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At the age of 30, he manages two businesses in Moldova and Germany. The success story of Vasile Munteanu, an entrepreneur, and Microinvest client

He doesn’t come from a family of sheep farmers but has loved this occupation since childhood. As a child, he spent his summers in the fields grazing the village sheep. Occupation, which in 2014, he decided to turn into his own business, buying 400 sheep. He had to overcome many challenges and even went to work abroad to finally return home and start from scratch the business of his heart that he had long dreamed of, with the financial support provided by Microinvest.

Today, Vasile Munteanu, founder of the Agroferma business, has succeeded in bringing to Moldova, and developing three productive breeds of sheep, creating his own milk production line, sheep cheese, and curd production and proving that it is possible to be successful in business at home, with loved ones. What are the challenges facing farmers in Moldova, and what motivates young people to start their own agricultural businesses, find out from this interview.

Vasile, your story begins with a scenario full of motivation: you emigrated to Germany after a business attempt that didn’t go according to plan, but you still decided to return to Moldova and devote yourself to your soul occupation – animal breeding. Tell us how it all started. 

I have had a special love for sheep and sheepdogs since my childhood. Even my family sometimes wonders when and where this passion came from. I grew up in the country, and we had animals throughout the household, but no one in my family or relatives kept sheep herds. The idea to create a business in this field came right after graduation. I started my business with a lot of motivation but little information. The first breed of sheep I started with was not productive, they produced a small amount of milk, and the investments I made, did not bring me any profit. After working in Germany, with new knowledge and own money, I launched Agroferma. Today we have three breeds of sheep – the German Friza breed, the Spanish Assaf breed (the most numerous and productive), and the French Lacauna breed. We grow them in good conditions, with special feed that we have worked hard on until we have the perfect formula, and they in turn, give us quality milk. We also sell lamb meat.

What are your sources of documentation about animal husbandry and sheep breeding, and how developed is this occupation in Moldova?

I have taken practically all my knowledge from books from different countries (Romania, Germany, Russia, and France), internet, and my own experience. I have no studies in this field, I studied at the polytechnic college. In Moldova, we have many zootechnicians, but they still specialize more in our native breed, while new breeds require additional knowledge and experience to be properly cared for. At first, I tried to feed the sheep the way most sheep breeders do: with corn and barley straw. I got skinny sheep without wool and milk, and I understood that it doesn’t work that way. Feeding is one of the most important steps in sheep farming. Analyzing the energy value of each component, we made our own fodder recipe. We also give the sheep supplements such as selenium, an essential mineral for milk and meat-producing animals, which we inject or add to the water. The climate and the soil, everything is changing, and the knowledge in this area is also changing a lot, and we have to keep up with them.

What Agroferma products are on the market, and how demanded are sheep cheese and meat?

At Agroferma, we produce sheep cheese and curd according to all quality standards, which we sell at local fairs, or we make delivery throughout the municipality in casseroles of 5 and 10 kilograms. Loyal customers are very satisfied with our products. We also have goat’s milk and lamb meat on sale practically all year round, not just on holidays. The quality of dairy products depends a lot on how you care for animals. We put hygiene, feed, and good conditions for the sheep first. Most often, we milk sheep by hand, especially when they have lambs. Hand-milked milk is much better for cheese production. We also have a special milking machine, but when the milk is milked mechanically it does not have the necessary amount of enzymes. In addition to me and my family, we have three workers on the farm.  So far, we are doing all the work.  In the future, maybe we will hire more people.

What problems do livestock farmers in Moldova face? How important are investments to develop?

When you’re a farmer, you’re practically always in the field and don’t have the time and knowledge to deal with all the components of a business. A farmer, especially at the beginning of his path, has to be an accountant, a zootechnician, an economist and even a veterinarian in some cases. If to compare it to the business environment in Europe, I have a small electrical installation business in Germany, there everything is much more organized and accessible to everyone. They can more easily access credit and subsidies for the purchase of machinery, and they don’t have to fulfill so many bureaucratic requirements that make your business challenges even more difficult. They have problems too, but being most united in associations, they go through them more easily together. In Moldova, we still have to work on this, we adapt too, but many give up their own businesses, namely for these reasons. As far as credit is concerned, I have always had a skeptical attitude towards credit. I thought it was better to do everything with your own money, to stay calm. Yes, that’s fine, but it’s much harder and longer. When I went back and calculated how much money I needed for a new sheepfold and building a production facility, I realized I didn’t fit in, and I didn’t have the time. So, I turned to Microinvest for a loan. Everything went very well, I received it quickly, paid it on time, and realized my goals.

Business plans for the next few years. Are you planning to expand your business or bring in new products on the market?

We want to develop these sheep breeds further; they have adapted well to the climate, and we already know how to care for them. We also want to start producing cheeses, pass a course to receive the necessary certification, and bring a new, packaged product – goat’s milk. For the production of cheeses, they use milk from French Lacauna sheep, we already have them. We still need a high-performance pasteurizer, the next big investment we plan to make, to stop heating milk to gas. In time, we are thinking of starting to produce the raw material for fodder, at the moment we buy everything. We also need to expand our production facility. We have great development plans and will again turn to Microinvest for investment. They understood the needs of our businesses and gave us the support we needed, operationally and simply.

*Microinvest is the only non-bank credit institution in Moldova which adheres to international customer protection principles. They involve a responsible and transparent lending process, based on a fair, respectful and equitable approach to customer service.


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