenhouse, where their foliage can stay dry. The drier climate protects the plants from disease. As you get started, you will find lots of planting and farming experts in Ecuador; they can impart their wisdom and share tricks of the trade as you’re deciding what you want to grow.
Ecuador Organic Farming Market
Whether you’re growing vegetables, herbs and fruits for yourself, for family and friends, or for commercial business, there are many opportunities in the agricultural markets of Ecuador. Within the cities and towns, there are lots of commercial markets where local vendors sell their fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and fish. However, most expats tend to set up small business that caters to the expat community; they often become part of a fair or market circuit. One of the keys to commercial success is figuring out what specialty items are missed from the States or Canada. These items typically include heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese, kale or rhubarb. If you have the land, seeds, time (and goats) to cultivate items like these, there is a definite market.
Many vendors advertise on Facebook group pages, websites for expats (like GringoPost in Cuenca), or in online publications. Pricing depends on your demographic, but restaurants as well as individual buyers often purchase specialty items, and so you can price it according to demand. Learn about the market in your area, possibly before even planting your seeds, to better cater to your demographic. Of course, if your crops are just for you and your family, enjoy! You’ll find neighbors coming around more and more to sample your delicious foods.
If this farming dream appeals to you, you can talk to a real estate agent to locate property with fertile soil, water resources, and an excellent climate. John Vollmecke of EcuadorHomesandLand™ has lots of property in the coastal and interior regions. He can help you find a property with land for farming, as well as connect you to his team of workers who have experience with growing crops in Ecuador. It is an amazing thing to watch young seedlings grow from the earth to feed your friends and family. Homegrown, organic vegetables, fruits and herbs are just a few short months away!
Ecuadorian Cattle: Overview
Since 1943, there has never been a better time to consider cattle ranching in Ecuador. Owning a cattle ranch is not for the faint of heart, and so this article is geared towards those who have experience with cattle ranching and want to learn more about starting a ranch in Ecuador. The market is growing quickly. For the past multiple decades, Ecuadorian cattle suffered from various diseases. The exportation and importation of live animals was prohibited for more than a decade. However, since 2011 the Ecuadorian government has sponsored an “Eradication of Foot and Mouth Disease” project, aimed at wiping out this debilitating disease that has been prevalent in Ecuadorian beef since 1943.
Prior to 2011, only half of the cattle in Ecuador were vaccinated. Now, that number is 98%. The industry is growing rapidly as well, as new jobs for technicians, veterinarians, and technological and research development emerge. Just this past June, the World Organization for Animal Health announced that Ecuador has eradicated foot and mouth disease. Since receiving this validation, Ecuador can now export beef to international markets. Agricultural spokesman Luis Valverde says the country will reestablish beef export trade with Venezuela, Iran, Cuba and Panama, as well as hopefully Peru and Russia. All of these factors mean that it is game-on for breeders and ranchers in Ecuador.
Over the next three years, the Ecuador government plans to purchase 20,000-30,000 head of cattle.
Ecuadorian Cattle Breeds
The government will sell the cattle to small and medium-sized ranchers with the hope of rebuilding the national herd of cattle and exporting regional beef by 2017. Brangus, Braford, and Brahman cattle are being imported from Paraguay and Texas to diversify the cattle breeds in Ecuador. Brahman cattle, from Texas, are known for their resilience to humid climates. They’re incredibly adaptable. Braford breeds have always been recognized for their superior maternal abilities. Brangus breeds prefer dryer climates, but they were bred to fit many needs. These three breeds are the breeds selected by the Ecuadorian government to upgrade the genetic stock of the cattle, as well as to increase the number of purebred cattle. There are other humidity-resistant breeds of cattle, like the Jersey cow, that could fare well in the Ecuadorian climate. Jersey cows are both heat and insect resistant. Depending on the region where you want to start your ranch, the cattle will have to adapt to the environmental factors.
