From all things coconut, to working to build sustainable livelihoods for their farmer partners, to being good stewards of ecology, Big Tree Farms is a champion for a brighter future in food and it's an ethos that starts right at the top.
Ben Ripple, one of the founders, had set a foundation of six long years in sustainable agriculture on his small Balinese farm but, in 2006 things quickly began to evolve towards the company as it is today, when Big Tree Farms started to work with a small group of cacao farmers on Western Bali. The goal was to create more transparent market access for these farmers, by helping add value to their cacao and selling to the global premium chocolate market.
It was pure serendipity that Ben was introduced to Frederick Schilling, the founder of Dagoba, an innovator in gourmet and organic chocolate. With Frederick's expertise, and a lot of hard work, the cacao program flourished and became the global model for a transparent sustainable cacao program. The next question was, "how can we add more value to the cacao and not just sell the bulk beans?" The answer was clear, their marvelous beans transformed into deliciously responsible chocolate products.
The vision to build a chocolate factory quickly expanded into building the most sustainable and extraordinary chocolate factory possible and on November 11th, 2011, Big Tree Farms opened their newly constructed chocolate factory, built entirely out of bamboo.
All the while, the focus on expanding their organic coconut supply chain never slowed. In 2008, what was a supply chain built on 350 farmers, has now blossomed into the world's largest and most sustainable coconut supply chain, impacting over 14,000 organic farmers.
Big Tree Farms now operates, along with it's bamboo chocolate factory, 2 factories dedicated to coconut, all focused on creating world-class products, sourced with the highest ethical and social standards.
Ben, an expert in sustainable and ethical supply chains and Frederick, a passionate and innovative chocolate expert navigate the tricky waters of sustainable, ethical, and organic tropical food stuffs with an elegance that belies the true effort and determination it takes to do things right. Yet, after extensive trial and error, Big Tree Farms became the first company in the world to produce a truly raw cold processed organic cacao powder and butter. Big Tree then went on to introduce the world to the first organic coconut sugar and nectar.
Today, Big Tree Farms helps set the stage globally for demand of nutritious foods, being the first to offer on-demand coconut water, a more sustainable option than bottled; to pioneering cold-processed cacao products; and our coconut sugar, which authorities have called "the best alternative to cane sugar". Thanks to the passion and drive of its founders Ben and Frederick, Big Tree Farms continues to innovate and lead in emerging categories.
PT Bening/Big Tree Farms was founded by husband and wife team Ben and Blair Ripple in July 2003. The initial focus of the company was on the introduction and dissemination of modern-day organic farming techniques and marketing systems. During the next 3 years, focus shifted to expanding procurement from the original focus of fresh produce to a wider range of artisanal ingredients sourced from around the Indonesian archipelago. These products, along with the unique model of entrepreneur-driven sustainable development, attracted the attention of international specialty food markets, winning multiple awards, extensive media recognition and international public speaking engagements. Ben speaks fluent Indonesian and has, during the 12 years of his full-time tenure, consulted with numerous governmental and non-governmental institutions including the US Embassy, USAID, AUSAID and even the President of Indonesia (2003-2004). His skills and knowledge on the ground overseeing and expanding Big Tree Farms’ ever-growing supply chains have contributed to Big Tree Farms rapid growth. When he is not visiting with farmers, he can be found in the ocean surfing the legendary waves of Indonesia and spending time with wife, Blair Ripple and their two daughters, Lila and Magnolia.
Founder of the innovative chocolate brand that gave birth to the global fair trade chocolate industry, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, Frederick Schilling successfully sold Dagoba to The Hershey Company 5 years after pouring his first bar. He was a pioneer in transforming the chocolate industry to what it is today. Fair trade, farmer direct, single origin and innovative infusions were the innovations of Dagoba and are now the industry norm. Additionally he is the co-founder of AMMA Chocolate, Brazil’s leading premium chocolate manufacturer. Frederick is a founding member of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, has contributed to the World Cocoa Foundation and spoken at numerous conferences and colleges, including Harvard Business School and Stanford’s Business School’s forum on Sustainable Supply Chains. He has been featured in numerous articles, including a feature story in The New Yorker. When Frederick is not zigzagging around the globe introducing the world to Big Tree Farms, he can be found on his mountain or road bike, enjoying the nature of Southern Oregon or adventure riding in far away lands.
Luthfi joined Big Tree Farms with vast experience from several major food manufacturing companies. Prior to joining BTF, he spent 6 years in PT Mayora Indah as a lead Manufacturing Manager, responsible for manufacturing performance and expansion projects. He then went on to spend 8 years at Pepsico as Operations Manager, overseeing Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. As Operations Manager he lead the implementation of key strategic projects, developed partner capabilities and ensured compliance to the company's standards on all manufacturing, supply chain and quality key criteria. In lazy times, he brings his wife and 2 kids to the place where they can be with nature; such as camping, mountain climbing, rafting, snorkeling or diving.
Anton comes to Big Tree Farms with over 20 years' experience in cost accounting and management accounting with global food manufacturing giant, Nestle and vertically integrated pineapple processor, Great Giant Pineapple. Anton’s experience with Nestle was formative; having started as a junior cost accountant in Nestlé's East Java milk powder manufacturing facility and growing over a period of 16 years to a senior country-level manager for Management Accounts. At Great Giant Pineapple, Antonius gained experience in plantation/agri-financial management. Antonius' core competencies include building departments, overseeing multiple manufacturing operations and being responsible for strategic management of finances and profitable corporate growth. When Antonius is not busy managing Big Tree Farms’ financials, he can be found relaxing with his family and enjoying the nature of Bali and Java.
The board of Big Tree Farms is made up of a group of prominent, experienced, and conscientious people committed to better lifestyles and healthier products. The board is an active group and spends a significant amount of time helping BTF be more successful - a rarity in private equity investing, and for a company at this stage in development.
Big Tree Farms operates what we call sustainable supply chains on more than 10 islands across Indonesia’s archipelago of 17,000 islands and atolls. These sustainable supply chains are actually deeply involved social relationships with individual farmers and community farmer groups. The producers involved become part of our tight-knit community and their needs, hopes and dreams become integral to our corporate vision.
When Big Tree Farms first began growing bio-intensively in the central highlands of Bali, the vision was to create a sustainable model of small-scale agriculture for growers in the humid tropics. An immaculate cultural heritage of sustainable farming had been nearly wiped out years before by transnational campaign extolling the market-oriented virtues of the new commercial farm culture. High input use and overly intensive production systems were established and quickly zapped the strength of the fragile tropical soils.
The beautiful system of old simply didn’t work economically, and the precepts of “new” farming simply didn’t work ecologically. Small farmers were becoming disenfranchised and anything began to look better than the choice to farm. The key to the model developed by Big Tree Farms was creating the power of choice. By creating a model that worked both economically and ecologically, small farmers were able to celebrate the unique attributes of their agricultural heritage while still succeeding in the marketplace. The farms are finally “working” for the farmers. Balance.
Big Tree Farms is surrounded with like-minded individuals, all seeking to inspire and make the world a better place. By preparing food with the ingredients we make, pushing the limits of physical strength through sport and yoga, practicing and preserving the sustainable teachings of old or preserving and restoring the environment, our community is a collective that shines with vitality that we are grateful to take part in. "No man is an island" and "It takes a village" are core beliefs at Big Tree Farms. Through daily conscious actions founded on these beliefs; the Big Tree Community is helping make the world a better place one kind act at a time.