COLOMBIA - Industry
Ernesto Fajardo is a business administrator from Universidad del Rosario with more than 20 years of management experience, both in Latin America and the US, where he has worked for multinationals such as Monsanto and Orbis. He was with Monsanto for 15 years, reaching positions like president for North and Latin America and vice president for the US. He returned to Colombia and was president of the Orbis Group for almost four years.
Alpina is in the agriculture sector but it is really a consumer-based company. This means we are committed to nourishing our customers and making sure we bring nutrition to them in a sustainable way. The dairy business requires a detailed follow-up of operations because products have short lives and need careful management to guarantee food safety and quality. We have five plants in different parts of Colombia, and all of them are near the country’s milk producing regions so we can deliver high-quality milk and be competitive, making sure we have a balance of inventory throughout the year. Additionally, we announced our acquisition of a milk drier plant so we can store powdered milk and buy more milk from our partners during high production seasons, keeping our inventory longer and better managed. By having this capability, we do not have to import milk and have a 100% Colombian supply from local dairy farmers. Furthermore, keeping up with consumer preferences has also been important to Alpina’s growth. We have developed different lines of products and are constantly developing new solutions in line with new wants and needs. Our value comes from making sure we understand consumer needs and can develop and have new products available at the right time in the different parts of Colombia.
When our founders came to Colombia, they aided the development of cattle in quality, genetics, pastures, and agronomic practices not only for the ranches and cattle that continue to supply milk to our company, but also to impact milk-producing regions with overall improved agricultural productivity. Shared development has always been a part of our DNA. As we both learn and grow, we can create new opportunities and work together, helping every element of the supply chain grow together. We have also contributed to the country’s infrastructure development with logistics, trucks, and the development of efficient cold chain refrigerated systems—so that our products can reach the right places at the right time and at the right quality. We also reach some 220,000 mom-and-pop stores as well as supermarkets and commercial retailers in the country. Our ability to timely deliver our products is critical and something we have invested in, improving our capabilities and ensuring we have the right warehousing, transportation, and refrigeration systems to serve our customers the way we want to.
Having the capacity to deliver our products is important, but how we do it is key, and we want to do it sustainably. To this end, we have set ambitious goals for ourselves—like being plastic and carbon neutral by 2022 and having our milk supply come exclusively from certified sustainable cattle farming by 2025—and are constantly looking for new ideas and solutions to sustainably reach our goals. Energy-wise, we are using new gas and electric trucks and testing them on our roads and routes; so far, 15 trucks within our 90-truck network are gas vehicles. Today, we are also able to generate around 30% of the energy for our plant in Sopó in a biogas plant with a target to generate 50% of the plant’s energy in the near future. We are also using solar energy to replace some of the plant’s lighting. Additionally, sustainable agriculture is paramount to our operation: namely how our farmers work with and grow cattle, how they maintain their pastures, and how they can guarantee they are proving Alpina with free-range cows’ milk. For this, we have technicians working and teaching farmers the best industry practices to be more productive and to have a smaller impact on the environment with the type of grasses they use, their milking routines, and how they can plant specific trees for carbon capture.
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