Posted: 1 month ago

Borja Gonzalez: Azud wants to be Part of Developing Agriculture Sector in Georgia

Interview with Mr. Borja Gonzalez, AZUD Regional Sales Manager and Agricultural Engineer.

Azud is one of the leading manufacturer of drip irrigation systems, backed by more than thirty years of experience. Company is now present in more than 100 countries with a team of more than 500 people around the world.

Currently Azud, together with Agro Solutions Group is working on developing irrigation projects in Georgia and is introducing modern technologies in Georgia's agriculture sector. 

Could you tell us about the collaboration between Azud and Agro Solutions? What are the projects you are currently working on with Agro Solutions?

We could say that the relationship between us has been “a love at first sight”. Our first collaboration started in 2019 when we meet each other, and after that time the business relationship has been increasing exponentially, boosted by the good synergies between both companies. The quality of the products and service, digitalization as a core vision of the future, and the 200% commitment to the client’s success are the mission that both companies have in common, so things just were going so easy from the very beginning as well as the human team is just amazing.

At this moment, we are working on different types of agricultural projects with national and international investors, mostly related to the nut and berries sectors. Those are some of the high-value crops that are becoming trending here recently, as are interesting in terms of higher profitability compared to other annual crops, based on a higher demand worldwide.

What is the purpose of your visit to Georgia? Did you share the experience of your company with your partners and did you discuss the cases of Agro Solutions?

Georgia has an incredible potential in the agricultural sector, due to the abundance of adequate environmental factors for agriculture, and its strategic geographic position between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, respectively. That circumstances along with the willingness of the Government to help the investments could make Georgia a relevant reference in agriculture within the region.

Consequently, there are a lot of chances to see here important agricultural developments, mostly in high-value crops in the coming years, mainly thanks to the diverse agroclimatic zones exiting all throughout the country, the excellent fertility of soils for farming purposes, and the great number of hydric resources the entire Country has available.

However, not everything is as good as it seems. There are other limitations that are a real threat to the business success nowadays, some of those as the lack of infrastructure for irrigation water distribution during some period of the year that restrict the crop growth, lack of agronomic experience in specific crops that may decrease the potential farming yields, or experienced manpower shortage on the field for some specific works as land preparation, pruning, or harvesting that are making some the agricultural entrepreneurs already struggle in this way.

In addition to that, professional agriculture, as we know it in Spain, has just started here. Need to be aware that the results in this sector are shown in not less than 5-6 years period, hence, the right decisions should be taken on the early project stages, from the very beginning on the concept design, before going into any investment. Risks need to be analyzed properly, covering all the conditioning from land suitability to crop variety selection and its production system. Also, to decide how to approach the post-harvesting processes, production certification for export market, and marketing, if possible, to get the added value of the foodstuff. 

For my personal experience in this sector, I have seen some projects in different countries where some critical project considerations such as the selection of the land improperly from the agronomic point of view, or the planting distances and tree variety-rootstock selection, for example, has conditioned a very large investment with a structural error from the beginning, which have marked the economic infeasibility of the project a few years later. Under those circumstances, carrying out any type of corrective measures afterwards was totally economically unfeasible.

There’s thereafter, where we both AZUD in a strategic alliance with our local partner AGRO SOLUTIONS, can help to the Georgian producers and investors to support their decisions in any moment, to lead their projects moving into the right direction. By taking the correct decision on time, thus avoiding facing major problems in the future and secure the economic feasibility. As we like to say, "Success lies in strategic collaborations, one alone advances quickly, but as a group one goes further". And there is where the deep collaboration with the appropriate partner relies for the business success.

Could you tell us more about Azud? In what countries does the company operate and what are the most important projects you have conducted in different countries?

AZUD has been working in the agricultural sector for 40 years already, providing innovative solutions in the irrigation, filtration, and crop nutrition fields, with the manufacturing of those technologies to develop the agriculture industry in a profitable and sustainable way.

