We went to the Juan Espadafor airfield, on the Costa Tropical. By accident or not, the installations of Sigfrido Fruit are just a few minutes from the aeronautical infrastructures.
Part of my interview took place peacefully in a Sky Force ELA 10, flying over the unique nooks and crannies offered by this stretch of Malaga coastline and moving deeper into the southernmost foothills of the Penibetic Mountain range. I immediately went from the initial terror to calm because I knew I was in the hands of a masterful pilot. Flying in this way means managing a set of perceptions and feelings that are not known on the ground.
The businessman Sigfrido Molina was born in Alcaucín, a village of around 2,000 inhabitants in the Upper Axarquia region. He is great father who loves travelling with his children to eat the best hamburgers in Seville, taking them on cruises or supporting them with activities that interest them.
Over the next few days, his company, Sigfrido Fruit, will commemorate its first decade of existence. It is a case, at the very least, which is worth studying because the entrepreneurial zeal and the brave character of my interviewee has made Sigfrido into a renowned and prestigious company, not only in Spain and Europe, but also outside our borders, as it is currently opening up markets in destinations such as the Middle East and North America. To celebrate the occasion a party is being prepared in the company’s installations, and I was lucky enough to share part of the rehearsals for the aerial acrobatics that would delight the guests that night.
You are the first person I know whose hobby is the gyroplane. I imagined it to be somewhat old-fashioned.
Not at all; they are very up-to-date machines, very practical and safe. In a very simple way, it is an aeroplane with a rotating wing instead of a fixed one which rotates during all the phases of the flight. They have always attracted me, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that I dived in, and I think I will never give it up now.
So, this is not just a hobby, but also a very efficient form of transport for someone who is always in a hurry. A way to avoid controls and queues at the airport.
Indeed; now, whenever the distance allows me, as the fuel tank is not very big and I have to refuel, I travel in it and I fly the Malaga-Madrid route in two and a half hours or I go to Huelva and back in the same day.
Is there a reason behind this love of heights?
Yes, I did my military service in the Military Air Academy; I graduated as an officer and was destined to Zaragoza. I always liked the discipline of the military and, particularly, aviation.
So, if you were not in the world of avocados, you might have continued in the army?
Possibly, but the circumstances at the time when I had to decide brought me where I am today.
How do you remember your childhood?
I had a very happy childhood; I lived completely in the country. I am the son and grandson of farmers, and until I was 18 I lived in Alcaucín, a small village in Upper Axarquía. My earliest memories are linked to the voice of Elena Francis on the radio whilst we worked in the fields. In the village there were no shops and I remember how the mules arrived with their baskets packed with all the orders: from plasticine for the children to saucepans for the women. The fishmonger and the butcher also came to sell their goods once or twice a week.
What was your life like in the village?
I worked with my father in the fields from a young age. I am the oldest of three brothers and there was a strong feeling of responsibility and sacrifice in my house. My mother had delicate health for a time and spent long periods in bed, so the men of the house, and particularly me, as I was the oldest, took charge of the household chores.
Under those circumstances, my father preferred us to stay in the fields.
But he didn’t want you to study?
He saw it in his own way; he wanted his son to be there, helping him because, according to him, there was enough work for all of us. I, on the other hand, wanted to leave home and go away to study. So we had to reach an agreement: I would go to Malaga to study to become a teacher from Monday to Wednesday and the rest of the week I would return to help him in the fields. And this is what I did. We had different points of view about what we wanted from life.
I suppose that these are the typical disagreements that each of us have with our children and the way we look at life.
Yes, that’s right. Although on this aspect we did not agree, we have always been very close, and my father is very proud of my career. Another of the things that I did was to sign up for private classes in French and in the second year, when I was fifteen, I bought a junior ticket and, after 35 hours and five train changes, I reached northern France. I wanted to see the world.
I presume your father is the first to be happy about your successes.
We have an incredible relationship. In fact, in the near future we will hold an event to honour him. In spite of the generational differences, I have always felt very close to my parents and grandparents.
Living in southern Spain, with its Arab roots, what occurred to your parents to give you such an unusual, Nordic name?
I am the second generation of Sigfridos. I owe it to my grandfather who was reading ‘Genoveva de Brabante’ and he set his mind on the name and gave it to my father, and my father gave it to me.
And have you followed the tradition?
Yes, I think it is a name that is at least original. My eldest son is also called Sigfrido. And now Sigfrido is a well-known brand of avocados. (Laughter).
You are right, it has originality and colour.
And you were a teacher setting up a company, with all that involves. Wouldn’t it have been better to study agricultural engineering?
Teaching might not give you all the tools to set up a business, but it gives you a great deal of general culture, which is necessary when you try to understand life.
What do ten years of business with Sigfrido Fruit mean?
They mean goals reached. One of them was to make our production hit the markets directly, with its own identity and excellent quality, and this we have achieved. The next challenge is to reach the large distribution chains maintaining our philosophy, at the same time as developing the HORECA channel, selling to the top restaurants straights from the fields, and we are also achieving this, with a great effort and dedication. We are very proud of the work we do each day and out incredible team.