Name Varcli Pinares S. A.
GGN 4052852511025
Country Costa Rica

Farm Profile

During the GLOBALG.A.P. SUMMIT 2016, and as a former G.A.P. AWARDS WINNER of 2016, we said we strongly believed that everything that was happening around the world was focused in just one place, so it was impressive trying to grab everything learned during the GLOBALG.A.P.  SUMMIT and apply it in our company and our country.

But what has happened in the past 2 years?

As a small exporting company in Costa Rica, Varcli Pinares S. A. had a renewed vision and a responsibility, “to develop a new Standard for SUSTAINABLE QUALITY in the banana production”. We committed to driving ourselves, Costa Rican and foreign growers into the preservation of the natural resources of the world through processes not only friendly to the environment and community, but also sustainable with the businesses, becoming cost effective and more profitable than other traditional ways of growing bananas.

In a country were innovation in agriculture is more important than ever, Varcli Pinares S. A. has continued to strive in the growth, production and exportation of banana boxes in the world, through processes sustainable with the environment.

The last 2 years have proven to be a challenge for our company, which evolved from traditional banana exporting whereby all the bananas were sold through contracts between transnational intermediaries. This turned to an all-out price war in the spot market, due to the increase in the production of bananas in other countries such as Ecuador, Guatemala and Colombia.

The increase in the competition for markets has proven to take a toll on the growers, who were driven to search for new markets to sell their products. As part of these growers, Varcli Pinares S. A. has successfully exported to countries such as China, Japan, Ukraine, and Croatia.

These countries are considered unusual markets for the Costa Rican grower, giving an opportunity to minimize the pressure on the traditional banana export markets that Costa Rica usually accesses. In addition to these new markets, Varcli Pinares S. A. was able to maintain its traditional clients, such as USA (already complying FDA requirements) and Western Europe.

The expertise and the desire to maintain the innovation, to show the improvements of the New Millennium Production System by Varcli Pinares S. A., make us proud to report greater successes. An improvement in productivity that went from 3,200 boxes per hectare in 2015, to 3,472 boxes in 2017. In 2018, if the market, the climate, and God helps us, we are expecting a production of over 3,600 boxes per hectare.

The CEO of Varcli Pinares S. A. still believes in his phrase: “Know the potential of your product and you will always find opportunities to be better every day”. According to his beliefs, the potential of the banana productivity of Costa Rica is still over 4,000 boxes per hectare. Until that level of production is reached, our company will continue to strive for better productivity innovations.

The principles for our company remain. Quality and productivity, through the three added values of innovation, sustainability and simplicity. The past 2 years have helped us to mature, recognizing that innovation is not only about technology but about doing things right, either through technological support or even in a change of a process recommended by our co-workers. Sustainability is not only being responsible with the environment and the community, but to becoming far more profitable than the traditional production methods; and simplicity must be a KPI to consolidate quality.

What We Believe

Women Taskforce
Even though our company is run by men, we strongly believe that the women taskforce is incredibly important to achieve our quality goals. We continue to have over 60% of the packing plant composed of women, maintaining our usual treatment for women at pregnancy state, also, we encourage women of advanced age to work in our company, guaranteeing and maintaining their life in a better way.
We encourage a women taskforce because we strongly believe that women are more detailed and focused than men and because they usually treat our products more delicately.

Youth in Our Business
We believe that youth is the future. With a general manager of 30 years of age, who has been working for 9 years in the company, Felipe Vargas Climent believes that youth deserves not only the opportunity but the platform to develop change agents.

Because of this belief, Varcli Pinares S. A. started a process of internships with 3 different organizations:

  • AIESEC: For the first time in the history of the company, Varcli Pinares S.A. was able to have in its taskforce an Intern of AIESEC, Eduardo Emmanuel Flores, a 23-year-old Mexican man. With him, the company started the development of the “Sustainable Productivity System”, studying over 3 certification norms, such as GLOBALG.A.P., RFA, and “Essential Costa Rica”.
  • CUN Limón: An internship with this University College has motivated Varcli Pinares S. A. to pioneer in the implementation of the “QR traceability codes”, to control inventories in its business.
  • University Students: As a graduate of the Universidad de Costa Rica, Felipe Vargas believes in the capability of Costa Rica’s local university graduates . A new internship is about to start in 2018 with a student of the Universidad Nacional (UNA) to push forward the development of the “ Sustainable Productivity System”.


Sustainability
We once read that our life is a road of diamonds, trying to say that happiness is the trip, not the destination. In such ways we believe that sustainability is a trip. We do not aim to become sustainable in order to become rich, but we do it because it is what should be done by all the people of the world. Our company has and will always have open doors to growers, scientists and buyers that are open to innovate and help us construct the optimum banana production system.

The goal to create the “Sustainable Productivity System” is not to keep it for ourselves, but to share it with the world. That is why Varcli Pinares S. A., in 2017, formed part of the first Scaling Program by Impact HUB San José, to help us create a scalable and sustainable productivity system.