Ecuadorian Cattle: Future of the Market
As of 2014, most cattle ranches were located in the Azuay and Manabi provinces of Ecuador. The Manabi climate is dry to humid subtropical, with the average temperature hovering around 25 degrees Celsius. Larger cities in the Manabi province, like Manta, are known for their scenic views. The Azuay province includes Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador. Average temperatures in the Azuay province are around 15 degrees Celsius. The highland climate in Azuay is very temperate. Properties along the coast could work as well, as long as the cows are bred for adaptability and resilience.
When considering the market, it’s important to realize that the Ecuadorian beef market is in its infancy, but it is growing rapidly. Experts in cattle write there is reason to believe Ecuador’s market will follow similar trends as the rest of South America. The global beef market is dominated by India, Australia, Brazil and the United States. The U.S. produces 20% of the world’s beef, but it is home to only 9% of the world’s cattle and 4% of the global population. In comparison, 40% of the global population lives in India, Brazil and China, as well as 60% of the world’s cattle exports.
Cattle production is falling in the United States, but it is rising in South America. From 1999 and 2009, the United States’ production of beef declined by 5% while in Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, production increased by 33%, 22 %, and 39%, respectively. The largest obstacles for South American cattle ranchers are production efficiency and utilizing new technology and methods. However, these factors aside, reports from magazines like Progressive Cattle predict the South American beef market will only continue to grow in the next few years. Very soon, Ecuador will join Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Brazil in cattle exportation.
Getting Started with a Cattle Ranch in Ecuador
If owning a cattle ranch is intriguing, talking to a real estate agent is necessary in order to secure a larger property, especially one with water rights and fertile land. As the Ecuadorian government invests more in the cattle industry, there are more opportunities for farms to get started. John Vollmecke, of Ecuador Homes and Lands, works with all types of properties, from agricultural farms to ranches to beachfront property. Contact him if you want to learn more about the properties and their agricultural potential.
Ecuador's Shrimp Market: Overview
If you have lived in the United States, you have probably eaten Ecuadorian shrimp without even realizing it. In 2014, Ecuador had one of the highest growth rates of shrimp exportation, jumping about 20% from the year before. With markets like the EU, USA, China, Japan and Vietnam, Ecuador is surging ahead as one of the top exporters of shrimp. In fact, in 2014 Ecuador was the third largest exporter of white shrimp, or Vannamei shrimp, in the world. The coastal regions in Guayas have excellent access to estuaries, rivers and seas. If you are interested in the shrimp market or investing your resources into developing a shrimp farm, now is the time, and the coastal regions of Ecuador are the perfect places.
Although shrimping can be traced back to the era of the Incans, the Ecuador shrimp farming industry gained steam in the 1960s in the El Oro and Guayas regions. Currently 66% of shrimp farms are in the Guayas region and 18% are in the El Oro province. The largest estuary in the South Pacific is the Gulf of Guayaquil, a perfect source of natural salt water. Concurrently, the Guayas River provides ample amounts of fresh water and sediments that, when mixed with the salt water, create ideal tides for shrimp farming. The Humboldt Current also creates ideal water temperatures for seafood along the coast of South America. Quite simply, the equatorial climates make the shrimp happy. Because of all of these conditions, most shrimp farms here can produce three crops per year, compared to two crops in competing countries. Shrimp just like it hot.
Now is an excellent time to start a shrimp farm. Up until November 2015, shrimp prices in the United States were fairly steady, hovering around $7 per kilogram. However, with the recovery of Asian markets, the price for Ecuadorian shrimp dipped slightly, down to $6 per kilo. José Antonio Camposano, the President of the National Aquaculture Chamber, says the Ecuadorian shrimp industry will have to increase production at least 15% to maintain its export revenues of 2014. He wants more farmers to get involved.
Shrimp are Ecuador’s second largest non-petroleum export; bananas are the first. The country of Ecuador exports overs twenty different shrimp products, including whole shrimp, shrimp tails, and frozen blocks of shrimp. Ecuadorian shrimp are known for their firmness, flavor, and color. Over 90% of the shrimp products are sent to the United States, the European Union, China and Vietnam, and these countries want more Ecuadorian shrimp. For example, the United States imported 30% more warm water and frozen shrimp in 2014 than the previous year. However, there isn’t a ton of competition within Ecuador to harvest shrimp. About 75% of Ecuador’s shrimp farms are small-medium sized, family-owned businesses.
