Our experience, plantation, water management system, and prospective projects

Our Experience

We have over 50 years of practical experience in the field of sustainable cultivation of lowland, wetland, and flatland situated within the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Flatland can be simply defined as the geographical area composed chiefly of land that varies little in elevation. It is notable for its flatness and lacks appreciable topographic relief. Meanwhile, lowland is considered as an area that is relatively lower than its surrounding and is usually not higher than 200 meters (660 feet). The range of elevation of land in Riau province, where our Sumatran project site is located, is between 2-91 meters above sea level.

Accordingly, wetland is recognized as a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands were generally considered as unproductive or undesirable lands in the past, but scientists now realize that wetlands actually play important roles in our ecosystem – they act as long-term storage of carbon dioxide (CO2), pollutant remover, flood and erosion controller, and is home for a great variety of plant and animal species. Peatland, consequently, is a type of wetland terrain without forest cover that is dominated by living, peat-forming plants. As defined by the the International Peatland Society /, this type of land is heterogeneous in nature and normally in the form of a mixture of more or less decomposed plant (humus) material that has accumulated in a water-saturated environment and in the absence of oxygen.


That being explained, our experience lies within the complex, intertwining point of all those types of land. Over the last five decades, we have been committed to develop the most sustainable integrated system to convert the relatively suboptimal lands situated within such a geographical area, into productive lands. With the comprehensive plantation system and water management trinity that we have continuously studied and developed, we believe that the methodology we implement to cultivate such lands has achieved maximum economic and social impacts while the environmental deterioration level is maintained to be as minimum as possible.

However, new challenges and trade-offs are definitely unavoidable and there is always room for improvement. Therefore, through this foundation, we invite outside collaboration to improve our system and to achieve our main objective in promoting the betterment of our food security hand in hand.

Our Plantation

Our plantation was built in 1985 and it reaches approximately 96,000 hectares (960 km2) in size. It was established for crop intensification reason and maintained by Indonesian company, PT Riau Sakti United Plantations (RSUP), as a hybrid coconut (Cocos nucifera) plantation until now. It is located in Riau province of Indonesia, specifically within Pulau Burung sub-district of Indragiri Hilir regency. Our plantation is globally recognized as the world’s first successful coconut plantation that is built on porous peat soil.

Peat soil is fertile and suitable for coconut cultivation but the highly porous soil allows too much water seepage and excessive evaporation which become more serious during the dry seasons. This issue was effectively addressed by our team and PT RSUP through the construction of an ingenious irrigation network that will be further explained in the water management section of this website. The network has been acknowledged as first of its kind in the world.

Situated in the tropical zone with a rainfall of over 2,500mm per annum, the climate serves to be conducive for planting pineapples (Ananas comosus). Seizing this opportunity, part of the plantation has also been converted into sustainable pineapple farm since the early 1990s.

Moreover, the plantation also has its own nursery for its hybrid coconut seed and equipped with a competently staffed Research and Advisory Laboratory to support its research and development efforts in keeping the plantation highly productive through the most environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable manners.

Recently, it has also started an experimental multiple cropping project around its office area known as the Kilometer 9 (KM9). Through this pilot project, several other crop species such as Hylocereus spp. (dragon fruit/Patahaya), Aloe vera, and Allium cepa (red onion), have been observed to have the ability to survive and be cultivated in the similar type of lands. Our foundation plans to facilitate further on this through research and development project on more essential Indonesian crops including rice (Oryza sativa), corn (Zea mays), and soya bean (Glycine max).

In addition to that, our plantation has also been identified as a home for at least 64 bird species that live and thrive amongst all parts of our plantation. Together with the abundance of other plant and animal species and a growing number of people whose livelihoods depend on our plantation, the area has been evolving as a harmonious ecosystem and we strongly intend to preserve it that way.

Our Water Management System

Due to the existence of the mountainous, highland region (i.e. Bukit Barisan) in western Sumatra, when there is precipitation the water most likely flows towards the eastern part of the island where our project site is located. This is because of the low and flat characteristics of our lands and partly resulted from the way our earth rotates. Such conditions make our plantation a highly potential area to capture and store freshwater and as we know, freshwater from groundwater and natural precipitation is very essential for agriculture, human life, and the industry.

So, basically, that is what we do using our water management technology: capturing the freshwater and keeping it as our resource, instead of simply letting it leave back to the ocean. The basis of our comprehensive plantation system largely lies on this inventive water management system. As seen in the Water Management Trinity diagram, the system comprises of three main components (i.e. the Canals, the Dams and Water Gates, and the Dikes) and it supports three aspects of sustainability including the environmental, economic, and social aspects.

