Interview with Juan Pardo, head of innovation at Novagric, a company that has been researching and developing solutions to help farmers increase their profitability and save on resources for 44 years.
By: Bárbara Aguayo Martínez, agri-food journalist (@BarbaraAguayoM3)
Novagric, a company in the agricultural auxiliary industry sector, is dedicated to carrying out complete technology projects for sustainable, high-yield agriculture on 5 continents. What crops do you focus on? What geographical areas do you cover?
The range of projects includes everything from protected horticulture to precision irrigation installations in open fields adapted to the customer’s needs, terrain, climate and crop variety. We carry out installations all over Spain and we have a strong export vocation. We have extensive experience in climates as diverse as the Middle East, Central America, Eastern Europe and emerging countries in Africa. We have worked with horticultural crops and seed research in greenhouses, ornamental plants and other crops in trend. We have also developed irrigation installations for woody crops and nuts, such as almond, pistachio, walnut, vineyards and citrus.
We are pioneers in the development of complete projects for crops of high pharmaceutical interest, such as medical cannabis. These are characterised by a higher protocols and requirements. This challenge has helped us to improve all our processes, and to implement new systems to guarantee the quality, protection and safety of the plant (blackout, active climate control, watertight compartments).
Novagric has an innovation centre and showroom installed in Alhama de Murcia, what advantages would you highlight and what new technological developments are being made?
This centre functions have a demonstration area for the technologies developed, as a test site. We have models of high-height greenhouses with different climatic actuators, vertical farming modules, and an area with live cultures where we test the latest designs to validate before launching them on the market. In this line, we are developing new safety measures in the installation and maintenance of plastic film in greenhouses according to construction regulations and we are developing the Vertical Sunning R&D project for food production with minimum energy consumption.
Focusing on horticulture, what irrigation systems do you offer and what service do you provide to each client?
NOVAGRIC from its beginnings specialised in irrigation systems, manufacturing its own products such as our XILEMA fertigation equipment for the automatic fertilisers injection into the irrigation system, providing the precise amount of nutrients to the plants. With the implementation of large irrigation projects for trees, we have joined new trends such as subsurface drip irrigation to rationalise the use of water resources. We also started to develop hydroponics projects without substrate, NFT, with high vegetable production that can be obtained in very small surface units, with water consumption up to 1/3 less than conventional models.
Our aim is to provide a complete technical solution, from design, manufacture, installation and maintenance, as well as technical-agronomic advice. We have our own assembly team and an after-sales service to solve any incident in the shortest time.
What degree of digitalisation do you bring to the sector, where is it heading, what will we see in next years?
The digitisation of agriculture is not an option, it is a reality that we have joined with enthusiasm. We are already able to manage the different climatic parameters of the greenhouse from our mobile phones, or have real-time information on the crop due to the precision agriculture probes and sensors that will lead us to design more efficient strategies aimed at reducing production costs, saving water and improving plant performance. And all powered by solar energy.
For us, the key to achieving sustainable and competitive agriculture is to continuously invest in innovation, training and digital transformation, so that we can meet the demands of the new consumer and achieve quality production with a minimal water and carbon footprint.