RICARDO HERRERA

Ecuador 2020 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

Grupo Corporativo Visión looks to revolutionize the local food sector with its research-based Nourishment City project.

Ricardo Herrera
BIOGRAPHY

Ricardo Herrera is an Ecuadorian businessman currently serving as President of Grupo Corporativo Visión. He is behind one of the most innovative projects in the country's food industry, Ciudad de la Alimentación (Nourishment City). He has also been President of the Ecuadorian Chamber of the Tuna Industry and Processors. (CEIPA).

How did Grupo Corporativo Visión evolve from being a business focused on fishing to expanding its presence to other sectors?

Grupo Corporativo Visión is a family-owned conglomerate that for many years has focused on producing and exporting sea products, though in recent years it has been exploring the aquaculture and agricultural industries. Our investment portfolio in the industry is fairly diverse and includes companies focused on transforming raw material and exports, aquaculture and agricultural research, as well as other activities in the fields of real estate, technology, communications, and scientific research in molecular biotechnology. We have been exporting food products for over 30 years. We have a strong presence in the tuna segment with products from our territorial sea, shrimp harvested through aquaculture, soups and salads with local products, and, lastly, pet food. Our objective is to grow as a company in sync with the maturity of the food industry. We also want to expand into activities that the natural flow of international business demands.

Grupo Corporativo Visión is embarking on a ground-breaking project called Ciudad de la Alimentación (Nourishment City). How was it conceived?

Beyond creating more jobs, Ciudad de la Alimentación seeks to develop new sources of raw materials to support our economy in the future by including small aquaculture and agriculture producers and providing training based on scientific and technological research to achieve significant production in small areas. This initiative intends to identify family-owned sustainable production enterprises as the main suppliers of local and exporting food industries. This has earned a positive reputation in domestic and international markets, as it involves responsible practices toward small producers. Investing in research led us to launch pilot plans to grow prawn in greenhouses in an extremely efficient and sustainable manner. Scientific research in molecular biotechnology is the backbone of the project in order to find and apply improvements in every possible aspect of production. As a result of the application of these biotechnological tools, greater and better production is expected both in terms of quantity and quality. These seek to perfect the existent components of each element involved in the various production lines. So far, for instance, we have increased productivity by 32 times compared to extensive and traditional shrimp aquaculture. Also, by using the intensive bioengineered method, we ensure that neither the water used nor the water put back into the sea is polluted. We have invested in our labs to package a solution for small or medium-size producers to enable them to maximize their production and link their products to greater commercial value chains. More than a place, Ciudad de la Alimentación is a concept of evolution reengineering regarding the way the agroindustry sector should evolve through technology, added to an efficient logistic, industry, and market coordination.

What products do you hope to add to the current list of exported Ecuadorian products through this project?

We are currently exploring the market to find products of high unmet international demand that can be sustainably produced and delivered seasonally, fresh and of a high quality. For example, Fashion watermelons and Adora tomatoes are produced and sold in Europe. These are produced in a standardized manner to ensure they look, taste, and feel the same. We are reproducing this model, although this is a long-term, multigenerational project. There is already a roadmap developed in which we have defined the stages of the project. First, we need to identify the high-value products that would have a sustainable market even after accounting for logistical expenses. Then, we will start producing these existing and proven products and contribute to their global supply. Finally, we hope to create our own brand with vegetal and/or animal products under this trend. These products would also benefit from Ecuador's current push to establish more trade agreements to promote the country's products to international markets.

What is the timeline for the construction of Ciudad de la Alimentación?

Investment and development of the project has started in the form of the research facilities and work underway. We hope that over the course of 2020 we can launch the commercial production of shrimp. We already do it on a small scale, since we have 3,000sqm of sustainable and freshwater prawns. From there, we know there will be great interest from private groups, and we expect to grow to 500ha in the next four or five years under these production models.