Publicada julio 21, 2022
AQ: How did you get to where you are today?
HC: Each step in my life has prepared me to lead Vitapro. Throughout my career, I have gained considerable experience in both B2B and B2C business lines in many Latin American countries. This has allowed me to develop a solid vision focused on customers, an essential key to guiding the industry through two transcendental and necessary changes to reach our current position. The first change happened during my first few years at Vitapro. I found myself in a business and sector with extraordinary growth forecast, with clients who progressively needed greater support and personalized service, in an increasingly growing competitive environment. This led us to the first moment of change in which, along with a team of experts with extraordinary talent, we challenged ourselves to give a new meaning to our value proposal, joining our two greatest strengths under a holistic approach: high-quality nutritional solutions and technical advisory services, in a proposal that put our clients at the center of the decision-making. It seemed that this enhancement of our value proposition that had led us to success, until that point, would be enough. But very soon, we saw that our commitment to the industry’s future would drive us to be the bridge between our clients and digital transformation. Taking this route has led us to serving them better and being more responsible to the world. We made a change in our value proposal through the creation of Vitapro Ventures (Digital and Technology Innovation Hub) and the GTE (Specialized Aquaculture Technical Management).
We acquired skills that allowed us to develop different tools and digital solutions that we have been offering to our clients and that in some way, have complemented and strengthened the service that we had already been providing, evolving our approach into a fully comprehensive one. So today, we can say that we have shifted from developing nutritional solutions to providing comprehensive ones under a more holistic perspective of services that cover all the needs of our customers in order to achieve more efficient results in a more sustainable manner. So, we could say that I have come this far thanks to valuable previous experience which gave me the right vision to lead the transformation of a company with enormous capabilities, but above all with an incredible team that knows very well the needs of our clients in Latin America.
AQ: For more than 30 years, Vitapro has been developing specialized feed solutions in Latin America through its Nicovita and Salmofood brands. What have been the main market challenges throughout these years?
HC: The salmon and shrimp industries are going through totally different stages; the salmon industry is mature, while shrimp is undergoing a transformation process that salmon has already experienced, and is leading Ecuador to become the largest producer of shrimp in the world. Within this context, the main transversal challenges we face in the industry are related to the contribution that companies, like ours can provide to reduce the conversion factor, as well as enhance efficiency, productivity, and sustainability of the industry.
AQ: Salmofood is the salmon brand. Where is the company now in terms of size, markets served and aquafeed volume?
HC: To explain Salmofood’s current position, it is necessary to go back to when Salmofood became part of Vitapro because its strategy changed from that moment on. In the past, it was seen as a local company that served small and medium-sized clients with a not-so-robust proposal. Since Salmofood joined Vitapro, it has become a challenging player in the market, and highly competitive in the industry. Thus, we have focused our efforts on delivering a unique proposal for each client based on three pillars: smart nutrition, personalized support, and world-class nutritional solutions. As a consequence, we have solid growth and we are targeting to reach a volume of more than 170,000 tons this year, a significant increase in the past ten years of the company.
AQ: Salmofood offers tailor-made feeds with specific supplements adapted to each farm’s challenges, through its Care Blocks. What are the main solutions offered and how have they been accepted by farmers?
HC: Care Blocks are a result of Vitapro’s global emphasis on R&D through our Aquaculture Experimental Centers (CEA) in Latin America. Its implementation is complementary, meaning that, when using a high-energy diet it is possible to complement it with Care Blocks, according to the specific needs of each producer with the aim for the best productive performance adjusted to their reality. This innovation has been well accepted by our clients, especially those that complement the use of Care Blocks with our PatagonIA digital tool – an analytical and predictive model that projects conversion and growth factors using artificial intelligence.
AQ: Nicovita, the shrimp feed brand, is investing $80 million in a new shrimp feed facility in Ecuador. What is Nicovita’s goal in terms of volume produced and what are the main technology improvements the new facility features?
HC: From the beginning, we have maintained a steady track record of continuous investments that have accompanied the growth strategy of our brands and supported the evolution of the industry. This year, in addition to consolidating the production plant and storage capacity acquired in 2021, we also announced in March that we will invest more than $80 million to build a new production plant in Ecuador.
The shrimp industry in Ecuador has maintained a significant growth that is enabling the country to consolidate itself as the most important producer of white shrimp in the world. This new investment is a tangible reflection of our commitment to being part of the exponential growth of the sector in the coming years. With this investment, we aim to expand our production and storage capacity of animal feed for the country by approximately 45%, by building a new plant with cutting- edge technology, more efficient production systems and processes, under high-quality standards aligned with the Nicovita brand seal of trust.
AQ: Nicovita offers GenlA, a digital platform to improve production management. What are the main services it offers and how has it been implemented by farmers?