Bubba Says: “White Shrimp, Tropical Shrimp, Steel Shrimp…”
The most popular Ecuadorian shrimp breeds are Vannamei, Steel shrimp and tropical shrimp. Vannamei shrimp, also known as “white shrimp,” prefer deep waters (down to 72 meters from the shoreline) with muddy bottoms. Steel shrimp, also known as blue shrimp, are found along the coastline and they are slightly smaller than Vannamei shrimp. Another breed of shrimp to investigate is black tiger shrimp. Typically, they’re indigenous to Vietnam and Thailand, but they are very popular; if a farm was able to cultivate black tiger shrimp in Ecuador, it could be a profitable niche in the region.
Most shrimp farms in Ecuador function in an organic manner, without lots of technology or overcrowding of fish. The German company Naturland certified many Ecuadorian shrimp farms as organic. When farming in Ecuador, it is always important to maintain the biodiversity of the land. The country’s reforesting programs work in tandem with the shrimp farms; shrimp farmers must be cognizant of how much land they can use to build shrimp ponds, as well as the importance of not destroying mangrove forests. The highest level of ranking is the ASC, or Aquaculture Stewardship Council certification, which deems the farm incredibly responsible and well managed.
How to Start a Shrimp Farm in Ecuador
Most shrimp farms spring up along natural water sources: rivers, estuaries and seas. Hectare prices range from $500-$5,000, depending on the land and water resources available. Working with a real estate agent who understands the shrimp farming process and the potential in the property is vital. Agents also can help you procure the necessary permits through the Ecuadorian government to start your own farm. If you are redirecting water from a water source, make sure to check the quality of water. If you want more information or want to see an example of an organic shrimping farm, you can also visit one of the more established farms like OMARSA. OMARSA is in the Guayas region and it is the only farm to receive the ASC certification so far in Ecuador.
Building the Ponds
In Ecuador, most shrimp farms fall into two categories: low density (or extensive) farms or semi-intensive farms. Both pond types rely on close access to rivers, estuaries and seas. If you are building grow out ponds for the shrimp, the ideal size for a shrimp pond is 10-25 hectares. First, test the soil for the pond. You can dig out the pond or use large fish tanks or swimming pools to mold the ponds accordingly. Saltwater farms are the most popular farms in Ecuador, but due to the boom in viruses in the past few decades, fresh water farms are also becoming popular. Currently, there are around 300 farms that export shrimp to the United States. The number of shrimp farms in Ecuador has lots of potential to grow, especially with the Aquaculture Chamber’s desire to increase the production rates of Ecuadorian shrimp.
In Ecuador, there are many large hatcheries that raise the nauplii (first larval stage of crustaceans) shrimp to post larvae size. These hatcheries prepare the larvae for the growing phases. Use of nurseries has changed in the past decades with the increase of viruses like white spot or the Taura virus. In Ecuador, there are many raceway hatcheries that increase the rate of distributing post larvae shrimp to grow-out ponds in about 30 days. Some shrimp farmers still use a nursery phase to continue cultivating the shrimp before depositing them into grow-out ponds. The shorter the time of incubation, the lower the risk of contracting viruses. These raceways are covered at night to protect the growing shrimp from cold temperatures.
After a pond is stocked with post larval shrimp, it takes between 3-6 months to produce a crop of market-size shrimp. The average hectare produces roughly 125 kilos of shrimp per year. It is vitally important to eliminate predators in the area: crabs, fish, birds and people. Also, depending on the type of farming you choose (extensive or semi-intensive), you may need to utilize feeding and fertilizing systems as well. After 3-6 months, the shrimp are then sent to production factories for cleaning and processing before being exported.
