Tanks, trailers, fertilizer spreaders, excavators… these are just some of the agricultural machines that make work in the fields of Spain easier every season. Eight out of ten, or in other words, 80% of them are manufactured in the Aragonese community and in the Catalan province of Lérida. “We are a reference and we are on our way to becoming one at international level. Some companies already export up to 70% of their production to countries in Europe, America and Asia. Also to Australia,” says Carlos Sanchez, head of internationalization of the Cluster of Agricultural and Livestock Machinery of Aragon (CAMPAG). He assures that in the Community there has always been “a tradition of this type of production”.
The manufacture of these machines contributes to the economy of Aragon. According to CAMPAG data, it represents 1.21% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its members – 48 SMEs and 9 research and dissemination centers – have an annual turnover of more than 250 million euros. “We collaborate with centers such as the University of Zaragoza and entities such as Aragón Exterior or the Chamber of Commerce to analyze the market, look for potential clients and make progress in innovation”, explains Sánchez about how the cluster works.
In short, the aim of the cluster is to join forces and create a brand of Aragon that is recognized worldwide. And it is precisely along these lines that Arados Fontán, a company based in the town of Alfajarín in Zaragoza, Spain, manufactures reversible moldboard plows. For almost a decade, they have been exporting 20% of their production, mainly to Romania and, although to a lesser extent, to France and Poland.
In the opinion of the manager of Arados Fontán, Antonio Alot, the Spanish agricultural product is well considered “especially in Eastern countries”. And specifically in Aragon they find lighter plows whose use translates into fuel savings. A feature to take into account because the purchase investment of a medium-sized plow (four bodies) is around 13,000 euros.
“In Romania we sell mainly because of the characteristics of our machines, which incorporate a hydraulic cylinder that is triggered when there are stones and that avoids many stops for the farmer,” says Alot. In addition, the manager lists the design and size of their parts – larger than usual – as part of the strengths of the products they manufacture. “We make plows of up to eleven bodies that comb 4.5 meters of soil in one pass,” he specifies. In Spain the average is five, but in Romania and Poland they ask for larger machinery because they have very large field dimensions. The way to transport these machines, which can weigh up to 5,000 kilos, is by road, disassembled on trailers.
Digitized plows to save water and fuel
The characteristics of these alfajarinense plows are not the result of chance. Of the six people who make up the staff of Arados Fontán, one – the only woman, without taking into account the employees of Alot Metal, a subcontracted company – is dedicated to the design and innovation of the pieces. “The farmer is modernized,” says the manager. That’s why his goal is to achieve the digitization of a plow that incorporates a soil analyzer. This will inform the farmer of the characteristics of the soil: depth, moisture, gravel, sand, etc., in order to save water, fuel and make the work more efficient. “We are now in the design phase. We hope to have it on the market next year,” he says.
In total, Arados Fontán sells around one hundred and fifty machines every year, thirty of which go outside Spain. Asked about his long-term dream, Antonio Alot replies: “We would like to expand export, but it is very complicated. You need a lot of time and people. One of the main obstacles they face is the lack of skilled labor. “Every year we lose professionals because more of them retire than graduate in this sector,” he says. However, in exporting, he recognizes that there is a compensation that goes “beyond the economic”: the pride and the illusion of knowing that your work is being recognized in other countries as well.
Next destination: Serbia and South Africa
CAMPAG was created in 2018 and is currently focused on three lines of action: innovation, internationalization and business cooperation. “We are attentive to calls for public funding, we maintain relationships with companies in other countries and we facilitate synergies between partners,” Sanchez summarizes in general terms.
CAMPAG has recently obtained grants for rural and vertical farming projects. They are also developing a market monitoring tool that breaks down and lists the countries that are buying and investing the most in agricultural material, as well as a list of contacts of potential distributors and exporters. They function somewhat like a dating app. “We know our partners and we know what their needs are. When we find a company that might be a good fit for them, we set up conversations and introduce them,” he notes.
So far, they have knocked on the door of markets in Romania, South Africa, Serbia, Germany and France. “He who puts his eggs in the same basket runs more risk. Diversifying and having income from different countries means that if there is a problem, the loss is less,” says the head of internationalization, who concludes that an essential element in agricultural and livestock business relations are fairs. The last International Agricultural Machinery Fair (FIMA) was held in Zaragoza at the end of April.