Fortune Growers charts its path forward with collaborative ecosystem
GRAPEVINE, TX — Citing the tremendous potential that lies ahead for imports of Mexican produce, Fortune Growers held a press conference April 23 during the Viva Fresh Expo, here, to lay out its plans to bring further efficiencies to its network.
With a panel of industry and government officials, the press conference was kicked off by Dante Galeazzi, president and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association, who laid the foundation of where things stand with regard to cross-border trade.
“We have such a diverse yet interconnected story, with relationships on both sides of the border,” he said. “We also face many challenges, including those involving logistics, inputs, water, land and labor. And by 2050, we’ll need to produce 50 percent more food to meet the demand of a rising population.”
As such, programs that focus on sustainability and maximizing efficiencies will be necessary to ensure an ample food supply, and that is exactly what Luis Solarte is looking to accomplish at Fortune Growers.
Solarte, president of Fortune Growers, is endeavoring to create a sustainable ecosystem where both farmers and clients thrive, a program he refers to as the “Fortune Growers Way” that relies on close collaboration among client communities.
“I have found such a wealth of knowledge and a willingness to collaborate,” he said of his network of more than 50 growers in Mexico and the government agencies involved with awarding certifications.
Solarte said the Fortune Growers Way relies on data to establish the four pillars that will ensure success: precision farming, predictive agriculture, predictive demand and predictive logistics.
He said the resulting ecosystem integrates the entire supply chain with logistics and commercial processes to drive productivity, efficiencies and economic viability to all involved.
Additionally, Fortune Growers provides support to its suppliers, including technical support to improve production, quality and traceability, as well as technical counseling and training to its strategic partners.
Javier Delgado, director general of FIRCO, a government agency in Mexico that promotes sustainable agriculture in rural areas, spoke of the AgroPark development in Colon in the state of Queretaro, as an example of a successful partnership with a sustainable focus.
Delgado said the urbanization of Mexico is taxing resources, with less farmable land available to feed an increasing population. He said the 180 hectares of state-of-the-art greenhouses at AgroPark use 80 percent less water per hectare via computerized irrigation, producing high-quality tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers suitable for the export markets.
“Our main challenge with AgroPark was that no one had experience to develop a project like this, so we had to start from scratch,” said Delgado. “We found six different partners from different backgrounds, and we became profitable within five years. We also started a university that provides agriculture training. The project became a win-win across the supply chain.”
Fortune Growers envisions the development of a state-of-the-art distribution center in Texas for product coming from its entire family of growers, AgroPark and other growers in Mexico that are interested in a consolidated complete service with a collaborative effort of on-site inspections by the U.S. and Mexican governments. Its mission is to achieve efficiencies and minimize costs throughout the distribution chain, as well as contribute to generating new channels and maximizing value creation.
While FIRCO is focused on the funding side of projects, Fortune works with two other government agencies: SIAP, which develops tools and provides resources for small- and medium-sized growers to help them market their products; and SENASICA, Mexico’s equivalent to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which oversees food-safety certifications and good agricultural practices for products destined for the export market.
Solarte said one of the key goals for Fortune Growers is to get the U.S. industry to recognize SENASICA as an important third-party GAP and food-safety certification body for Mexican growers. Fortune is also promoting SIAP’s Agro Oferta app that links growers and buyers.
Fortune Growers was founded 16 years ago and is currently shipping its core products, which include broccoli, carrots, lettuce, celery and cabbage, throughout North America. Solarte said Fortune adds value by providing a dependable supply chain with full traceability through its vertically integrated business, offered with a “no surprises policy.”
Frank Swanson, a consultant for Fortune Growers who recently retired from US Foods, where he was national senior manager of produce operations, said quality and food safety are paramount from a buyer’s perspective.
“Historically, price was the major factor for a buyer,” he said. “Today, in addition to quality and food safety, you need product availability 52 weeks a year, and Mexico is so important for that. But product needs to hit on all the points, and you have to have a program with committed growers. That is what the Fortune Growers Way is bringing to the table.”
Top photo: Luis Solarte (second from left), president of Fortune Growers, recently met with Carlos Rodriguez (right), port director at the Hidalgo Port of Entry in Pharr, TX.