Types of Shrimp Farms
Most Ecuadorian shrimp farms require minimal technology and utilize the natural environment as much as possible. These are called: “low density” or “extensive” shrimp farms. 60% of farms in Ecuador are low-density farms. The grow-out ponds in extensive farms contain 8-15 larvae per square meter of water. This type of pond results in higher quality shrimp that have more room to feed and breed. Extensive farms also dissuade viruses, specifically the white spot virus. These farms utilize the rivers and estuaries, bringing wild larvae into their ponds, and growing them to market size. Therefore, farmers don’t usually feed at all; the shrimp feed on natural resources. You can use small amounts of feed and fertilizers if needed. As the crop grows, there are rarely more than 25,000 full grown shrimp per hectare. Use of cast nets and bamboo traps tend to produce 50-500 kilograms per hectare per harvest.
These farms are laid out on the high tide lines along rivers, estuaries and the ocean. The ponds are typically covered to guarantee a water temperature of 30-33 degrees Celsius. These ponds usually contain between 15-25 post larvae per square meter. These shrimp tend to feed off the bottom of the ponds; therefore, they also require high-quality food to sustain their natural food web. Ideally, the shrimp should be fed 3-5 times a day. The ponds are fertilized with nutrients to encourage a natural cycle. Ponds are harvested using pumps or a net, and usually the yield is significantly higher: 500-5,000 kilograms per hectare per year. However, environmentally, if too many of these ponds are in the same area, they can have a negative effect on the environment. Therefore, if you are interested in semi-intensive farms, it is best to use strategies employed by larger farms like OMARSA who commit to reforesting up to 20% of the land in a short time period.
Unexpected Benefits of El Niño
The production of farm-raised shrimp actually tends to increase during El Niño years. Shrimp prefer the warm waters and grow rapidly in their brackish environments during heavy rains. These rains also flush out rivers and estuaries, channeling shrimp towards the ponds. Wild shrimp also reproduce at a heightened rate during El Niño years, although, depending on the intensity of the storms, the farmer must carefully tend to the water levels of his/her ponds.
Wrapping it up (in bacon)
In the first seven months of 2015, Ecuador exported 197,000 metric tons of shrimp, worth $1.3 billion. Last year, Ecuador’s yield was worth roughly $2.6 billion. This is a big market. Currently, the price for shrimp in the United States is around $7 per kilo. If you are interested in this type of agricultural investment and experience, shrimping is a growing area. The climate, water access and traditional farming practices make Ecuador an ideal region to start a shrimp farm. These environmental factors, coupled with the Aquaculture Chamber’s desire to increase the production levels, mean that now is an ideal time to look for land and start the farming process. If you are interested in talking with a real estate agent who has excellent land with water access for shrimp farms, contact John Vollmecke. He knows the coastal regions well, and has already put together teams of skilled laborers who can help turn your fishy dream into a reality.
Limes and Mangoes
Depending on the type of agricultural investment you are willing to make, it can make sense to select a crop that does not take as long to grow and can quickly yield high returns. Limes and mangoes are two crops that are incredibly popular in Ecuador. Limes spice up ceviche, simmer in homemade teas, and add flavor to just about any dish. Mangoes, typically grown along the coast, are juicy, sweet, and diverse in Ecuador. There are over fifteen varieties of mango alone. If you are tempted to grow your own crops on your property but aren’t sure where to begin, investing in limes and mangoes is a relatively simple and safe first step.
Limes are one of the most popular fruits in Ecuador. Around the world, lime production is slowly increasing. According to the USDA, lime production has increased tenfold since 1980, and the prices for limes have doubled since 2014 due to increased demand and more limited supply. In Florida and California, a new disease nicknamed Citrus Greening Disease hit the citrus industries hard. The disease even prompted emergency action from the USDA in 2013. Exporting limes to the United States requires certain specifications, which can be found at the United States Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services.
