Leading changes in fresh carrot retailing in Colombia
Subject: Leading changes in fresh carrot retailing in Colombia
Customers: Grocery stores, supermarkets and wholesalers in Colombia
The Castelblanco brothers have learnt first-hand the importance of risk management in the potato and carrot farming business. Ten years ago, a country recession combined with an aggressive planting strategy quickly took away the benefits of 15 years of hard work and their 300ha farming operation in Colombia.
Armed with their passion for the land and hard work ethics, the brothers opted for a fresh start. New land was leased and a new approach to the farming business was put in place, with more emphasis on crop management and business planning.
As the acreage began to expand again, younger brother Rodrigo joined the business at 15 years old. Also entrepreneurial, he established basic manual washing procedures to improve presentation of carrots to customers. However, he quickly concluded that investment in pack-house washing technology was a necessity.
The business first purchased an old drum washer to trial market acceptance and minimize investment risk. The brothers also made changes in the field, gradually switching from Chantenay carrots (short and large diameter) to the Nantes carrots (long and thin diameter) to improve harvest yields. Although the seed change increased quantity harvested per hectare, it also decreased washing yields from the drum washer as up to 50% of the new thinner carrots were getting damaged. A newer drum washer then purchased from Argentina did not produce the significant yield and quality changes expected.
What followed was a visit to a customer carrot pack-house in Mexico, where the Wyma Vege-Polisher was in operation. Impressed with the appearance of the carrots, the brothers ordered the washing and polishing machine on the spot. “As soon as the Wyma Vege-Polisher was delivered to our pack-house, I knew that my job in selling carrots to supermarkets and grocery stores would be a lot easier,” said Joaquin, with a corner smile.
“With our investment in the first ever Wyma Vege-Polisher in Colombia, we changed the way carrots were presented and customer expectations. It has been a game-changer for the fresh vegetable retail industry and of course for our business. We are proud to have led that change and can now fully benefit from having been the early adopters of this polishing solution.”
The previous drum washer was kept to remove heavy soils and pre-wash the carrots prior to entering the Wyma Vege-Polisher. However, that drum washer continued to cause damage to the carrots and customers complained of broken ends in their bags. The brothers removed it from the pack-house and replaced it with a Wyma Wet Hopper. This gentle soil removal and pre-wash system quickly paid off, as Alvaro explains: “The Wet Hopper has been a great addition to our business. It does not make any damage to the carrots and customer complaints have cleared out. We only wished we had bought a bigger one as we have to increase capacity to meet a growing demand.”
The Castelblanco brothers admit that this careful path towards innovative pack-house technology has taught them another valuable lesson in the carrot and potato business: “We have realized we don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Companies like Wyma, and their South American partner Weening Brothers, have got the experience and knowledge to provide us with the right machinery for our needs,” concluded Alvaro.