San Isidro de Loxa’s strategy involves two essential points: a circular economy, and diversification. Using the circularity premise is not just an option or a marketing strategy; the company started up the ‘Oleovaloriza Project’ in 2018, which received the Agri ForValor Award for the Best Business Model 2018. This process revalues sub-products and eliminates the effluents from the pools (sludge) and the olive grove waste, taking advantage of them for different purposes, such as producing top-quality agricultural fertiliser for its green asparagus crops (a project that they carried out together with the UGR and the CSIC). They also have a plant for the valuation, clarification and marketing of olive stones as standardised quality biomass for biofuel preparation, and they are carrying out trials to reuse the pulp for animal feed.
“The compost gives very good results in the fields. It increases the yield and is suitable for ecological crops.” The benefits have already been seen in the fields and “we have a waiting list of our associates to purchase this fertiliser,” the company’s sales manager, Jorge Rodríguez, affirms.
Following the same line involving backing sustainability, they have installed solar panels and they are undergoing a carbon footprint certification phase, “an aspect that the distribution chains are increasingly demanding,” as well as for the GlobalG.A.P. Spring module (sustainable water management.)
The second point of their business model, diversification, combines fresh crops such as asparagus with Fresh Cut and Ready-cooked lines. Alongside olive oil production, they have whole and chopped conserved asparagus in extra virgin olive oil, 100% natural, in water (just asparagus, water, salt and lemon), asparagus jam and candied artichokes in extra virgin olive oil. “It is a way of bringing added value to the produce, as well as looking for alternatives,” particularly when the prices drop.
However, it is worth remembering that although the Spanish canned product market is strong, in asparagus there is “a great deal of competition” from China, Peru and Chile. “Defending a quality product is complicated. In Spain, consumers are tempted by a good price.”
San Isidro de Loxa was established in 1958. Currently, 1,400 associate families work in the cooperative, cultivating 850 has, mainly in Granada and the rest in Antequera (Malaga). In 2021 they harvested 3.5 million kg of green asparagus and in 2022, 2 million kg.