However, your goal may be to simply create a business with limes, or other citrus fruits, within Ecuador. As limes are incredibly popular, many markets carry many varieties. However, growing your own limes, and growing them organically, could separate you from the other producers. You could also sell your produce within the expat community, something that many expats have done throughout Ecuador in the past three to five years. You will certainly have enough limes for your own enjoyment. Check out the recipe for lime and mango ceviche to begin your cooking experiments.
Another stable shorter-term investment is mangoes. They can be grown, harvested and exported in a 3-5 year span. October through February is a peak season for growing mangoes. Mangoes prefer moist environments along the coast. As an incredibly delicious and popular fruit, mangoes are exported all over the world. The volume of mangoes exported from Ecuador has grown consistently over the past ten years. Brazil, Ecuador and Peru are the major South American exporters of mangoes to the United States. To best grow mangoes, we encourage you to invest in land in tropical, coastal regions.
John Vollmecke first became interested in the agricultural potential yields in agriculture with crops like mangoes and limes. He knew both of these fruits were incredibly popular and did not require as much time to grow as cacao, teakwood or sugar cane. With some assistance from skilled laborers who know the land, your acreage could yield an impressive crop in 3-5 years. John works to create teams of workers who can clear the land, plant the crops, and assist in harvesting. When working with John to find agricultural property, you will also have access to his teams of skilled gardeners. If you want to learn more about agricultural investments, simply get in touch. In the meantime, enjoy the recipe for Mango Lime ceviche!
Teakwood and Cacao: Agriculture in Ecuador
If the word megadiversity existed in the dictionary, it would be used to describe Ecuador. This pint-sized country is one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world. In fact, the country boasts more biodiversity per square kilometer than any other country. One hectare of lowland rainforest could contain as many frog species in all of North America; an individual tree could contain more ant species than the entire British Isles. Ecuador is not only an amazing place to invest in personal property, or property for commercial development; it also holds incredible potential for agricultural investment. Whether you want to live on your property in Ecuador or simply develop the land to export crops, there are huge benefits to investing in agriculture in Ecuador. Working with an experienced real estate agent who knows the land and understands agricultural markets here makes this investment opportunity even more stable.
Background: The Land
To understand Ecuador is to understand the land. Ecuadorians have toiled their fertile lands for centuries; they take advantage of the abundance of internal and coastal terrain. Moderate and cooler temperatures in the sierra, or highland, are ideal for growing corn, maize, potatoes and beans. The lush coastal environment is better suited for mango trees, cacao, palm oil, bananas, rice and sugar. Ecuadorians separate the country into four regions: the sierra (highland), the jungle (Orient), the coast, and the Galapagos. The leading agriculture exports from Ecuador are wheat, cotton, rice, corn and soybean meal. Cattle production is common throughout the country, but raising cattle tends to require more time, resources and energy. Researching existing markets, emerging markets, and government reimbursement shows that many ideal crops to grow in Ecuador, but this article will focus on the long-term investments of cacao and teakwood.
Long-Term Investment: Cacao
Although Ecuador is such a small country, it is the 7th largest producer of cacao in the world. Farming cacao requires tropical land, ideally 15-20 degrees from the equator, and diligent protection from sun and wind. Cacao is a sensitive but lucrative crop; most trees start yielding pods ready for peak production by the fifth year. Another good thing about cacao beans is that they have a continuous growth cycle; they can be harvested year round. Unlike other industrialized crops, 80-90% of cacao is grown on family-run farms, making it significantly easier to manage and maintain a steady output. Ecuador’s cacao production has only continued to rise. In 2014, production rose 13% from the previous year. In comparison, Brazil’s output fell by 15%. The United States and Europe are still the major importers of cacao, although China has been steadily rising in its importation of cacao as well. Many believe that Ecuador’s production is top in terms of quality. Nestle Corporation notes, “Ecuador exports about 65% of the fine cacao produced in the world. The main feature of Ecuadorian cacao is an unmatched, unique floral flavor.” If you are interested in a long-term agricultural investment, cacao continues to be a reliable option.
