We interviewed Fernando Monroy, Agronomist from the National University of Bogotá with a postgraduate degree in marketing and extensive experience in commercial management in several companies. Five years ago he joined the team as Regional Manager of Futureco Bioscience, with the mission of developing the Futureco Bioscience brand and products in Latin America. We make a balance and diagnosis with him about the results of the process.
What was your main mission when you joined Futureco Bioscience five years ago?
To implement a strategy of entry and consolidation of Futureco Bioscience and its products. Although we already had presence through Bioamerica in Chile, or Biogrow in Peru and Brazil, the approach to enter other countries would be different. We had to identify markets, decide which portfolio to use, which registers to undertake, as well as find distribution channels in each market. We established a technical office in each country chosen to manage the registers and brands. Subsequently, we chose a portfolio of 10 products per country, with the specialties of greatest impact.
Of greater impact because there was no competition?
Of greater impact because the competition was either very reduced, or did not have the specificity that our products have. In biostimulants, specialties such as Citogrower, Ecormon and Botamisol were chosen. Botamisol, for example, has a specificity and an aminogram, which is very different from what is found in Latin American markets.
What other products offered a differential value?
Fosfimax 40-20, which is a different presentation to the rest of phosphites in the market in which 30-20 is more common. Fosfimax 40-20 has the antecedent of being a leader in Chile. Also Alfositol, for its formulation with copper, or Defender Calcium. Calcium is used a lot in Latin America. What Defender Ca offers that other products based in Calcium do not, is the added value of its composition with amino acids.
Those are the products that have best brought Futureco Bioscience into Latin America?
The best products that have been shown to open the door to the Latin American market have been Bestcure and NOFLY, which began to register in parallel as biopesticides, while we obtained a distribution channel in each country and started selling and promoting biostimulants.
It seems to have been a simple process.
Not at all! The process was not easy because in Latin America there is an invasion of Spanish companies. The good ones, the regular ones and the bad ones. The perception of the market is that all Spanish companies are the same. Fighting against that prejudice is very difficult. We have to demonstrate that we are not the same, that we are different, and that our line is different in content. It is a line that ecologically gives an advantage, they are organic products or with compatibility for organic agriculture, but that in addition to trumpeting it has to prove it.
What was your job to achieve it?
The first two years of introduction we made tests of efficiency, demonstrations and technical talks. Last year I did over 150 talks in different countries supporting all the distributors. We close 2018 with a distribution channel in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Nicaragua is pending, because of its social and political problems. We had practically already a distributor there, but with all that what is happening there it fell. In Paraguay it has not been easy to get in distribution channel either, but we are in the way to achieve it.
Is there a differentiated strategy for each country?
The strategy is common. We work with one importer per country. In this second stage we are registering differentiating products to complete the portfolio and make it more competitive. We are introducing above all the Defender line of micronutrients and Defender Active, which is an added value that is not found in Latin America. For Magnesium and Zinc, for example. Defender Active Mg and Defender Active Zn are formulated in such a way that, besides correcting deficiencies of these micronutrients, they stimulate the metabolism of the plant thanks to its unique composition. That is not found in any other product, which allows us to differentiate ourselves and stand out in the market.
How is the market responding to the incorporation of products?
We had to do many commercial and semi-commercial field tests with statistical data and many photographic references. Nowadays in the market we already have a space. In some markets they know how Citogrower works, like the rose market in Colombia and in Ecuador, where Citogrower already replaces other products. In addition, Ecormon has given very good results in avocado. Fosfimax has given very good results in pineapple, and it is the product that we are selling the most in LATAM. Defender Calcium is working very well too and Alfositol is being used in coffee for the control of bacteria and in tomato for control of mildew, and it is already recognized in Guatemala mainly and in Ecuador.
After the registration process, what results are Bestcure and NOFLY achieving?
We are introducing them from last year, since we already have the registers, whose process, being biopesticides, is longer. Bestcure is called like that throughout LATAM, except for Colombia, where its name is Rutastar, and Ecuador, where it is called Topcure. We're doing pretty well. We are developing Bestcure in flowers, in export vegetables and in bananas to control black sigatoka, which is a very limiting problem.
What distinguishes Bestcure and NOFLY from other products?
They are organic and leave no residues. This means that, for example, in the case of Bestcure, it can be applied even on the same day you are going to export the crop. We are also applying it in post-harvest. Bestcure is an organic, systemic and curative product. It protects the plant and makes it defend, and can be used in pre-harvest and post-harvest, although soon for the latter use will be introduced a specific product, which is Biolasting, also from the family of botanical extracts. On the other hand, NOFLY has high expectations. The product is working very well. I told Rafael Juncosa that these products are designed specifically for the tropics because the higher the heat and the higher the relative humidity, the better they work. NOFLY is working very well for whitefly and thrips in different crops, and these days we have seen it work very well against red spider mite in flowers. There is expectation in export melon, after doing some trials.
Is being a Spanish company an advantage or a disadvantage?
Both The problem is that all the foliar companies are treated as if they offered the same. It is a market dominated by Spanish, Italian, American, Mexican and Colombian companies. Each distributor wants to have a line or own brand and exclusive distribution, and when you approach it, it can even tell you that it is already with another Spanish company and that it is the same thing. There is a perception that everything is the same and that it is a market where there is no innovation.
