“There is a deadline that the largest companies in the sector will not meet”
In the midst of the crisis due to the pandemic and with the significant changes that the new EU’s new sustainability strategies for farming will mean, at Fruit Today we are asking whether it is both possible and necessary to maintain R&D.
The ‘Biodiversity Strategy’ and ‘From the Farm to the Table’ mean important reductions in plant protection products and Freshfel or Cooperativas Agro-Alimentarias advance that there will be an increase production costs. Will greener farming be feasible without damaging farmers’ pockets?
The way that the agrifood system is currently structured, where there is a virtually complete dependence on chemicals and in view of the scenario set forth by the EU to reduce them by 50% in 2030, it is understandable that there are organisations that believe this.
I have no doubt that if a farmer had natural tools which had the same efficiency and cost as chemical ones, there would be no problem regarding drops in productivity.
At MAAVi Innovation Center, we use biotechnological processes for the R&D of natural solutions in line with the market demands, which are ‘residue free’, but also in line with the producer’s demand, which is ‘don’t make my productivity drop’. At present, we are very alone in developing this model.
They wanted to purchase Kimitec 47 times in 2018/19. Recently Syngenta purchased Valagro. Has the race for the ‘green’ industry of bio pesticides already started?
Kimitec has had, and will have many suitors in the future, but for what I can see the intention of the CEO, Félix García, lies a long way from selling. I know a great deal about the value proposition of the type of companies that are being acquired on the international market. The reason behind the purchases is very clear. There is a deadline that the large companies in the sector are not going to meet and before developing their own solutions, they prefer to purchase companies like ours, which have already gone down this route. We have a different value to the entire offer available.
Now we are turning the MAAVi Innovation Center into a biotechnology hub that serves the different agrochemical multinationals and large producers, but we still enjoy our own autonomy and independence.
In this race by the green industry of bio pesticides, we intend to use the concept of the MAAVi Labs to showcase our MAAVi Innovation Center, to make R&D more popular and to put it into practice with the large producers who want to become more powerful and move forward quickly in tailor-made solutions to their problems.
Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice Chairman of the EC said that “Coronavirus has revealed our vulnerability and the importance of re-establishing the balance between human activity and nature.” How are you working to contribute to this?
If this crisis has shown something, it is to make us realise that the entire production system must work towards a balance with nature. But, if it also awakens awareness about the impact of our footprint on the environment, that is great, because the imbalance does not stop growing. We must not forget that policies from the Green Deal and the From the Farm to the Table were started before coronavirus, although perhaps now they can begin to be understood better, as we have seen how the imbalance can unleash immediate situations with very serious consequences for human beings.
In Kimitec’s case, we maintain agricultural productivity with the development of natural tools that really are an alternative to chemical synthesis. Another element that is also urgent, because for some time now we have been observing how in the primary sector, the one that feeds people, they are eliminating and reducing the chemical synthesis molecules available to fight against pests and disease.
It is important that we never forget that productivity is essential because, otherwise, we might be the most sustainable region in the world, but we will lose our competitive edge and where would that leave us?
At our head offices, we are implementing tools that allow us to shorten deadlines, growing in robotics, deep learning and adding ‘omic’ sciences to develop in time and form, the natural tools that the producers need to maintain their competitiveness.
Is innovation for those who want to or just those who can? Is the crisis affecting them?
Innovation needs to be constant; there is no need for significant budgets or important investments. Companies that minimise investment in times of crisis will probably be affected more when coming out of the crisis.
It is not affecting our R&D area; we are weathering it very successfully. In international development, obviously, we have had to adapt ourselves and redirect a great deal of the work to the digital field, but, even so, we have exceeded our expectations.
Being present in 94 countries has brought a great deal to the company. In the end, the world is like a balloon; if we squeeze it in one place, a bubble always appears in another. The more globalised you are, the less you suffer.
At Kimitec we have over 40 people in R&D, but 100% of the staff innovates. The atmosphere of creativity and shared knowledge is what makes the company different.