Long-Term Investment: Teakwood
Another booming agricultural investment opportunity in Ecuador is the teakwood market. Teakwood is an asset that tends to grow in value each year. It’s an incredibly durable wood, often used for building boats, outdoor furniture, and patios/decks. Due to its resilience, it can grow extremely well without as requiring the same amount energy expended on other crops. From a conservational perspective, it’s also beneficial for the Ecuadorian environment to grow teakwood trees. They have one of the highest carbon sequestration rates, storing a large percentage of carbon from the atmosphere in their bark. Investing in land to grow teakwood does require more patience and energy; it takes 15-25 years for the trees to reach maturity. But, if you are interested in a long-term, likely lucrative investment, teak proves to be an enticing opportunity right now, particularly because of the government’s sponsorships.
Reimbursement for Reforestation
The Ecuadorian government wants farmers to plant more trees. President Correa has worked on many environmental initiatives; one of which is the government’s reimbursement of costs for reforestation efforts. Currently, there is a program that reimburses up to 75% of your production costs for the first four years of reforesting. To qualify for this “grant,” you need to fill out the application form through MAGAP (Ministerio de Agricultural, Ganaderia, Acuacultural y Pesca). After an inspection of the crop, you will receive approval to begin harvesting. The MAGAP will inspect your property again at the end of the year and will refund up to 75% of the money you spent on maintenance depending on what percentage of original trees are still alive. This process then is repeated for the following three years. Because of this assistance, growing teakwood is a very promising investment opportunity at the moment.
These agricultural investments require time, energy and devotion. John Vollmecke understands the opportunities and challenges in dealing with agriculture. He has been targeting more properties with the idea of growing crops like cacao or teakwood in mind. He is also putting together teams of locals in his regions to assist in growing and harvesting. Whether you’re on the ground in Ecuador or abroad, he can locate property with fertile land and connect with you experts who will manage your property, tend to the crops, and harvest the produce to be sold.
All of these agricultural investment opportunities were researched using the following sources:
Investing your money in anything can be risky. When it comes to investing in foreign property, the risk factor is heightened due to differences in language, diverse cultural contexts, and an abundance of real estate agents. How do you know whom you can trust? How do you know the agent will put your interests first and foremost in this important, expensive and transformative decision? Three factors come to mind when looking for a real estate agent who can best suit your needs.
The simple definition of integrity is a person who does what he says he will. His word is his truth. Will he email you back when he said he would? Will he provide you with promised information in a timely manner? If you want to invest in Ecuadorian property, you will discover there are many people who make lots of promises. Integrity is what separates the empty promises from the fulfilled realities.
One real estate agent who will actually deliver on those promises is John Vollmecke. He values integrity above all else, and he puts your interests first. He requires all clients to review and sign a multi-paged disclosure that outlines the roles of the agent and the investor. Personally, he knows what it’s like to invest in and develop Ecuadorian property. He understands what it requires to uproot and create a life here. Most importantly, he will be honest with you, and he will follow through on his word.
Lots of people want to invest in Ecuadorian property right now. Google “Ecuador real estate agents” and you can view pages and pages of listings. Did you know that Ecuadorian law demands real estate agents be licensed if they want to sell property in this country? There are countless stories of individuals who decide to change their lifestyle, move down to Ecuador, and become a “real estate agent” without any licensure or actual experience. When you explore the websites of various agents, you really must be diligent in investigating the agent’s history.
Some websites seem polished but don’t actually have “boots on the ground” experience.Demanding a licensed real estate agent is not only a smart decision; it’s also the appropriate legal decision. Licensed realtors possess greater knowledge, skills and experience that can help you easily locate ideal investments.
John Vollmecke acknowledges the importance of having experience on the ground. His wife and he moved here in 2013 and first lived in Manta, then moved to Jama. Soon, they will be relocating to Canoa. He works predominantly with properties along the coast, but also his territory also extends into the interior area. He works in areas where he knows the local fishermen, the grocery store owners, the bankers. Living in these cities and towns ensures a deeper understanding of what life is really like there.