It is then necessary to demonstrate that Futureco's R & D, which is one of its main assets, is precisely aimed at innovation and offering something different.
It is paddling upstream. It is to show the market and explain why we are different. In addition, it is not only a brand, it is going product by product, distancing it from the rest of the market. It is a meticulous job of informing and demonstrating. They all have amino acids. But how many have 45% or 80% amino acids rich in Proline? Then they ask what Proline is, and it's time to prove it. Explain what Proline does and demonstrate its effectiveness. Thus, for each product, to demonstrate that working with your line is not the same as working with the line of another Spanish company, nor of another country either.
Give me an example of battle.
They have compared products such as Citogrower with other solutions based on seaweeds extract, which provide cytokinins, auxins and gibberalins as well, but in low concentration, of natural origin and without such a researched and precise formulation. Citogrower has a concentration of 2% in Colombia and Ecuador, and 1% in the rest of Latam. Any of its formulations has many more cytokinins than an seaweed extract. But there are products based on seaweeds that have been positioned for many years, for example, for sprouting in roses, and that are much less effective than Citogrower. Each product introduction is to try to show that we are different and put it to fight with trials with other products that are already on the market to show that ours is better, more effective and we have to justify technically why.
Is there any other handicap apart from an excess of market supply?
The only thought in terms of immediate margins. The large distributor will continue to sell the specialties for a matter of margin, thinking "I import this product from Spain and it gives me a 50% margin, why import another from Spain that only gives me 20% or 25% of margin? "That also makes it difficult. In the long run, he will be able to sell more and his income will be higher, but he looks at it in terms of immediacy.
Bread for today and hunger for tomorrow.
Our Colombian distributor, for example, sells between 50 and 60% directly to the farmer. In Guatemala, 80% of direct sales to the farmer that does not go through retail. Ecuador, a part passes through retail, but 55% is direct sales to the farmer. Retail filters, and only sells what reports a direct business. This makes it very difficult to include Futureco Bioscience products in the market, which are better, more specific, more technical and of better quality and have a lower environmental impact. That has been the difficulty and explains the delay of the line growth, the demand has to be generated in a not easy context.
That makes it difficult to sell clean product and zero waste.
Through the channel, it does.
What is the typical customer?
It depends on the product. For Bestcure and NOFLY, for example, the typical customer is the exporting producer, which is the one who has the most restrictions in destination, since there are controls and analyses of waste, and these are very limiting about the molecules that can be applied, especially in terms of products for plant protection against diseases and pests.
These days I met with a farmer who has 5000 Ha of cane and 600 Ha of organic citrus, specifically an organic lemon that he exports. He had a very serious problem. In post-harvest, the lemon was unprotected. He had nothing to apply. He tried Bestcure, he liked it and is buying the distributor directly 120L per month. In flowers there are still no restrictions on waste at destination, and the product is very efficient in post-harvest, mainly for botrytis, and has very limiting effects on this disease. In flowers there are still no restrictions on waste at destination, and the product is very efficient in post-harvest, mainly for botrytis, and has very limiting effects. We have applied it and we have contrasted it against the market leader called switch, and we have been better even at the lowest doses. In flowers there are still no restrictions on waste at destination, and the product is very efficient in post-harvest, mainly for botrytis, and has very limiting effects. We have applied it and we have contrasted it against the market leader called switch, and we have been better even at the lowest doses. We have gained ground. Bestcure is an organic product, which leaves no residue and is not risky in its handling for workers, besides of that, it is efficient.
Organic and efficient.
That is the key point to enter. It is efficient. Organic products have never been related to efficiency. If you associate in this moment organic with efficiency, it is called Rutastar, Topcure, or Bestcure, and NOFLY, which apart from being organic products, work very, very well.
What are the highlights of Futureco Bioscience products for a Latin American farmer?
The key points of our products, for the farmer, are: concentration, effect on the plant and characteristics / benefit. We have a commitment to productivity. No company is committed to affirm as we do that we help your crop to be more productive. When you work with the whole line you are applying Ecormon, Citogrower, Botamisol ... normally you reach 20% more productivity. We are more productive.
With other clients and markets, Futureco Bioscience has launched products on demand. Is there any demand from the Latin American market that will lead to the launch of a new product?
I'm not going to advance, but there is one in projection, specific for sugarcane, whose trials have yielded very promising results, and which would be an alternative to glyphosate, commonly used to increase the Brix degrees of the plant, that is, the amount of sugar. It would be a specific line of cultivation as an alternative to glyphosates, very questioned and that will surely be taken out of the market. Sugar cane producers are looking to replace it because it is one of the most questioned products in the world for an environmental issue. We need more sustainable alternatives to mature sugarcane. The farmers will know it soon.
How do you see Futureco Bioscience in five years in Latin America?
I think that five years from now we will be entering the top three in all countries. The characteristics of the products are adapting to the new requirements.
What are those requirements?
Increase productivity and bring the plant to its greatest genetic potential, reducing the environmental impacts of biotic and abiotic stress. The highest efficiency with the lowest environmental impact.