The company’s facilities are developed around water scarcity
Pulpí is Almería’s tenth largest municipality by greenhouse surface area. Vegetables started being grown in greenhouses in 1963 and in 1971 they started growing at a larger scale. This is where Primaflor is based, a company founded four decades ago to grow flowers and which changed its business model in the 80s to start growing vegetables and producing ready-to-eat salads.
It currently has a 2,700-strong workforce and sells its products all over Europe, especially in Spain and the UK, as well as Canada and several Arab countries.
Primaflor’s Corporate Director, Cecilio Peregrín, welcomed the Leaders and shared business figures with them, as well as other interesting facts about the company, which has 6,000 hectares of land at various above-sea levels, which allows them to maximise harvests every year.
The Leaders enquired about the sale of products to department stores and profit margins, as well as about adaptation to climate change and the inclusion of organic products into the company’s portfolio, among other things.
The company invests heavily in technology in order to save water and improve sustainability. Therefore, the visit also included a tour of Primaflor’s cutting-edge facilities: its high-tech greenhouse, the Fourth-Generation plant and the Experimental Technological Greenhouse.
At the high-tech greenhouse, Primaflor produces baby leaf greens. This ‘veg factory’ applies industrial techniques to agriculture. With a surface area of six hectares, this greenhouse produces the same as 60 hectares of traditional crops using less water and resources. “We have excellent weather but water is always scarce, so we do whatever we can to save even one drop,” said Cecilio Peregrín.
They also got to visit the Fourth-Gen plant, where product preparation takes place (chopping, washing and packaging) in a controlled environment and at temperatures between 2 and 4 degrees Celsius. The company’s corporate director highlighted the importance of temperature control. “Our company’s cooling capacity is currently the highest in the industry. We can make temperature drop to 1-2 degrees Celsius in 20 minutes, stopping the decay process.” As a result, the ‘best before’ date on the products is extended. “What we harvest today can be anywhere in Spain by tomorrow. It takes 4-5 days to reach the Baltic countries, for instance, and it still has 5-6 more days to be consumed,” he said.
Hydroponic crops do not need any soil, the plants’ roots get water and fertilisers and obtain high oxygenation. Since the greenhouse is a controlled environment, pesticides are not needed and water use is reduced by 70%, yielding more plentiful crops. At the tech greenhouse, which the Leaders found impressive, they learned about the work of NGS, part of the Primaflor group. The company has patented several technologies for hydroponic crops and developed around one thousand projects in twenty different countries.