35 years ago, Kathnic Nursery (Letsitele), owned by Nico Gey van Pittius, had been under quarantine for three years. Owner Nico and Abs van Rooyen, founder of the Du Roi Group and the ANB Investments Group, agreed that should Abs succeed in getting the quarantine lifted, he would obtain a 50% share in the business.


Du Roi Nursery – 35 years of excellence!

Du Roi Nursery, which specialises in the propagation of citrus plant material, celebrates its 35-year anniversary this year. Initially known as Kathnic Nursery (Letsitele), the facility had been under quarantine for three years when owner Nico Gey van Pittius contracted Abs van Rooyen, founder of the Du Roi and the ANB Investments Groups, to rid the nursery of its quarantine status.
After only five months, the nursery was free to open its gates and, within two years, Abs purchased the nursery from Nico. The success of the Du Roi Nursery model resulted in the establishment of various tissue culture and entomology businesses, including Du Roi IPM, the Du Roi date project in Namibia, QMS, Multiplant and Microplant.

Says general manager, Anne-Helene Meyer: “Those who have gone before us have established a shared culture of being satisfied with nothing less than excellence, of not merely accepting the status quo, but of challenging the way things have always been done. Innovation has never been just another vague ideal, but a very real business approach resulting in industry-changing developments that have impacted the lives of agricultural role players, and even the consumer, throughout the world.”

Innovation at its core

The trendsetting Nadorcott mandarin varietyThe Nadorcott variety, today sold world-wide as the successful ClemenGold mandarin brand, was one of the initial new varieties that contributed to the success of the Du Roi business. The plant material was imported by sister company, Citrogold, and speculation trees were prepared at Du Roi after the mandatory quarantine period. “However, we couldn’t convince any of our existing clients to risk planting this new variety, given the uncertainties and prior history with new varieties,” says Anne-Helene. “Consequently, Indigo Fruit Farming (also part of the ANB Group) planted the speculation trees.”

The trendsetting Nadorcott mandarin variety
Despite the initial resistance, the Nadorcott soon became a very sought-after variety and today, there are more than 200 producers of the variety in South Africa alone. 

Some Other Nursery Highlights:

  • 2008 – Dedicated bio-secure nursery structures were registered as greenhouses free from citrus black spot (CBS). This opened new markets for the delivery of trees in areas classified as “low CBS incidence” and African greening areas such as Weipe, Tshipise, Vivo, and neighbouring African markets.
  • 2011 – Du Roi introduced cocopeat substrate into its operation and phased out the traditional composted pine bark. The advantages included a water saving of 30-35% as cocopeat has a far better water-holding capacity, while the significantly improved rooting reduces a tree’s life cycle in the nursery from 20-18 months to 16-14 months. Cocopeat substrate is also naturally free of pathogens, such as Phytophthora and Pythium.
  • 2012 – The introduction of micropropagation of citrus trees in a 250 ml torpedo plug (instead of 4 L bags) allows the nursery to produce cost-effective mini-citrus trees for export to African clients and satellite nurseries.
  • 2019 – Du Roi added a bag filling machine to its operations, providing better ergonomic working conditions for workers, while also improving the consistency of the filling of bags, resulting in more uniform growth and watering of plants in the nursery.
    • 2019 – The introduction of the Ellepot system ensured a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way to propagate plants. Biodegradable paper, used instead of plastic trays or bags, ensures healthier and faster root development that shortens the life cycle of a plant. The citrus plant is planted with the biodegradable paper, which significantly reduces transplant shock, for a significantly improved transplanting process.
      As we celebrate our 35th anniversary, we look back with pride at our journey and forward with excitement for the innovations yet to come. Thank you for being a part of our story!