18 Mar Innovation and sustainability to overcome the challenges of the future
The agricultural sector has always shown great dynamism and the ability to evolve, welcoming over the years and making its own many innovations from the world of technology. The pandemic then forced all operators in the supply chain to review and adapt some processes, carrying out a reorganization. In addition, issues such as sustainability and safety are, almost by professional deformation, dear to those who work in the agricultural sector. To better understand the dynamics that have animated the last two years of the sector, the importance of digital and the commitment to protecting the environment, our editorial staff asked Alfonso Altamura, President of Altamura OP, a few questions, starting right from the history of the homonymous company.
Good morning president Altamura. Let’s start with a little history of his family in the agricultural sector. What are the most significant steps of this long journey?
The Altamura family has always been immersed in agriculture. My brothers and I represent the fourth generation, but my great-grandfather, at the beginning of the business, already grew large quantities of wheat and tomatoes. Then, towards the end of the 1970s, production shifted to fruit and vegetables, from salads to strawberries, on a national scale. In the 90s the first steps in international export and the first trials of cultivation of baby leaves (starting from rocket) and the transition to the IV range. The investments made in the last twenty years in technology, infrastructure, marketing and training have led us to produce all the lines currently in the catalog and to grow steadily, year after year. Basically, our story is that of a passion that has been handed down from father to son for a century now, and which has evolved in symbiosis with the evolution of the land to which we belong. The Piana del Sele is a unique place, in some ways magical, extremely generous in being able to lend itself to any type of fruit and vegetable farming. And we, with our daily work, try to respect it every day.
The Altamura OP Group is an excellence in the sector. What year was 2021 and what actions have you taken in the last two years characterized by the pandemic?
The last two years has shaken the whole world, because no one was really prepared for what we are experiencing. Especially at the beginning. I remember 2020 as a very intense year for my company. The emotional management of the first months, the demand that – net of a brief but significant decline – then resumed its usual trend, the continuous adaptation to the rules that followed one another, the necessary internal reorganization to allow each of our employees to continue to operate in maximum safety. I am grateful to all our sectors who have worked hard, even allowing us to equalize the economics of the previous year. The result is anything but obvious (as nothing was in that year). Then, once settled, we resumed our march towards innovation, which for us is not a trend, but a constant that in some cases has seen us pioneers and has always rewarded us. And with it, also our growth in numbers.
Your sector is constantly evolving, also driven by technological progress and innovation. What are the novelties of agriculture 4.0 at Altamura OP?
On innovation related to agriculture 4.0, I believe I can define our company as avant-garde. Our first steps in adopting digital technology for our processes date back to 2008, when we created a digital register in which to enter each cultivation operation we carry out, which can also be consulted from the smartphone of field operators, in real time. Now we are working a lot on tractors and equipment, equipping each machine with 4.0 kits to obtain statistics on operating performance and to have ever greater control of the engine parameters, to plan maintenance more precisely. As mentioned, innovation is part of Altamura OP’s DNA. We are experimenters.
Sustainability and safety are issues to which your sector and Altamura OP in particular are very sensitive. What actions has the Group taken?
True, they are fundamental issues for us. I start from safety, first of all of our employees: we constantly work to create a context in which the risk of injury, even indirect, is minimal. For example, we try to use only industrial machines that have ergonomic seats and that allow them to recline correctly, to safeguard the health of those who work in the field every day. But also the safety of the many consumers who choose us: in our warehouses we use optical sensors capable of scanning every product that is about to be marketed and identifying those that do not comply with all established standards, discarding them. Our commitment to sustain environmental compatibility is high. We try to use less and less plastic, and the one we use is washable and reusable. We are also testing other materials, such as biodegradable or compostable films. In 2021 we invested heavily in photovoltaics and innovative irrigation systems, to reduce the impact. In the collection phase we decided to eliminate all heat engine machines, replacing them with electric ones. We are already practically able to independently produce the energy we need during the hours of light. Our great goal is to be able to produce 100% of the energy we need, even covering the night hours. To do this we must wait for technological progress to take a few more steps. In the meantime, so as not to stand by and watch, this year we will carry out the first test with two 25 KW batteries.
Yours is a dynamic and constantly growing reality. What are the Group’s plans in the short and long term to face the challenges of the future?
As always, we will listen to the market, we will monitor changes in lifestyles and consumption, trying to respond better and better to the new needs that will arise. At the same time, however, we will try to stimulate consumers first, proposing new products and making them discover lesser-known products and flavors. We will do this by continuing to train our staff, doing research, adopting new process solutions and evolving our cultivation techniques. We will also strive to do our part in terms of environmental awareness, trying to share with operators in the supply chain and end customers a set of useful information to create greater awareness. All the data we collect is useful to do our job better, but they become an invaluable wealth if shared with everyone to contribute to a healthy and ethical growth of the entire sector.
Thanks for his time, president Altamura.
Thanks to her, it’s always a pleasure.