19/Oct/2022

#08

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Innovak Global, the expansion of root specialists

Mexican company Innovak Global turns 65 years old. And it is celebrating in a big way, growing globally and launching a new portfolio of products. But always with a clear focus: to be the leading specialists in plant root needs.

Patricio Trebilcock

Innovak Global was founded in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1957 by Luis Roberto Medina Vega. It is a family business that today is run by the third generation, headed by Luis Román Medina. Since its inception, it has been dedicated to providing inputs to farmers: soil amendments, specialty nutrients, biostimulants and biological products for crop protection. 

The company's focus is to generate a deep understanding of root system solutions. Because of this, its knowledge center is called the Rhizosphere Center in Chihuahua, where researchers develop solutions and knowledge around the different root problems. It is difficult to find a company in the world with greater knowledge on this fundamental topic of agricultural production.

As part of its international technology update meeting "Innovak Evolution", Redagrícola spoke with the company's General Manager, Alberto Araujo, and Market Development Director, Óscar Cruz. 

Innovak Global's CEO, Alberto Araujo, worked for more than 20 years at Tecnológico de Monterrey, the largest private university in Mexico. He completed his undergraduate and master's degrees there, and received his PhD in Economics from the University of Havana, Cuba. He was rector of the northern zone of Tecnológico de Monterrey and, while there, he met Innovak Global and became involved with the company: first as a consultant, then as a member of the board of directors until he accepted to become CEO of the company. 

"It has been a fantastic experience, working hand in hand with the company's directors, the Innovak team and our clients. Every day is different and it is exciting to lead a company that seeks solutions for a more sustainable world. We are a biostimulant company. We have specialized in the root and we have a complete portfolio of solutions for the needs of the root system. In addition to that we have foliar, nutritional and biocontrol products. Our society has the challenge of producing more food with fewer resources, but at the same time the current techniques that are most commonly used are not sustainable: excessive applications of chemical inputs, fertilizers and water. There are also sustainable alternatives such as organic production that have limitations and do not allow producing food in the volumes that are going to be needed. And then there is an intermediate solution which is precisely to adopt management, practices and products that are kind to the environment and that are also very efficient to produce. And this is where Innovak Global has positioned itself. And to the extent that farmers incorporate these biostimulation solutions, we will be able to increase production volumes in a sustainable manner. This is what drives us and we dedicate all our efforts and investments to it," he says.

Alberto Araujo says that the great umbrella is clean and sustainable production and from there they are developing their portfolio of solutions, composed mainly of biostimulants based on extracts, polyphenols or microorganisms, but also soil conditioners, biological products for crop protection and nutritional products. But always with a main focus on the root.

Alberto Araujo, CEO at Innovak Global

 

"I can tell you that we have been very successful in developing products that give value specifically to something. For example, in the market you will find products for stress, but I think it is very pretentious to have stress products for everything, right? What we have learned here is that to solve the problem of stress you have to look for the source, and so we have already developed value offers that go to the source of stress. So we have products to mitigate salt stress: biostimulants for salt stress. Which is not the same for water stress or oxidative stress. With value offers we have to solve the origin of the problems, the origin of the stress, the origin of soil compaction, the origin of nutrient uptake failures," he says.

Root specialists

Innovak Global was one of the first companies in the world to study the root and its environment, considering it as a vital component with great potential to increase crop productivity through the integral regulation of the root. In 1998, Innovak Global started a deep research process in alliance with international educational and research institutions.

The Root Dynamics Regulation (RDR) is a technology focused on the root and its environment, which is constantly updated as it researches, knows and develops technical tools that increase the chances of success in each crop, and promotes sustainability for the farmer to last on their land.

"The root is the hidden half of plants and many times we have met with experts who are surprised with the information we have generated about roots: the behavior of root flows, root health, root stimulation. Despite all the knowledge available, there is still a lot to know about the root system. For a long time the root was considered only as the anchor of the crop, but there is a world to explore," says Óscar Cruz, Market Development Director of Innovak Global.

Óscar Cruz, Market Development Director at Innovak Global

Root dynamics regulation (RDR) is based on five areas:

  1. Soil conditioning
  2. Root stress
  3. Root activity
  4. Rhizospheric environment
  5. Root health

Floor conditioners go back almost to the company's origins. This year Innovak celebrates its 65th anniversary and Promesol floor conditioner is celebrating its 49th anniversary. "It is a very current product and the company's flagship. And it allows us to open new markets. Now, for example, in the case of Chile, PROMESOL 5X is booming," says Óscar Cruz.