We are a Spanish based company with more than 450 people working at this moment, and thanks to our vision of internationalization, AZUD has nowadays 5 own subsidiaries (Brazil, Mexico, India, China, and Singapore) and is present in more than 100 countries being recognized as the top-quality company in all the fields we work on. I can proudly say that the commitment of the company of supporting the development of new products and technologies to help the farmers to overcome their daily facing challenges, is what has taken us to the reference company in the sector we are today!

During all this time, we have been involved in a wide range of agricultural projects of different sizes. However, we have always worked very closely to our clients to understand each project's circumstances to adequately evaluate them and provide the best-customized solution accordingly. I’d say that the most important markets for us are Europe, Latam and the MENA Regions, basically due to the geographical and cultural connections.

Today irrigation is a very important topic in Georgia, as the government decided to conduct a reform concerning that. Could you share your experience? What are the priorities to develop the agro direction correctly in the field of irrigation? Are there any contemporary approaches that are used in developed countries and not adapted in Georgia yet?

As you all well know, Georgia has plenty of water resources, and its quality is ideal from the agronomic point of view as well. Under the optimal conditions, a well-watered healthy plantation can achieve higher yields and better quality and uniform harvest than rainfed farms, becoming more profitable as the investment in irrigation systems is quickly amortized. In Spain, the irrigated farms get the +50% of the value of the total agricultural sector, representing just the 15% of the total farming area.

But having just the resources is not enough. In order to be successful on the irrigation practices, it is required of a specific infrastructure from water catchment, water storage and water supply, at the regional or river basin level. Moreover, the organization and management of those resources is crucial to secure the water availability at farm level to each producer or farmer at any time of the year, in an organized, planned and equal way. I’m deeply aware of some water availability problems during summertime, when there’s lack of water coming from the canals or rivers, and then, the farmlands suffer from water stress and drought in some cases. And that causes a direct impact on the plantation yield, and final income to the farmer, consequently.

Along that water infrastructure, at the farm level scale it is required to become efficient in sense of how to irrigate to do not waste the resources: water, nutrients and energy.

Let’s speak about water resources and prices. Could you compare these two issues in Georgia and in Spain, for instance? What are the advantages that Georgia has got in the field of irrigation?

Most part of Spain has water resource scarcity with an average yearly rainfall of 450 mm, and at the same time, is the most important country within Europe in terms of volume and value of agricultural production and agri-food industry in many products as vegetables, fruits, olive oil, and berries. This is even more important in the southeast and Mediterranean coastline part of the country, where high-tech agriculture meets with semi-arid climatic conditions. In this part of Spain, there is less than 300 mm per year of rainfall in average but is considered the agricultural hub of Spain and entire Europe, at the same time, supplying the best quality fresh food products to northern countries during Winter and Autumn.

In this regard, water resources are very limited there and somehow poor in quality -as salts are a big problem here- from the agronomic point of view. The price of water is also a big concern there as it could represent 10 to 20% of the production expenses. As an average value, a farm could easily be expending 800 to 1,200 € per hectare per year just in water, not considering any other related cost as the power consumption.

That encourages the farm business to run the plantations using the most water, nutrients and energy-efficient technologies, also becoming committed with environmental sustainability.  And here under this circumstance is where AZUD was born in the early 1980s, to offer solutions to the agriculture producers and optimize the use of the limited available resources till nowadays.

From my personal perception, Georgian farmers need to be aware of the high value of the water as a scarce resource while implementing real efficient irrigation systems to be prepared to an unpredictable future (and present) where water might be. This only can be made with an integrated collaboration of the following entities together: farms, technological private companies, and central and local administration coordination. The technology application by itself does not guarantee anything, so it shall be backed up with the transfer of knowledge and training, secured by public policies to encourage water use optimization.

At the end of our conversation, I’d like to ask you about your future plans. Are they somehow related to Georgia?

Potential Georgia has in the agricultural field is enormous and it has just started. AZUD wants to be implicated in the development of this sector successfully in the right direction, helping to secure the agriculture dependency from other countries and consolidating the rural areas economy while providing new job opportunities and a bright future to the young generations. So, definitely, I am very happy to tell you that we will have the chance to talk to each other again very soon!