April 11, 2021
Grobocopatel: “That food is more in demand is a huge opportunity for Argentina“
The businessman asks for a reduction in withholdings, a countercyclical fund and more investment in innovation and technology. Mauá, the platform with which he is committed to digitizing agricultural management.

“I think I have seen a light, on the other side of the river”, Gustavo Grobocopatel could sing from his home in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, where he has lived since last year. The businessman, who left the presidency of Los Grobo but maintained his shareholding, launched the Mauá platform a few weeks ago, a tool that seeks to connect producers, offer them useful information to manage their activity and promote innovation and technology in agriculture.

—Why did Los Grobo bet on Agtech with Mauá? How much can these digital tools help increase productivity in the field?
—In the 21st century, practically all businesses are going to be impacted by digital technologies. These types of platforms are fundamental, starting the path towards Artificial Intelligence. This platform tries in some way to bring customers and suppliers closer together, building a large business community around what this company generates. It is very difficult to grow in time, in speed and quantity if one does not do it based on this type of technology.

—How does this platform work? What changes producers' lives?
—From the use of the platform, the producers will have the transactional information in a transparent, clear way. They will be able to make quick and immediate use of all that information to make management decisions. Then you have other types of information such as weather, markets, satellite images of the field, processed with productivity maps. It is information that has been curated by the Los Grobo team. Then it has a segment called community, where we try to generate a space to create collective knowledge through relational information, that is, the information that is generated in the debate, in the exchanges, in the talks between us and also with experts. This is version 1.0 and it is the beginning of an evolution that will go hand in hand with what technology does in the world.

- Is data as important a commodity as soy today?
—Actually, these are not data for soybeans or any other agricultural crop. They are data on economic management, business management. And all that data today is used to make better decisions that allow increasing productivity, selling better, reducing risk, managing it. It is information that in some way helps producers to manage their business more professionally.

- How important will 5G be for Agtech?
-It's fundamental. The case of Mauá is central. That you can access connectivity with speed and anywhere is key. There are many technologies in the field that have to do with connectivity: geolocations, dosing, there are a lot of technologies. If there is no connectivity, it is impossible. In today's world, having 5G is like having air.

—Argentina has not yet developed its 5G network. The United States is pushing for countries not to adopt Huawei's network. Does it change anything for the private sector, for the producers, whether the network is Chinese or a Western company?-Not. It is enough that there is connectivity. The rest is a geopolitical party that I do not know. The sooner we Argentine producers have connectivity, the better.

—A while ago Anfibia defined you in a note as “the rich man Steve Jobs thinks he is”. When you moved to Uruguay, would you be more the Marcos Galperín of the countryside?
—Between Marcos Galperín and I there are several zeros of difference (laughs). That is a note where the journalist (Graciela Mochkofsky) sarcastically charged me with this idea that I am very technological. She did it around mockingly, but my answer is Mauá. Not only do I believe myself, but I am.

- "Why did you move to Uruguay?"
—I have decided to come to live in Uruguay for many years and I have been here more and more. What the pandemic did was make me make the 7x24 decision. He accelerated a life decision that he had already made. I live in Colonia, which is very close to Buenos Aires. It allows me to be close to my family, my affections and also the world because a few years ago I started working in international consulting and from here it allows me to work in the rest of the world.

—After the crossing at the Mercosur summit, leaders in Uruguay published nationalist messages on their social networks with the slogan “Yo, Uruguayo”. Luis Lacalle Pou did not publicly wish Alberto Fernández a speedy recovery after contracting Covid-19. Is Mercosur only facing a trade policy crisis or is it a deeper crisis?

—Obviously the good or bad relationship between leaders helps, facilitates. It gives me the impression that Mercosur is a State policy and that it should be sustained beyond difficulties, obviously deepening, making more flexible, doing whatever we agree on. None of the four countries has a successful destination alone. The four of us need to be together, we need to consolidate the alliance. In this until now, Mercosur has failed. Mercosur was an alliance to protect us from the world. Now we have to make an alliance to project ourselves to the world and it seems to me that the sooner we do it, the better for everyone.

