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At Atlántica Agrícola we invest 10% of our turnover in researching new formulations for modern agriculture.

Interview with Francisco M. Miguel Sastre, General Manager of Atlántica Agrícola.
Business Excellence Special, May 2018 for the newspaper El Mundo.

For more than 35 years, Atlántica Agrícola has been placing its agronutrients for agricultural use on the global market. They are specialized in developing and manufacturing these products and their main objective is to provide solutions to the nutritional and health problems that farmers face in their crops, by providing them with efficient and quality products.

What are your main product lines?

We make two types of products: speciality fertilizers and biopesticides. Their usefulness, if we compare crops with people, are food and health respectively: the fertilisers feed the plants and the phytosanitary products act as medicines. What we do in relation to food does not involve producing meat or fish, instead, we produce functional foods, food supplements and vitamins. It is what is known as functional fertilization. . This range of products includes biostimulants, humic acids, deficiency correctors, foliar fertilizers and soluble fertilizers. Healthwise, we are committed to creating plant extract-based pesticides that do not contain molecules synthesized in laboratories.

Atlántica Agrícola comenzó su actividad en el sector agrícola en 1982

What are agricultural biostimulants?

A biostimulant is a substance (or a mixture of substances) or a microorganism designed to be applied to plant crops, seeds or roots (rhizosphere) with the objective of stimulating biological processes and, therefore, improving the availability of nutrients and optimising their absorption; increasing tolerance to abiotic stresses; or aspects related to the quality of the harvest. Put simply, they are products that improve the diet, health and resistance of plants, which translates into an improvement of the yield and quality of their fruits. In Europe, new legislation is being created to regulate fertilizers and this will include the definition of biostimulant, which has been cut to ensure that they will not be used to “camouflage” products with phytosanitary effects. That is to say, the biotic stress of the plant, which may arise from an attack by a bacterium or a fungus, will be excluded from its uses, and there will only be mention of biostimulants as products that combat abiotic stress caused by drought, by high or low temperatures, etc.

How do laws banning the use of certain products affect you?

We have been on the market for 36 years and for 36 years we have asked to be regulated, because there has always been more or less clear legislation in place for fertilizers and phytosanitary products, but special nutrients have never been legislated. In Spain, we have always had quite advanced laws compared to the rest of the world but, until now, they had not legislated this type of product at European level but there will finally be a European regulation that recognize them in a couple of years.

How do biopesticides work?

They are a series of plant substances, botanical extracts, that have phytosanitary properties that combat certain pests that attack crops. They are completely natural products. We have a specific division for them, Bioatlántica, We have a specific division for them, Bioatlántica, which consists of a farm located in Honduras where the plants we use for these products are grown and a factory where the active substances are extracted and the final product is formulated. The problem is that there are not many regulations to date that address this type of product. Almost all of them are intended for phytosanitary products which are synthetic molecules made in a laboratory. We work with plant extracts that contain thousands or even millions of active substances in very small amounts and that produce these effects when combined. The current regulations make it practically impossible, or very expensive and very long-winded, to register these types of products in Europe. Luckily, there are other countries where the legislation has already been adapted and they can be registered, as in some Latin American countries, for example.

Is this the reason why the Bioatlántica factory is in Honduras?

This is because of the proximity of raw materials. The species from which we extract the products are endemic to tropical areas, and it seemed more efficient to take the factory there and bring the extract back in tanks. In Central America they have always used plant extracts in agriculture. Farmers have passed down to their sons their knowledge about the use of certain herbs to control various pests. We were made aware of these products through our distribution subsidiary in Honduras. We started by buying them from local producers and then, because of a quality control and production control issue, we decided to make them ourselves. For the rest of the products, our production centre is in Villena (Alicante), a key place for Spanish agriculture due to its proximity to Murcia and Almería, the main areas of intensive agriculture in Spain.

Simulación Nueva Fábrica Atlántica Agrícola en Villena, Alicante, EspañaWhat resources does Atlántica Agrícola allocate to R&D?

We invest approximately 10% of our turnover in researching and developing new formulations for modern agriculture. All of our products are the result of our own developments, the secret is in the formula. We work on two fundamental lines of research. On the one hand, we continue to investigate new biostimulants with more defined or more specific effects for each type of crop. On the other hand, we continue developing more and better biocontrol products from botanical extracts, as we have done until now, as well as microorganisms and their fermentations.

In which countries can your products be found?

We operate in more than 60 countries across four continents.We are a constantly expanding company, with a strong involvement in exports, and we have a solid commercial network through exclusive distributors, in addition to owning six subsidiaries in Latin America (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru and Brazil).

What are the next goals you have set yourselves?

As a company, we have a single objective, which is to grow in three areas: the countries where we already offer our current products; the countries where we are not yet present and the number of products we have on the market.

What do you think the future of the sector will look like?

It is a sector that will definitely grow, whether we like it or not, because our population continues to grow and by 2050, there will be more than 9 billion of us. We assume, expect and hope that all of these people will be better fed compared to people nowadays. Therefore, agricultural production has to grow a lot, but arable land cannot grow in the same way because that would mean deforesting large areas. With this in mind, the only way we can feed all these people is through greater productivity, and one of the main ways to make every hectare of crops more productive is through biostimulation and functional fertilization.

Francisco M. Miguel Sastre Director General de Atlántica AgrícolaWe formulate two types of products: speciality fertilizers and biopesticides. Their usefulness, if we compare crops with people, are food and health respectively: the fertilizers feed the plants and the biocontrol products act as natural medicines.

Francisco M. Miguel Sastre

General Manager of Atlántica Agrícola