John Clendon is the Managing Director of Univanich Palm Oil PCL, which has been a pioneer of the oil palm industry in Thailand and the recipient of many awards as one of Thailand’s best performing companies in the Agriculture Sector. A feature of Univanich’s growth is that 90% of the fruit processed by the company’s five palm oil crushing mills is now sourced from thousands of independent small farmers.

Univanich is recognised internationally for its pioneering work in oil palm agronomy and advanced oil palm breeding. The company is Thailand’s first exporter of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) and has been one of the first in the palm oil industry to generate Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) under the United Nations CDM scheme. In 2012, the Univanich – Plaipraya Community Enterprise Group became the industry’s first group of independent small-holders to also achieve certification from the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Sachi Mulmi (SM), researcher with Frost & Sullivan, had an opportunity to conduct a Movers & Shakers interview with John Clendon (JC) – Managing Director of Univanich Palm Oil PCL.

SM: What is the unique value proposition of your company, and what are your key competitive differentiators?

JC: Our company is an oil palm plantation and processing company. Our unique value proposition is that we have an internationally recognised Oil Palm Research Centre which produces drought-tolerant hybrid oil palm seeds and clonal seeds from oil palm tissue culture.

SM: What do you want the company to accomplish in the next couple of years and how would you define success for it?

JC: We want to process one million tonnes of oil palm fruit and expand to seven palm oil crushing mills in Thailand and in southern Philippines.

SM: Which consumer trends do you consider the most relevant for the biomass/waste-to-power industry and how are you addressing them?

JC: Consumer concerns about GHG trends are a huge issue. We capture Methane from our wastewater treatment and supply renewable electricity to the local grid whilst at the same time generating CERs (Certified Emission Reductions) under the UNFCCC mechanism to reduce GHGs.

SM: What are some of the key success factors for Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) companies in Southeast Asia?

JC: In our industry, it will require a willingness to challenge new frontiers and manage new environmental risks. For example, our company has recently constructed a palm oil crushing mill in the Mindanao region of southern Philippines. For some, that is a region of very high political and logistical risks. For others, it is a region of high potential growth where early investment by EPC companies will encourage the development of a peaceful and prosperous community.

SM: What are the future trends of this industry that are related to technology, legislation, and customer demand?

JC: Consumer protests have effectively delayed and may halt the construction of a coal-fired power station in our province. From a company level, we are investigating new technologies for fermenting solid biomass waste and capturing that biogas for use as CBG (compressed biogas), replacing fossil fuel in our heavy transport vehicles and palm oil tankers.

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