Regarding water management, our last evaluation by Corbana showed a water consumption of 3 cubic meters of water per day of process, which means less than 3 liters of water invested per banana box. It is important to remember that traditional systems involve the consumption of over 150 liters of water per banana box.

Other companies invest lots of money in water recycling systems to reduce the water consumption to even 50 liters, yet the amount of chemicals used for these recycling systems is thrown completely into the canals and rivers. Varcli Pinares S. A. system only uses chlorine for the potabilization of water.

Soil Management
Thanks to James Rojas Jimenez, general manager of our farm, who is passionate about the physiology of the soil, Varcli Pinares S. A. was able to pioneer in several practices that help to prevent the deterioration of our soils:

  • Non-Herbicide Policy:A project that started with only 30 hectares has now become a complete 100 hectares of banana production with grass coverings. People believed that the appliance of herbicides was vital because of the competition for nutrients between the banana plant and the grass. Thanks to a change in paradigms several things happened:
    • Prevention of Soil Erosion: Not only was Varcli Pinares S. A. able to have the same cost for mowing the grass coverings than the appliance of herbicides, but we were also able to prevent soil erosion.
    • Reduction of Costs Due to a Minimal Canal Maintenance: By maintaining the grass coverings in the canals, we were able to protect the rivers.
    • Oxygenation of the Earth: The grass coverings usually create a network of roots in the soil that leave a trail of tunnels. Plants breathe, so the more tunnels you have on the soil, the better the exchange of gases occur. The CO2 gets out of the earth and the oxygen enters. An accumulation of CO2 in the soil is phytotoxic for the plants. That alone justifies the non-herbicide policy.
    • Promotion of Beneficial Microorganisms: The most dangerous microorganisms that affect the banana plant are anaerobic, and the most the beneficial microorganisms are aerobic. Many beneficial microorganisms feed on the anaerobic microorganisms, which means that if we promote the life in the soil we will have better productivity and usually a more sustainable farm.
    • Humidity of the Soils: Our farm has clay soils, which means that in the past in summer our soils fractured, and in winter our soils drowned. Thanks to our grass coverings, during summer the soil always remain wet, and during winter, we have less erosion on the soil.
    • Ph: Thanks to the agricultural practices applied by our company, we have been able to maintain our soils with a Ph near 7, ideal for the banana production.

 In the end, scientists have proven that only 5% to 20% of the fertilizers are being used by the banana plant, which means that the competition for nutrients was not a fact. More important than that, the same scientists have proven that the banana roots do not have the capacity to absorb some of the nutrients applied by the fertilizers, but must be decomposed by the symbiotic relationship between the banana roots and the beneficial aerobic microorganism.

  • Fragmentated Fertilization: In the past people believed that you should apply fertilizers monthly, because the math is simple, what you take from the soil you should give back. We believe our plants are living beings, such as humans. It is unhealthy to eat 3 meals at the same time in the morning, believing we will have energy for the whole day. Human nutritionists believe humans should fragmentate their meals 6 times per day. Our company applies the same principles for our plants, fragmentating the appliance of fertilizers by the half and applying fertilizers every 15 days.
  • Rallado Soil Oxygenation Process: Pioneering in the physiological maintenance of the soil, and thanks to the investment of a mini-dredger in the farm, the knowledge that by subsolating the soil you break the root system of the banana plants and that by promoting the flow of water in the subsoil, you promote the oxygenation and better growth of the plants. Varcli Pinares S. A. developed a tool that instead of a 4-pick shovel, to use only 1 pick, which then is used to make a line between the banana plants, promoting the flow of water in the subsoil and preventing the massive death of the root system caused by the 4-pick shovel.
  • Agritec: Varcli Pinares S. A. remains the pioneer in the implementation of the ABOPAC Agritec system. This system enables the farm to have daily measurements of the conditions of the soils, helping to create knowledge for the maintenance and sustainability of the soil.
  • Low Density Banana Population: With 1,350 plants per hectare, Varcli Pinares S. A. can produce 1.95 banana bunches per banana unit (the banana unit is made of the banana plant and its offspring). By promoting the correct space between plants and minimizing the soil and sun competition to the minimum, Varcli Pinares S. A. was able to grow more banana bunches per hectare per year than other companies with 1,650 plants or more.
  • Quesada Harvesting Process: First thing first, all our bananas are considered as our selling product, either bananas for exportation or bananas that do not have the quality to be exported. The true banana grower should be able to sell 100% of his or her bananas, so bananas should never be considered as waste. All the biological wastes of the banana production (referring to the pinzote), are taken care of by our harvesting system, which help us to apply organic matter daily to our fields.

