Interview with José Carbonell Castelló, Technical Secretary of the Official College of Agricultural Engineers of Levante.
If we analyze it with perspective not so many decades ago (well, the profession in Spain 165 years, in Valencia 55) of the entry into the scene of the figure of the ‘Agronomist Engineer’ in the world of agriculture, however, from the beginning, This has played a fundamental role in its technological advancement, constantly reinventing the mode and method for its development.
Before continuing and not to be correctly political but simply to be clear, the reference ‘Agronomist Engineer’ has also shared the same scenario with that of ‘Agronomist Engineer’ for decades since we are in a highly receptive and attractive sector for talent , regardless of sex.
AEFA delves into this professional profile and does it by the hand of José Carbonell Castelló, Agricultural Engineer in the specialty of Rural Engineering by the ETSIA of the UPV and who since October 2005 has been the Technical Secretary of the Official College of Agricultural Engineers of Levante ( COIAL).
Can you give us some “brushstrokes” about your relationship with COIAL?
I will be 14 years old in COIAL and the truth is that, in addition to already starting to be a long time, it seems that I have changed a few times of work so things have been changing since 2005.
For example, I think that thanks to the crisis, … yes, yes, something good had to have, we launched a Strategic Plan in the COIAL in which one of its most important components was to open ourselves to our companies, to the companies of our sectors. This materialized through the Partners Project, which, today, belongs to all those undertaken, the one that gives us the greatest joys and satisfactions. Opening the doors to them and generating a climate of constant dialogue and collaboration is tremendously enriching for everyone.
Is there a special group with more synergies?
Yes and here I want to highlight ‘the AEFA world’, thus understanding the companies that compose it. As a result of this connection between the business world and the COIAL, we realized that in the cruelest period of the crisis, in terms of levels of unemployment, under-employment, apathy and widespread dejection, the only companies that were generating employment in quantity and in Quality for agronomists were agronutrients and biostimulants. These companies were able to absorb all the talent that minimally suited their needs. This, in addition to its tremendous export capacity and that the AEFA collective was the one that most focused on supporting our Partners Project (the first company to enter was one of the associates) made us look at this sector. For all its contribution to the sector and to our profession we distinguish AEFA with the Initiative and Development Award, the institutional award that our corporate government reserves.
I remember how at that time I did not understand how they did not “rain” the awards and recognitions, they were the only green shoots! And if I may be allowed to make the joke that it is precisely what AEFA companies do, to help generate the best shoots and the best fruits.
From this more intense relationship, the perfect breeding ground was created to make the most of the sector and the group of agronomists. Talk, understand, understand, empathize. With AEFA we create and maintain an entrepreneurial and virtuous ecosystem whose first great success was the Professional Expert Program in Agronutrients and Biostimulants, which is already finishing its second edition and through which more than 60 students have passed. For some, those who are already working in the sector, it has been an opportunity to update and update their knowledge and skills; and for others, it has been the key to access quality jobs in the companies that make up AEFA. The action is outstanding, but in the following editions we go for the ‘Honor Enrollment’!
Returning to the figure of Agricultural Engineer, how has the evolution of the profession been in recent years?
As I said before, the years of profession begin to be considerable and for my work, I think that some perspective I begin to have on the professional activity of agronomists. For example, and as far as I can go back to speak from my own experience, when I finished my degree in 2003, the construction sector was pulling the barbaric economy and it was our main and best work niche. Our training in construction and facilities is powerful, which put us in the focus of construction companies, installers and engineering offices.
Then the crack came, but it coincided with an export boom of our food industry which meant the incorporation of legions of agronomists in the industry as responsible and quality technicians, since our productions were they had to adapt to the standards of each country and each distribution chain. To a large extent, quality, which is another important part of our training, managed to reduce the blow of the crisis in the construction sectors. The agri-food system was a lifesaver for Spain in general and for Agronomists in particular.
At present, what we are perceiving is an interesting demand of agronomists for primary production since the productive sector is becoming very technical.
