Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Team Ag 1's Adventure in Puerto Montt- Agriculture 1

By:  Colleen McCracken
Team Ag 1 has been busy learning all about salmon and water generation opportunities in Chile!  What a busy week it has been!  After spending 3 days in Santiago, 4 members of the team ventured on a short excursion to Puerto Montt to visit with 2 salmon processing plants based upon the tip of our EMBA “rock star” professor Fernando Suarez.  This trip proved to be one of the most exciting, interesting, and unbelievably successful trips we could have taken.  We are happy to share this experience and our wonderful pictures and videos for all of our classmates, professors and staff to enjoy!
Our trip landed us at the Puerto Montt airport in the rain.  Yes, my friends, it does rain in Chile.  In fact, in Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas it rains 300 days a year!  But I digress!!  After attempting to stuff all of my suitcases (and everyone else’s too) into a small Hyundai Elantra, we ended up with a perfect Maine pick up truck!  We then began our short journey (or so we thought) to Puerto Varas.  To say the trip was an adventure was an understatement! Because of course we decided to travel without the use of a GPS (or so we told Jon as he started to drive out of the airport).  Since there is only one road that leads north to Puerto Varas, right Amber?
With the rain falling down, we traveled through the unpaved roads of Puerto Montt, suitcases precariously bouncing and floating in the back.  After finally deciding to use the expensive GPS with after our many side road detour it suggested we climb a set of stairs…  Sean’s great sense of direction turned us around and put us on the right road so we arrived in beautiful Puerto Varas at the inviting and rustic Gran Hotel Colonos del Sur.  As you can see in the pictures, the view was breathtaking!  Views of the beautiful lake and Osorno volcano is not a hard way to spend the evening.  After a couple wonderful bottles of Carménère and a beautiful fireplace, it was time to rest up for our busy day of visits to the salmon processing plants!
Our morning began with a trip to The Harvest Marine, (a Norwegian company) processing plant, with the wonderful and incidentally handsome, Felipe Puga, where they produce 40 tons per day of salmon. This tour and visit was amazing! After shedding our ties and heels and “gearing up” with our full uniform of masks, hats and galoshes to ensure salmon safety, we entered the plant only to find out that nail polish was not allowed; especially nail polish laced with beautiful gold specs!  I bet you can’t guess who this was!!!  Nothing a couple of latex gloves couldn’t cover thank goodness; and so our journey began. 
The plant was nothing short of spectacular!  Luckily Jon took a video of the complete tour so that we could share this experience with you.  We were fascinated by the automation and the attention to quality and safety within the plant.  I don’t think any of us were ready for the “splash” that occurred when each of the salmon passed through specific gates based upon weight and grading.  It is interesting that after the horrible ISA salmon virus epidemic in 2007/2008 which decimated 70% of the entire Chilean salmon population.  This plant is living proof that the Chilean production of salmon is on the rise again and back in the #2 production position, second only to Norway.  It is interesting, however to learn, that even though production is returning to pre-2007 levels, government regulation, farming quality concerns, and significant hits to profitability over the last 5 years, are limiting the value proposition to producers and minimizing the potential for increased production even though demand is expected to continue to increase globally over the next 5 years.  We said our goodbyes to Felipe which for some of us was hard but it is was great to learn about the Chilean “one kiss”.  From my perspective, I much prefer two…..but again, I digress! 
Our next visit was to AquaChile, a Chilean branded company, who is the largest producer of salmon, trout, and tilapia in Chile.  After learning that the processing techniques were not likely different from what we learned at Harvest Marine, we opted to instead talk further about the problems and issues that exist within the industry rather than touring the processing plant.  This proved to be a smart decision.  We met with Vincente de la Cruz, who was most welcoming and willing to share his knowledge and expertise as the Vice President of Sales for Aquachile. We learned a great deal about the problems of sea lice and salmon safety and the roll the hatcheries play in keeping this under control.  What really caught our attention, and brought us to the edge of our seats was the success of the retail store in the plant’s parking lot.  We learned of their new test retail stores in 3 regions of Chile and the most recent store to be opened in 2 weeks in an affluent area of Santiago.  We talked about the brand that is AquaChile and the work they are doing to keep the fish used in fish meal a sustainable part of the industry.  We toured the first store that is located on the AquaChile campus and realized what an opportunity there could be to educate Americans on the salmon industry and the quality and the work that is being done to create a sustainable industry and a business concept was born…….but of course we cannot share that idea.  And for now, it is one option of several that we are considering on the Ag 1 Team.
We are blessed by the beauty of Puerto Montt, and Puerto Varas and we are blessed by all of what we learned in such a short period of time and we are blessed by the time we had together enjoying this beautiful place in Latin America……We feel blessed!
(videos and pictures to be posted soon…)

No comments: