GROWERS

Mexico 2017 | AGRICULTURE | B2B

Family farming is sowing more than just seeds in Mexico—it is about making investments in human capital and the environment to advance the country's economy.

Alán Aguirre
ALÁN AGUIRRE
General Director
Grupo Alta
Francisco Tapia
FRANCISCO TAPIA
Director General
Grupo Wellin

How has the company evolved, and what are your goals for the coming years?

Alán Aguirre Grupo Alta started 26 years ago as a family business. We began with 40ha of farmland and now have about 5,000ha. Around 70% of our land is in Sonora, and we produce mainly table grapes, which make up 40% of our business, while the other 60% comprises pecans, peaches, melons, watermelons, and cantaloupes. We also do vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and others. We would like to concentrate on three or four products like table grapes, pecans, and certain other specialties and produce them all-year round, not just in Mexico but in Central America, South America, and other parts of the world, to form alliances with other growers in other countries. Grupo Alta is a family company; currently, we have part of the second generation of the family working on different areas of the company such as growing, production, marketing, and sales. Therefore, the vision is to be able to keep it as a family business for many generations to come.

Francisco Tapia Grupo Wellin started 12 years ago in the farming business. We became organic by chance because we did not have the financial resources to buy pesticides. We used chicken manure, which was cheaper, and a concentrate of chili and garlic as repellent and vinegar as herbicide. Subsequently, a broker from the US came and took some soil samples to do tests; he said we could be in the organic business in less than a year. We started with grapes, then with squash and melons. Currently, 80% of our revenue is from organic farming, but we believe urban mining will become the main business for Grupo Wellin. Our urban mining project is a 2,000sqm facility with no emissions and zero waste. Using an ultrasonic generator we extract metals and non-metals from the printed circuit boards of the electronic devices that are thrown away. We employ biotechnology to remove all the gold, silver, platinum, and other valuables and recycle them. Mexico generates 900,000 tons of waste per year and is number one in Latin America in terms of waste creation. Brazil is another country that creates tons of waste annually; therefore, we will head there next.

How important is your company to the local economy?

AA We have many relationships with suppliers; we work directly and indirectly with many people in the sector and that helps the economy of Sonora and the whole country as well. When we supply our products to a grocery store or customer, we provide quality—quality flavor, security, health, and social responsibility. We are important for the economy of the state; however, we really want to be an example of how to take care of the people in a company. We pay our staff four or five times above the minimum salary; this is one of the ways in which we take care of our people. In addition, they have excellent housing and three meals a day. A large part of the success of the company is because of the workers here doing manual labor that allows us to produce high-quality products. Most of the staff that come back to us like the way we work with them, how they get paid, and the security they feel.

FT We want to transform and implement an open management system where people can actually read numbers and financial statements so they know how the business is going. We need to completely change the way we work and share profits with the people. We want everyone to have a sense of ownership and success. We are introducing this program and providing them with an education. We empower people to become better. We want to fight illiteracy and contribute as a company to literacy. I am doing it only for 600 employees on my farm right now; imagine if we can transform them to help better the lives of their families. We always strive to innovate and want to be the leader in terms of improving welfare via our products or services.