Finally, when you choose a real estate agent, you must ask specific questions about their careers to gauge how experienced they actually are. You are investing a portion of your assets with the hope of transforming a dream into a reality. You must be diligent as you select an agent. Don’t be swayed by the smooth talkers, the big promises, and the exorbitant requests. Choose someone who looks out for your best interests, not their own. This goes for the developers as well as the agents.
John Vollmecke worked as a full-time agent from 1977-2013 in the United States, primarily in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. The identifying and selling of idyllic property is his life work. Here, in Canoa, Jama and Bahia de Caraquez, along with other coastal and interior properties, he uses his experience to build relationships with his clients and deliver on his promises. Most importantly, he understands the land, and he knows the local Ecuadorians. He values integrity, he is licensed, and he has decades of domestic and international real estate experience. He looks forward to learning more about you and figuring out how he can help turn your dream into a reality.
Quick Tips and Questions to Ask
1) Meet the potential Realtor™ in person, if possible.
2) Listen to close friends who have experience investing in Ecuador
3) Choose a full time agent
4) Ask about previous experience
5) Ask where the agent has lived
6) Make sure he/she is licensed
7) Check the current property listings on the websites
8) Look for integrity in their processes and procedures
Imagine owning your own property in a place where a three-course lunch costs $3.00, where you can hike during the weekends and walk along the beach in the evenings, and where the land holds hidden histories and limitless adventure. The beach towns, mountain lands and city developments of Ecuador provide ample opportunities for the creative, adventurous, and savvy investor.
Investing in Ecuadorian property now can result in both personal and financial gains. The right foreign property investment can, like real estate anywhere, benefit from capital appreciation over time and provide an annual yield between now and then. If you’re interested in more stable investments and in owning land in one of the most beautiful regions on the planet, Ecuador is the place to invest.
Diversification of assets in a growing market
Owning property in Ecuador translates to diversification beyond the U.S. or Canadian market. Ecuador adopted the dollar as its currency in 2000, making it easy to purchase, negotiate and manage financial investments. Quite simply, your dollar can go much further here. The appeal of this market is driving thousands toward the country’s beaches and city centers. The country’s surreal landscapes, inexhaustible natural resources, and remarkable health care system all contribute to the thriving market. Most importantly, with the dollar being so strong in Ecuador right now, it means it is an ideal time to learn more about investing.
Making a safe investment
Unlike stocks, real estate is a hard asset, something concrete that exists beyond the pendulums of markets. Investing in property in the up and coming cities of Jama, Canoa and Bahia de Caraquez, among others, is not only a smart investment move; it is also an opportunity to grow your assets.
Foreign property holdings are one of the few lasting asset classes that can be kept private. For example, Americans do not need to report foreign properties to the IRS, not even on IRS Form 8938.
Though any investment has advantages and risks, one of the most appealing factors in owning foreign property is that your property belongs to you. It is your space to develop, to visit for vacations, to rent to others. With time, as the property can grow in value, it also can offer myriad possibilities.
Possibilities in the future
It is important to own foreign property to diversify your assets and receive potential annual yield, but investing in property, especially in a country as beautiful as Ecuador, also provides the opportunity for ample personal enjoyment. Perhaps in the future the property can evolve into a retirement residence, or it can be used as a gathering place for family and friends.
Guidance along the way
When thinking about locations to invest, particularly in Ecuador, it is vitally important to work with someone who has your authentic interests at heart. Do you want a piece of beachfront property? Think about Canoa, a small beach town with a social atmosphere and endless opportunities for restaurant, commercial or land investment. Perhaps you’re interested in something similar to the California coastline, something tucked between the sea and the rolling hills. Jama, an up and coming city only an hour drive from Bahia de Caraquez, is a perfectly situated destination waiting for developers and investors who see creative potential. With nearly forty years of competitive real estate experience, John Vollmecke wants to help you find the perfect investment opportunity. He values integrity above all else, and he will work tirelessly to guide you in the process of selecting and securing your dream property in the mountains or along the coasts of Ecuador.