    Climate Friendly Practices
  • Solar Energy: We maintain our solar energy system and are still proud to say that we can export a complete banana container using only the energy provided by the sun.
  • Drones for Banana Sigatoka Control:The president of Varcli Pinares S. A. started a new project in Costa Rica. Felipe Olman Vargas Vargas and his partners pioneered in the introduction of drones for the Sigatoka control, using Varcli Pinares S.A., “Finca San Marcos”, as the first banana company in the country to apply Sigatoka Control with this technology. This new technology will help to:
    • Reduce fuel consumption: The drones run on electric batteries
    • Fumigation at night: Instead of applying the fungicides during the day, the drones will be able to apply those products at night, preventing the poisoning of workers at the farm.
    • Better quality of applications: The drone is slower and has a more accurate control of the applications of the fungicides, also it is ideal for areas of the farm that are near forests or buffer zones, places the airplanes cannot reach.
    • Reforestation: Varcli Pinares farm is made of 300 hectares. Today 120 hectares are used for banana growing, 60 hectares are used for pastures, 60 hectares were left for the preservation of the wetlands and forests. The remaining 60 hectares of the farm have a purpose. Thanks to a partnership between ICE, the Costa Rican Electrical Institute, and the company, Varcli Pinares S. A. has been able to plant over 30 hectares of teak and Melina trees, hoping to plant the 60 hectares by the end of 2018.
    • Turtle Love Project: Conservation project aimed at turtles with a focus on their reproductive biology in Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua; a project developed by Renato Bruno, a biologist from Brazil, with collaboration of Costa Rica Green Path. We strongly believe in the preservation of the wildlife and projects that help preserve endangered wildlife.
    • Pacuare Reserve: The oldest partnership the company has, Pacuare Reserve remains as one of the top hatching points of the leatherback turtle and the Agamia Agami. Our company not only provides of a docking point for the boats of the reserve (its only way to reach the reserve on the ground), but also we donate bananas for the feeding of the workers of the reserve and several educational projects with local schools.

      Corporate Social Responsibility

      Our co-workers are the key to create sustainability. As a small company, the owners of the company know every member who works at the farm, which enables us to know their needs.

      Many of our taskforce is from Nicaragua, a country immersed in chaos and about to break in a civil war. Being empathetic with our workers, we let them travel to their country with the promise of having their jobs back once they come back to Costa Rica. We also have a program to lend them money, if needed, to send it to their families in Nicaragua. That money is lent without any kind of interest, also we allow them to pay back in installments, because we believe that if we can help our co-workers to organize their life, we will be able to have a happy, proud and faithful working culture, which will transform in better quality and production.

      Being GLOBALG.A.P. certified is more than just obtaining a key to sell your products to other countries, but a way to become sustainable. We hope our successes will motivate other growers to apply for GLOBALG.A.P.  and the values that it represents.

      Winning the G.A.P. Awards 2018 is a dream for us, not only because we believe we deserve to win, but because we want to continue improving every day. Winning the G.A.P. Awards 2018 will help us prove our path is right and that we can once again reach the world with our message. We also hope our work motivate others to participate in the development of sustainable agriculture, which will give us the greatest satisfaction.
 

Achievements

  • Six years in a row 0% non-conformity for the GLOBALG.A.P. certification.
  • Today, Varcli Pinares S. A. exports its bananas to several parts of the world, such as United States, Spain, Italy, Japan, Ukraine, China, and the Middle East.
  • The Use of Solar Energy: Varcli Pinares S. A. is the first banana producer in Costa Rica, and possibly the world, to use solar energy as the only energy source for the banana packing process.
  • Reduction of water consumption over 145 liters per banana box down to less than 4 liters. That’s a water reduction use of 97% per regular banana box!
  • Reduced need for chemicals in the washing process, as the only chemicals needed are chlorine (3 parts per million) and citric acid.
  • Substantial Reduction in the Use of Herbicides: Varcli Pinares S. A. maintains 100% of its total production area without the use of herbicides.
  • The banana producer uses the "Amamantis", which is the full stem of the banana plant, as this supports the banana offspring and helps reduce the chemical fertilizers by 20% of the normal need.
  • The company uses the "Quesada" harvesting process, which makes Varcli Pinares S.A. one of the least harmful and most efficient banana harvesting processes in the industry.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility: Varcli Pinares S. A. has a recognition program that represents an additional 10% of the daily base wage.
  • Alliances with Pacuare Reserve, which mean for the company working in the education of young students for the preservation of the Leatherback turtles.
  • Reducing Administrative Waste: By implementing of a virtual system and the QR traceability codes for the management of the company, we have reduced the amount of paper we use.
  • Pioneers in Agricultural Precision: by introducing new technologies with the company Abopac.
 

Achievements in 2018

  • Use of drones for sigatoka control.
  • Developing of the Rallado soli oxygenating system.
  • Increase of banana production per hectare, over 272 boxes per hectare.
  • Alliances with local and international NGOs, preserving the wildlife and helping new professionals to become change agents.
  • Blueprint of the “Sustainable Banana Production System”, we are committed with this project and intend to give results soon.