Environmentally, our comprehensive water management system has been scientifically evident to enable our lands to be fire proof. The integrated mechanism of our canals, water gates, and dikes ensures that the naturally saturated soil in our lands receive the exact amount of water needed to keep the soil moisturized. It also slows down land subsidence and abrasion as the dikes and water gates do not allow the natural precipitation to simply erode the top soil to the sea.

Economically, our comprehensive water management system largely contributes in ensuring the constant provision of freshwater supply for all purposes. In this era where freshwater scarcity keep increasing, its availability holds a more pivotal role in any kind of economic activity. By providing the massive amount of it within our plantation, we safeguard all economic activities evolving in our vicinity, including the ones related to the agricultural development, industrial operation, and human survival.

Other than that, our system is proven to support the conversion of suboptimal land into productive land in the most sustainable manner. Based on our experience, cultivating the empty, non-arable land located in a distinctive geographical area like the one we have, may be more economically viable in a long run compared to expanding arable land in a habitable and/or densely-populated area. The process may require higher initial investments such as initial treatment to make the land less acidic and the basic infrastructure to make the comprehensive system works. However, when one has successfully done it, it can produce a relatively better quality of arable land and requires less capital maintenance expenditure in the long run

Consequently, by incorporating our successful system into the development of local economy, we have managed to create direct and indirect employment opportunities and contributed to the decrement of local and national unemployment rates.

This point reflects the social commitment of our systemic trinity as well. Together with it, our system also helps ensuring that the local people are food sufficient and safe from the adverse effects of extreme climate events such as the prolonged drought and extreme flooding caused by prolonged rainy season.

The Canals

Our man-made canals consist of the primary, secondary, and tertiary canals that adds up to more than 10,000 km in total. It made available 10,357 m3 volume of freshwater in our site all year round. These canals hold four main functions:
1) water retention/reservoir;
2) fire mitigation;
3) freshwater supply for all purposes (i.e. human life, agriculture, industry); and
4) transportation of people and the harvested crops.

Prior to the introduction of our canal system, the traditional, smallholder farmers merely used the canals to drain the water out and they relied highly on the tidal condition (high tide, low tide) in utilizing the canals for transportation purposes. Meanwhile, our comprehensive system enables the canals to reserve freshwater for multiple purposes and the canals are not dependent on the tidal condition. The canals used customizable design and are dredged approximately once every 18 months to enable consistent discharge of water to be maintained.

The Dams and Water Gates

Our dams and water gates are the only imported components of the system infrastructure and they are extremely important for the integrity of the whole system. Their integral role is basically to act as the water level regulator as well as the locus of control of water retention. The suitably placed gates control water distribution to individual areas and ensure adequate supply of water at certain levels is consistently maintained. Traditionally, the gates are not typically used by the farmers and their utilization in our comprehensive system is proven to be able to mitigate the extreme climate phenomena such as the prolonged drought and the natural flood that is generated by the unexpected sea level rise.

The Dikes

Before our system was introduced to the non-arable lands, the dikes are not systematically maintained due to the constraining resources. Their design was also not based on scrupulous formula. Once our comprehensive system is introduced, the dikes are maintained periodically with differing frequencies which depend on the age of the dikes. The design of our dikes follow specific formulation which enables them to withstand the pressure better and last much longer compared to the traditional ones that made of local materials which are easily degraded by natural causes. Our dikes are built all around the area so the seawater will not sip through and they hold important containment function to separate the seawater and freshwater and to effectively manage the water level

Our Prospective Projects

Multiple Cropping Project

Multiple cropping is the agricultural practice where two or more crops are grown at the same time or in a sequence/different growing seasons, in the same piece of land. It is considered as a form of polyculture since it uses multiple crops in the same space, providing crop diversity in imitation of the natural ecosystems diversity, and avoiding large stands of single crops (monoculture).

Together with the plantation people, our foundation has actually initiated this project in our project site. An experimental multiple cropping project has been developed around the plantation office area known as the Kilometer 9 (KM9). In this KM9, several crop species such as Hylocereus spp. (dragon fruit/patahaya), Aloe vera, and Allium cepa (red onion), have been planted and studied to have analyze their abilities to survive and be cultivated in the unique types of land

As our main objective is to help people securing food, this project stands as our immediate priority. The growing population in Indonesia and the world undeniably demands alternative food resources and that is the main reason why we put our focus in this project. KM9, however, is not meant to be a full scale plantation, it is merely a trial, pilot project that needs to be studied more extensively. Our foundation plans to facilitate further on this through collaborative research and development project and we also welcome any partnership that interests in more essential Indonesian crops such as rice (Oryza sativa), corn (Zea mays), and soya bean (Glycine max).

