ZMSA – A Division of Energy Smith (Pty) Ltd
Jo Haden Smith took a back seat to his son in the paper merchanting business about 10 years ago. As a weekend farmer he started experiencing some of the problems being experienced by many farmers in South Africa.
Water pumping without Chinese generators or Eskom power became his first priority and after some internet surfing a producer of retro-tech water wheel pumps was found in Brazil. Two pumps were airfreighted in and after installation became the central focus of a new business.!
Papersmith & Son agreed to financially back the new venture and a container of stock was placed with the Brazilians. The venture was mentored within Papersmith as a division with the understanding that it could be ‘extracted’ when it was big enough to stand on its own.
The next 3 years passed in a flash, with all the usual up’s and down’s of a new venture. New products were chosen, sourced and stocked.
The original model had been based on the target market of the agricultural community, All products chosen were sufficiently low tech that installation was to be the responsibility of the farmer himself with guidance from ZMSA.
Philosophically, the old Scottish adage “Look aftae the pence, and the pounds will look aftae thyselves” was initially a core philosophy. We did not want to get into wind farm scale projects, but chose rather to target the small to mid-sized installations. This is the sector that gets the least attention from the large renewable companies, and we perceive this to be an opportunity with limited competition.
During this mentoring phase our product range has evolved into a mix of local and import, all can be installed by the farmer and /or landowner without huge added cost.
Recent developments have seen a dramatic increase in Hydro solutions and PV Installations.
ZMSA is also involved in developing a market for Brazilian Pasture grasses. Actually African pasture varieties (tropical) that were taken to Brazil 45 years ago, enhanced and developed. It is these varieties we are now re-importing to Southern Africa that enabled the Brazilian beef industry to become the 3rd largest in the world.
The decision was taken to invest in some cement stock of products projected to be the future leaders. ZM (Brazil) has proved to be a superb supplier. Shipment out of Brazil has been a problem with internal freight being a greater proportion of total freight than any other country. The freight portion of an average shipment is 30%. This supplier is exploring ways to use ZMSA as a hub for sales and sourcing into the rest of Southern Africa. We have the export expertise and the sales capability.
Finally, a decision was taken in May two years ago to extract the renewable energy business (ZMSA, Marangatu) out of the nurturing arms of Papersmith and Son and let it stand on its own two feet.
The business is still evolving into a TOTAL renewable energy solution provider. We still find that the smaller clients have a real need for information, even though they are unable to afford large consultancy fees. We charge for transport and a low daily rate for a call-out, but 90% of the time, we get the order for our products. Trust has built up over the last 10 years, and we are the first call by a farmer trying to reduce his impact on the environment as well as save money on electricity.