For root stress, the company recently launched Balox, a biostimulant for salt stress based on polyphenols. They biostimulate root metabolism to induce resistance to salt stress.

Nutrisorb is one of the company's main products and has been on the market for 25 years. It promotes root activity. "We consider it the best biostimulant in the world. What Nutrisorb does is promote the generation of absorbent hairs in the roots. Nutrisorb is a biostimulant, hormone-free, you could say that it is a precursor of the hormones that generate the growth of absorbent hairs," Cruz explains.

As a complement to Nutrisorb, the product Radigrow operates as a rooting agent: it generates primary roots and then Nutrisorb goes to the fine point of generating secondary roots or tertiary roots or the absorbing hairs to be able to take nutrients. Radigrow generates root mass and Nutrisorb generates rootlets that will be regenerating every two or three days to take nutrients.

Solutions for the rhizosphere environment are based on microorganisms and biostimulants and aim to biostimulate the root and favor soil microbiology to promote an adequate ecological condition of the rhizosphere.

"Unlike other companies in the market, we not only offer microorganisms, but our value proposition is accompanied by a biostimulant that helps the plant produce root exudates, which are carbon flows that serve as food for the microorganisms. So, when you accompany the inoculation of the microorganism with the biostimulant, you are helping to increase your success rate in the inoculation and then obviously the development of microorganisms. But not only the microorganisms that you apply, but also the biostimulant - called Exoroot - will help the native microorganisms that are in the soil to also have a greater development", adds Óscar Cruz. 

The root health line is based on microorganisms antagonistic to soil diseases. These are microorganisms that attack soil diseases, such as fungi or nematodes. There are several solutions and products based on antagonistic microorganisms complemented with Exoroot biostimulants that promote the development of beneficial microorganisms.

A root-based working methodology

"In our business model, working closely with customers is central," says Óscar Cruz. And as part of this relationship, the company assists growers with a series of technologies to evaluate the condition of the rhizosphere. "Once the diagnosis has been made, we offer our solutions and we have monitoring tools such as, for example, minirhizotrons. These are probes that are introduced into the root zone and allow us to see the generation of root mass, absorbent hairs and root health in real time. We also have software that interprets this data and allows us to know how we are progressing with the implemented solutions. What we are looking for with this is to avoid subjectivity issues as much as possible". 

International expansion: focus on Latin America

In addition to its strong presence in Mexico, Innovak Global has subsidiaries in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile and the United States. It also distributes its products in Europe, Asia and Africa. The company is currently undergoing a strong internationalization process where the focus is on Latin America, but it is also making strong progress in other continents.

"We are eager to continue growing internationally. But always based on our business model, which requires having teams of people in the fields. Today we are very well established throughout the Americas, from Washington and the Pacific to Chile, with a very important project in Brazil. In Europe we have very good allies in Turkey and Switzerland and we have advanced with registrations in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Ukraine and Poland. In Asia we already have distribution in Japan and we hope to continue growing in that continent", says Alberto Araujo.

In the Americas, Mexico is by far the largest market, followed by Peru. Then comes Colombia, the United States and Brazil. "Brazil has enormous potential and we have quite advanced solutions for extensive crops, mainly through seed coating with our biostimulants. We are going to have great news in Brazil in the short term. But we are not only going to grow in Brazil. Peru is a fantastic market where a first-class agro-export has developed and we are doing very well. In Colombia we have a strong focus on export products and Chile is a very technical market where we have been able to deploy our business model, with many trials, field work and we are adding a lot of value in soil and biostimulation issues. The fact of working with top farmers in all countries allows us to learn and be able to offer better solutions every day for all our growers".

Innovak Global celebrates 65 years in full growth: territorial, portfolio, developing new technologies, with more professionals in the field and deploying its science from the Rhizosphere Center in northern Mexico to the whole world. "We are specialists in biostimulation with a very strong focus on the root and based on a very close working model with growers. This allows us to move forward by studying the root problems that affect agricultural production so we can offer specific solutions. In this way we contribute to the development of sustainable agriculture at a global level and we are proud of our role", concludes Alberto Araujo.

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Biologicals Latam is a newsletter from Redagricola to provide specialized information on the intense activity that is taking place in the field of bio-inputs for agricultural production. This publication in English and Spanish is a complement to the series of courses and conferences that this media group carries out on the subject.