Class of 2012 Les Roches Crans-Montana Bachelor alumnus Ashraf Fala is today Managing Partner, Business & Development, at Caribbean World Resorts Soma Bay, and Founder and CEO of O’ROOTS organic farms. He shares with us the story of his innovative and sustainable agricultural concept.
5-star hotel Caribbean World Resorts Soma Bay is a beautiful beachfront resort located 45km south of Hurghada, Egypt. It was Ashraf Fala’s father who took on the challenge of opening the property over a decade ago, building his hotel, as its name suggests, around a Caribbean-inspired theme, with flavors of the islands, an entertaining ambiance, and numerous restaurants and amenities.
Joining the family business
After graduating from Les Roches with honors, and with an entrepreneurship specialization, it wasn’t Ashraf’s first intention to go back home and join the family business. He had received a great offer to work in the fascinating city of Dubai. Call it fate, but before moving there, he decided to fly back to the family resort for a couple of weeks to get ready for his new adventure. That’s when it hit him.
“I went to the hotel and I started seeing things that I wanted to change. I thought ‘You can go to Dubai now and make a great career or stay here and support the family business’. It took me one week to make my mind up. I gave up on the Dubai job and decided to stay in the family business. Breaking down the system and rebuilding it with some ideology was not easy. I started training people, developing restaurants, and renovating parts of the hotel.” – Ashraf Fala.
Today, Caribbean World Resorts (CWR) Soma Bay welcomes tourists from all over the world and provides them with high-quality services for a great Egyptian experience. But a whole new project was waiting at the door for the alumnus.
Going organic: O’ROOTS organic farms
After working for CWR for a few years and managing the property’s development, Ashraf – being a passionate foodie – started learning more about hydroponic gardening and systems, and organic food. Funnily enough, his Bachelor’s thesis was around offering a spa retreat with an organic lifestyle and experience. We could say the circle is now complete!
He adds, “I had zero experience in agriculture, and that’s where the entrepreneurship that we learned at Les Roches came in. I started evolving, learning, checking other projects on YouTube, reading academics, started seeing a couple of farms in Egypt that had opened and then closed. And from there, I knew I wanted to do something like this. From 2017 until 2019, that’s two years of planning. I did not know how to start, how to evolve into such a project, where to begin. And then, one day, six months before my marriage, I thought ‘OK, let’s do this!’”
That is when the O’ROOTS concept emerged. Ashraf came up with a business plan and imported their first greenhouse to start planting vegetables on the resort’s land, in the desert! Needless to say, they are currently the only organic farm on the Red Sea as it is a huge, nearly impossible, challenge to plant and produce in the desert. Little by little, they started seeing their first produce grow and served it at the hotel.
“And I still remember when we had our first 100 kilos of lettuce!”
Then, 2020 happened. The family started seeing on TV that flights were being canceled one after the other; and therefore, hotel operations were not going to work as planned. Ashraf mentions that “this was the alarm for me. I absolutely wanted to get some feedback on the organic produce and find out if what I was doing was actually good or not”.
He started giving out lettuces to the hotel’s clients, organizing tastings, and bringing them inside the farm to show them the produce and the whole system. “I wanted to show them the peaceful vibe of the farm, something different. They were impressed.”
Soon after, businesses were starting to close, and it became more and more complicated for hotels to receive supplies of vegetables from Cairo. O’ROOTS suddenly started to supply neighboring hotels and to sell at the supermarket.
“People were asking about the brand, how we did it, if it was organic. They really enjoyed the products and supported our project. We started evolving, and by summer 2020, we were the number one farm in the area,” he explains.
After starting collaborations with local supermarkets, and with restaurants and hotels of all classes in the area of the Red Sea, they decided to try and conquer Cairo. The best way to get started? Going to the city, with the resort’s car, vegetables and fruits in the trunk, to see what would happen during a one-week delivery. And with their high-quality products, they were, fortunately, able to seduce a great Italian chain!
“Since then, we are doing great. And now, we’re also trying to feed the community in Hurghada. We give food to people who need it. We want to evolve and be part of the community, because, at the end of the day, a business isn’t only about how much you will spend and make, but also how much you’re going to give back to the community. We want to mainly focus on schools because kids are going to build the future.”
More about O’ROOTS
O’ROOTS specializes in hydroponic agricultural systems and is one of the first concepts of its kind to begin such development in Egypt and, particularly, in the Red Sea region.
The farm is all about producing the highest quality of vegetables and fruits in an innovative and sustainable structure. Today, this new, and ambitious, agricultural concept offers fresh products that were previously not available in Egypt. To achieve such production, desalinated water is used, supplemented with soilless greenhouses.
As a hydroponic system farm, O’ROOTS offers various services to its clients – some of which are also beneficial to our planet – such as facilitating increased renewable energy and waste efficiency, distribution in supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants across the Red Sea, and door-to-door delivery.
“It isn’t simply a hope that land can be sustainable and beneficial to the planet; it isn’t simply a hope that the value Egyptians receive for their food reflects the genuine expense of production, rather than excessive delivery fees. It’s a reality with O’ROOTS.” – Ashraf Fala.