Ecuador seeks become the top producer of balsa wood in the world, and INMAIA is increasing production accordingly.

Vicente Izquierdo Aguilera

Vicente Izquierdo Aguilera is the founder and president of INMAIA and Ecuabalpro, companies dedicated to growing, processing, and exporting wooden products, especially balsa wood since 1990. He also founded an end product company in China in 2007, dedicated to supply kits for wind blades that produce clean energy. Since the beginning he has been focused on the environment, implementing reforestation at the core of his policies. He has represented Ecuador at Lions Clubs International contributing to community service programs for the most vulnerable.

How has INMAIA evolved as demand for balsa increases following new uses for this wood?

INMAIA is a wood industry company located in the center of Ecuador, and most of its production is destined for balsa wood products. Balsa wood is now considered a high-quality product. It originally served as a transportation vehicle in rivers to transport bananas and other products from the central region to the ports. Before colonial times, Ecuadorian indigenous communities used it as transport to trade products into Mexico. The French came to Ecuador and discovered that balsa wood was a light product, and then they innovated it and used it for its navy ships. Balsa wood was used in World War II both for ships and planes. Currently, the product undergoes several processes, and, thanks to the use of genetically improved seeds and our unique climate conditions, Ecuador's balsa is considered the best in the world. Our country is the top producer in the world of balsa wood; the largest consumer of balsa wood is China, where it is being used to build windmills for wind parks in China because it is a light material. Today, balsa wood is also used in fast trains floors, transportation, air transport containers, in the military industry, as well as wall panels in recording studios and more. It can also be mixed with other strong materials such as aluminum. It has low thermal conductivity, low density, and high resistance to compression, flexion, and traction. The country aims to continue being the top producer, and we need investors that want to develop other lines of business out of balsa wood.

Can you tell us about your corporate social responsibility practices, especially those related to the environment?

Since it was founded, INMAIA was born with species that can be re-planted. We are a company that is respectful toward the environment. We are always carrying out campaigns to protect the environment. In 2017, we planted 20,000 fruit trees around Quevedo to improve the environment and taught children and young people to look after the environment. We consider our corporate image related to taking care of the environment. We are always looking for new initiatives. It is not only the responsibility of the local and national government; it is a social responsibility that includes companies. The product guarantees the sustainability of the industry, and INMAIA is fully aware of that. We promote reforestation as one of the most efficient mechanisms to capture CO2. Reforestation can capture 10 tons of CO2 per year on average, if we plant 1 million trees per year. INMAIA planted 1.05 million trees in 2019 alone.

How are your investments meeting increasing international demand?

Currently, we have a project to increase 30% of our production in 2020 due to demand, which means we have to go from 30 containers per month to 40-50. We will create new jobs, and it will entail a larger investment. It is important that demand increases every year, and the more we plant, the more we produce. We will additionally have doubled our positive impact on the environment, because while balsa is growing, it captures CO2, improves the condition of the soil, and increases collection of water by aquifers. Its large timber surface attracts rain, and as it filters, it produces aquifers that can be later used for water in agriculture and other purposes. As per the balsa industry in Ecuador, we are an important part of the productive sector, and we want our country to continue on the path of the current government. The country has great conditions for the agricultural business. Our country is privileged because it has a relatively small territory with diverse and fertile terrains that are born at the ocean, go through the mountains, and end up down at the Amazon jungle. We hope the country keeps growing, and we have open arms for investors who have adequate technology to improve the quality of life.