In cooperation with Agroatlas, the leading green bean marketer in Europe, a new firm specializing in organic production has been created in Almeria. "Biogrow Farms has been created both as a producer and marketer, specializing in vine and cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and organic watermelon," said Richi Menoyo, Chief Commercial Officer at Agroatlas.
The new company has several greenhouses and a handling center in the area of Nijar exclusively devoted to organic production. "To be precise, we have 100 hectares of tomatoes and, for now, the plantation is doing really well, with yields of 9-10 kilos per meter," said Juan Pérez, Biogrow Farms' technician, accompanied by Juanma Zapata, the company's sales representative, as they walk around inside the greenhouses, inspecting the bunches of vine tomatoes that are now turning red.
"In about a week, we will start harvesting and exporting them, mainly to Scandinavia, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and France. This year we are also going to ship our organic products to the English market for the first time."
Pablo Jesús Rodríguez supervising the handling and packing of the zucchini and tomatoes at Biogrow Farms' handling center
"We were the first producers of fine and extra-fine green beans in Morocco for European supermarkets"
Agroatlas' production subsidiary, Nature Growers, is located in Agadir, Morocco, where they have more than 700 hectares of their own for the production of their flagship product: green beans. "One of our specialties among the different bean varieties we produce is the extra-fine green bean," said Richi. "These beans are between 4 and 6 mm thick, and they were only available in Kenya and brought to Europe by plane until about 10 years ago. We were, in fact, the first producers of fine and extra-fine green beans from Morocco for European supermarkets and, since we started this project 7 years ago, we have managed to introduce our product into the range of most of the chains that work with green beans."
The Moroccan production, especially that from the area of Agadir and Ait Melloul, where Nature Growers has various farms, has benefited from the launch of the desalination plant, which has alleviated the strong pressure that the drought has exerted on local agriculture. The Moroccan government has also recently confirmed that it will build what will probably be the largest desalination plant in all of Africa in the Casablanca region. "Morocco is investing not only in sustainability but in the future of agriculture," said Richi. "They have decided to act quite quickly in the face of a problem that has affected not only large companies but also many small agricultural producers, whose livelihoods depend on their farms and who had to endure many difficulties in the months before the desalination plant became operational."
"This year, the problem has been the summer heat, which has put all of us producers in a very delicate situation. In August, we had a period of about 10 days when it was over 50 degrees in the shade, and a significant part of the production was lost. The worst consequence was not so much the volumes we stopped producing, but the delay in the production scheduled for autumn, since we had to replant, and instead of starting in weeks 39-40, we did it in weeks 43-44."
"Green beans are our number 1 product, but chili peppers are unquestionably number 2"
"We had difficulties to serve our customers during those 2-3 weeks, but in general, everyone was understanding about the reasons," said Richi. "In contrast, the heat did not affect our chili pepper production in the country, where we grow about 80 hectares and have one of the widest ranges of varieties available in Morocco right now. I would dare say that we are the largest producers of hot peppers in Morocco and, in fact, in recent years, our reputation has been built up not only on our green beans, but also on the growth we have achieved with hot peppers, the quality we have been providing, and the number of supermarkets in which we are present. Green beans are our number 1 product, but chili peppers are unquestionably number 2."
In Morocco, Agroatlas, backed by Nature Growers and the Menoyo Foundation, is carrying out a number of social projects aimed at improving the livelihood of local communities, including a new school that it will build together with a Dutch supermarket. They were also able to provide aid after the earthquake that took place last September in the Marrakech-Safi region. "Thanks to being in the area, we were able to mobilize quickly and bring food, water, blankets, and other basic necessities to one of the most affected villages in the mountains between Agadir and Marrakech," said Richi.
"My father was a visionary when he decided to come to Morocco to start this project because he was aware of the potential that the country offered. The 5 people who set up Nature Growers 10 years ago are now a big family, and over the years, with experience and dedication, and with the great team we have, we have become what we are today. Agroatlas, together with Nature Growers and now with Biogrow Farms, is a successful business model thanks to our clear social philosophy, which we learned from my father, Ricardo. We are already leaders, but there is still a long way to go to continue learning and growing," said Richi.