Paludiculture Project

Wetland Internationals describes Paludiculture as the cultivation of native wetland species that are adapted to wet conditions, and deliver economically valuable products and services. Paludiculture can deliver substantial co‐benefits by preserving and sequestering carbon, supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation activities, regulating water dynamics (flood control) and water quality (purification), and conserving and restoring peatlands’ typical flora and fauna.

FAO reported that there are 165 species which have been identified to be suitable for paludiculture development in Indonesia. Besides producing traditional agricultural commodities such as food, feed, fiber and fuel, these paludiculture-suitable species can also generate other raw materials for a variety of purposes, such as for energy, construction, and biochemical products/industrial biochemistry. Among them are sago (Metroxylon spp.) for the production of noodles, purun grass (Eleocharis dulcis) for basketry, tengkawang (Shorea spp.) which produces edible oil, jelutung (Dyera spp.) which produces natural rubber, and rattan (Calamus rotang) for basketry and furniture.

Our foundation has a great interest at contributing in this particular agricultural practice. We are willing to scale-up paludiculture by providing resources to conduct relevant collaborative researches on its socio-economic, environmental, and gender aspects as suggested by FAO. We strongly welcome any partnership from established organizations with experience in this field.

Aquaculture Project

As defined by NOAA Fisheries, aquaculture refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Aquaculture produces food fish, sport fish, bait fish, ornamental fish, crustaceans, mollusks, algae, sea vegetables, and fish eggs.

Aquaculture also includes the production of seafood from hatchery fish and shellfish which are grown to market size in ponds, tanks, cages, or raceways. It also includes the production of ornamental fish for the aquarium trade, and growing plant species used in a range of food, pharmaceutical, nutritional, and biotechnology products.

Freshwater aquaculture produces species that are native to rivers, lakes, and streams and it takes place primarily in ponds and in on-land, artificial recirculating systems. Our foundation believes that all components of our comprehensive water management system can support the development of freshwater aquaculture farm in our project site. We actually already have had a snakehead fish farm in the waste water area of the plantation but it has been inactive. Thus, we welcome all possible partnership with expertise and experience in this field in order to create more well-studied and well-maintain aquaculture farms in our site.

Community Engagement Program

Social justice is one of the three sustainability pillars that our organization takes into account. It is one of the main aspects of our framework. We are committed to benefit the local people as much as possible through our work. Therefore, we aim to conduct a series of community development programs as one of our agenda. These programs are designed to be highly relevant with our main causes and we realize that we can never accomplish this mission alone. Our foundation welcomes any project proposal that will help us improving the capacity of the local people such as public lectures, focus group discussions, women and children empowering events, seminars, social media campaigns, training/coaching for local farmers, and other capacity and awareness building activities.

Ecotourism Program

According to the the International Ecotourism Society, reported that there are 165 species which have been identified to be suitable for paludiculture development in Indonesia. Besides producing traditional agricultural commodities such as food, feed, fiber and fuel, these paludiculture-suitable species can also generate other raw materials for a variety of purposes, such as for energy, construction, and biochemical products/industrial biochemistry. Among them are sago (Metroxylon spp.) for the production of noodles, purun grass (Eleocharis dulcis) for basketry, tengkawang (Shorea spp.) which produces edible oil, jelutung (Dyera spp.) which produces natural rubber, and rattan (Calamus rotang) for basketry and furniture.

This definition is totally in line with our mission and organizational values. We want to play our role at promoting environmental and cultural awareness and respect by delivering memorable, interpretative experiences to visitors that will help raising such a sensitivity toward the causes that we support.

We see this type of tourism not only as an educational tool for both the hosts and the visitors, but also as a way to benefit the economic development and political empowerment of the local communities.

Our foundation sees a big potential to develop our project site as an ecotourism destination. We plan to start this program by developing a beautification strategy in the near future. This strategy might include comprehensive planning of landscape improvement procedure, establishment of interactive visitor center building, series of tour guiding training, and development of other relevant infrastructures.

Establishment of Agricultural Research and Technology Implementation Center

This could be the most distant dream of our organization but it is certainly a big mission that drives us to put the maximum efforts in every single of our work scope. We believe that eventually we can build an incubator for agritech, social fintech, healthcare, and educational startup companies in our project site. We dare to aim to make it the national agricultural showcase where we can bring the outside experts to assist the development of local enterprises and a national research center for as many visiting scholars as possible.