The effort is focused on orienting production to market demands: produce what is demanded, when it touches and how it touches to maximize business results. And within this emerging niche, the AEFA group of companies is once again with its own prominence as they redouble their efforts to demonstrate that they provide services and sell solutions and not “products” to move towards that integration. I think that the industrial fabric that AEFA represents is committed to equipping itself with teams of agronomists that makes good advice accessible to all farmers, and that is good for everyone.
And the future?
Well, if you ask me about the future of the agronomist, I think that, in addition to being part of the gears of each one of the agents of the food system, it will also be a kind of “lubricant” that causes friction between them not to punish To the weakest. That is, we will continue doing projects, researching, being in the processing industry and in primary production, but the industry associated with our sectors will be the one that will contribute to the synchronization of the food system. There is a tremendously motivating challenge for everyone.
Currently, social, political and environmental problems arise … such as water pollution and problems associated with biofuels, genetically modified organisms, tariffs and agricultural subsidies, etc. Is the figure of the engineer part of the solution?
We are going through a bad time for science and technology. The post-truth will cause not a few shocks in all the technological sectors. I think nobody is safe, because you can change opinions but not beliefs that have become vital. But to minimize all these threats, I believe that there is nothing better than transparency, which is complete when you also have the ability to transmit and communicate efficiently and effectively what is being done. In this I believe that agronomists have a very important role in companies, such as AEFA. We must have the ability to explain things from science, technology and reason and do it so that sensible people, who are the vast majority, understand it and regain tranquility and confidence.
A very important factor is to adapt production to society’s demand. But hey, AEFA companies are dedicated to it, right? produce what the market demands even if it does not show it explicitly. The demand is good, the suspicion, the insult and the discredit that comes to distort and manipulate the technical and scientific evidence is bad for everyone.
Another thing is the conditions in which we are producing and we will have to produce. They are changing and they will change more. I believe that society is advancing in the famous pyramid of needs and for some time in Europe we have left behind the stratum of covering our food needs since they are overly covered and we need or demand other things. The technology developed, once again by AEFA companies, is the one that has allowed us to move forward to achieve this vital food carefreeness, technology that will be the one that will make the productions adapt to the new requirements, and at the same time will be the lever of new changes
What do you think about labels like the green revolution?
I dare not label anything, but I see that today the opportunities have grown exponentially. My grandparents were quite lucky with more than easy access to bread, oil and wine; some meat, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Today you are going to buy the bread and you can choose between ten types of flour, four yeasts and a thousand forms. You are going to buy meat and they ask you for the degree of maturation you prefer. Following these examples, buying fruits and vegetables today is a spectacle of offer. What I am going to do is that it gives me the impression that we are living in a moment of “micro revolutions” that create the need and the solution at the same time.
Can we say that agricultural technology is currently traveling in a suitcase?
Spain is perhaps one of the global epicenters of innovation for agricultural production. We are not only important because we produce more and better, but because we are extremely good at developing technology to do so. We develop it, apply it and export it!
Is COIAL a backbone with private companies and associations like AEFA?
Yes, and it is not that I say so, it is that it is a duty imposed by the COIAL Governing Board. Beyond the public and management functions of the profession that we have, we must become a meeting point for all the parts in which the agronomists develop our profession.
In the COIAL we must generate the appropriate ecosystem so that companies come to look for the profiles they need for their companies, offer the necessary training for the update of professional performance, as well as being able to go together in those aspects that concern us all. A win & win collaboration environment.
In these collaborations there are successful projects such as the ‘Professional expert program in agronutrients and biostimulants’ developed between AEFA and COIAL. It is a training program that is working very well and without any doubt for us there is a before and after this initiative. We are in the second edition, which has meant an improvement over the second, and we are already working on the third. Always improving, always offering what is needed in an accessible way. In all editions we innovate, improve and try to surprise. We hope to continue like this, we want to continue like this.
We began by clarifying the use of the word ‘Engineer’ as common for women and men. Any observations?
None, but quite the opposite and I refer to the facts. If we refer to women in engineering, I would tell you that the last jobs that have been generated, for example in the agronutrition sector and managed by COIAL, have been women. On the part of the sector, never, never, never, … nor have we come to suggest that a man is preferred to a woman.
It must be said loud and clear that neither our sectors are macho, nor retrograde and far from preconceived stereotypes. We are an extremely attractive sector for talent, regardless of sex.