HC: Digital and technological innovation is an important pillar to consolidate our value proposal as a company that provides comprehensive aquaculture solutions to our customers. For this reason, through our digital and technology innovation hub, Vitapro Ventures, we created GenIA by Nicovita, the Nicovita Technological Ecosystem. It combines digitization, advanced analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), and the knowledge of specialized technical advisors to maximize productivity and efficiency in pools. GenIA allows us to generate patterns and predictions that develop personalized recommendations for each farm, thus promoting data-based decision- making on shrimp feeding and, consequently increasing shrimp farmers’ productivity, offering an unprecedented value proposal. A very important aspect of the development and implementation process of GenIA is that it has been developed hand-in-hand with our clients in Latin America.
AQ: Through a series of acquisitions and expansions, Vitapro has a strong network of research facilities. What are the current R&D projects the company is working on?
HC: The constant development in innovation and capabilities is definitely a priority for Vitapro and its brands in both of its categories (fish and shrimp). Adding the Experimental Aquaculture Centers that we have implemented in recent years in Chile and Mexico to the previously installed capacity and our pilot plant, we can affirm that Vitapro has the most complete and important research and innovation network for shrimp at a global level.
Our most representative projects are related to five fronts: nutrition, health, technology, supplies, and management, seeking: to deepen our understanding of the nutritional requirements in the different shrimp life stages and farming systems, as part of our continuous improvement process and aiming to optimize formulas; challenge our understanding of diseases to create food solutions for preventive treatments; design and determine the best practices that we can recommend to our clients, through specialized technical advice; create new production management technologies and Artificial Intelligence models, such as GenIA; and promote the search for alternative raw materials, validating both their availability and digestibility for use in shrimp formulations.
AQ: Vitapro has a technical advisory team that provides personalized service to customers. What are the main services the company offers?
HC: Within the transformations that Vitapro has undergone, the experience in the technical consulting area is one of the most important. Our firm decision to place the client and their needs at the core of our operation has led us to design solutions tailored to their reality. This also results in technical advice that has taken a quantitative leap, going from a focus on delivering a technical consultancy by specialty, to a comprehensive technical consultancy nurtured by several specialists. We currently approach clients using agile methodologies, building “squads” with a multidisciplinary team that solves the problem and provides a solution from multiple perspectives.
AQ: Vitapro recently partnered with the Aquaculture Stewardship Council for responsible practices in the Latin American shrimp farming industry. What are the main challenges in the region?
HC: As a feed supplier, we are part of an industry that plays a fundamental role in the present and the future of food security. The role of our industry also leads us to face environmental challenges and generate commitments to sustainable development, and the conservation and preservation of marine resources.
In the case of the alliance with ASC, both ASC and Vitapro share a common purpose of transforming aquaculture, as well as a common vision of advancing environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture and improving standards across the industry. Since sustainability is at the core of Vitapro’s operation, the company seeks to promote the strict adoption of ASC standards in all territories where the Nicovita brand is present. In this context, the main challenges of the industry focus on raising its standard in terms of sustainability, promoting best practices that allow the increase of global competitiveness, and working together with suppliers of marine ingredients to endorse compliance with sustainable standards in raw materials.
AQ: How about sustainability? What are Vitapro’s main sustainability commitments?
HC: Sustainability is part of our DNA and is embedded in all our initiatives. Following this line, Vitapro has a sustainability strategy based on three pillars: promoting a healthy nutrition and wellness, enhancing value chain sustainable development, and as an active agent, encouraging environmental care. The transformation of the aquaculture industry remains the biggest challenge, and to achieve this, innovation and digital transformation are necessary as drivers. Along these lines, Vitapro´s commitment to the industry becomes tangible through the impulse of innovative development of tools that help to transform shrimp farmers’ businesses, offering them a variety of solutions and practical improvements that maximize their performance; a digital transformation in the technical advice provided; the application of new technologies such as advanced analytics to enhance decision-making; research for a portfolio development of products focused on nutritional profiles and the reduction of the FCR ( Feed Conversion Rate). Additionally, Vitapro works hand-in-hand with its suppliers to encourage its value chain to adopt the best sustainability practices. In this sense, in 2021 through the Accelerator program for Sustainable Aquaculture Ingredients, the company designed a program to promote among producers of marine ingredients in Latin America the adoption of the certification that guarantees responsible and sustainable production, and thus, ensure the suitability and high quality of the ingredients used in our production processes.
This comprehensive approach allows us to generate value, maximize clients’ results, care about the raw materials’ origin and the marine ecosystem, and promote local growth and well-being.
Entrevista a Hugo Carrillo, CEO de Vitapro, publicada en revista: Aquafeed. Advances in Processing & Formulation Vol 14 Issue 3 2022 (https://www.aquafeed.com/aquafeed-magazine/)