- Why has agriculture innovated so much in Argentina in recent decades and is so competitive globally and other sectors of the economy need protection?

"There are several answers." First it may be because the international market or the context of the fundamentals are not the same. Usually when there are no positive fundamentals, sectors or companies tend to disappear if they do not innovate or change. It may be that Argentine society considers that there are sectors or companies that have to function in any way because they generate benefits or positive externalities to society as a whole. On that I do not disagree. I do believe that this decision must be clearly explained to society, how much it costs, and that it is society that somehow, in a transparent way, knows what is happening. The State has the total right to protect certain sectors or companies if they consider that it is a good for the whole.

—What will the thick harvest be like in 2021? How many tons do you think the producers are going to liquidate?

—That question about the liquidation of the producers seems to be like a thermometer of happiness or sadness. If you follow the monthly settlements you realize that it is always similar, the same for 15 years. We have two or three months of record liquidations that allowed the Central Bank to recover some reserves. We have a harvest ahead of us that was very impacted by the drought and it was really tough. The returns we are having so far are not as bad as we thought they would be. The bad performances will be compensated by the rise in prices. But already at this point, producers are thinking about how much they are going to sow next season. We are harvesting and we are thinking about the wheat planting that starts in May, which is also apparently going to be a record thanks to these high prices. The news shows the price, but the quantity does not appear. It's like more marketing has to say the price went up or down, but the quantity didn't go up or down. If the price rises and we have no product, it rains soup and we are with a fork. It is very important to have production. My grandfather always said "enough that it rains", then prices go up and down, but the important thing is to have the production. And for the country it is the same: you have to have production.

—I'm raising food prices in the world, what opportunities and risks does this imply for the Argentine economy?

"I need the food if we look at it with perspective. It has come down here." It’s always cheaper to eat. That's why there are more people who eat less meat and less poor people around the world. Lastly, in the case of Argentina, but in the world as well. And in this context of falling prices due to the supposed volatility, there are years that increase, others that fall. Some products such as soybeans and maize are related to supply and demand. There is a demand that grows and a supply that does not grow at the same speed. The theme that these products are increasingly in demand, but there is a huge opportunity for Argentina because we have natural conditions, conditions of human capital, a know-how, a know-how, which is very important and much higher than it is today in the rest of the world. It is a country of avant-garde in this sense, in frontier. It is not something that will save us on our own, but it is an enormous opportunity if we take into account the productive linkages, the ecosystem that generates around us. Particularly the example that I have is that in Mauá it has developed several companies, but mainly of those who are graduates of Tecnología de la Tecnología de la Información en la Universidad de Tandil. Today the ecosystem of the field includes computer engineers, of design. To make soy you need to know them too. So the large ecosystem is very big, much more than we think. There is a big demand in the world and it can be set in motion quickly. It is part of the Argentine solution.
—¿Intonces en tu opinión exporting food is a blessing and not a curse, as said by Fernanda Vallejos?

"I obviously hope you are a blessing." Now, even if we mismanage politics, we don't get it right, we don't use anti-cyclical fondos, the State is not efficient and it spends more than it can, in terms of competitiveness for other reasons and obviously there is a problem. But the problem is not yet to be produced and exported. The problem is on the other side.

—Would it be possible to form an anti-cyclical fund with soy or other restrictions, such as in the oil-producing countries that have anti-cyclical funds for oil exports?

—I believe you are, it is very important that we have an anti-cyclical background that allows us to save for the most complex moments. Unfortunately, this is an anti-cyclical background in the state, the private sector is under the pressure of the mattress and will go outside. What needs to be dealt with is that money goes to the productive circuit, to the capital market, to the bottom of the mattress, to the outside banks and to the production. This means trust, security, project, vision and it is not a person's task, a collective bell that is not just a political party, a major coalition bell that pushes on the march and turns the page we have in Argentina that has led us to create so much poverty.

—Will the retentions be met by heavy funding for the State's financing needs?

—The State's financing needs in the soybean arregla. That's right, there is a lot of more important impurities too. The problem is not so much about public spending. The retentions are an error terrible because I believe that the bajándolas will be more bad. It is a setback. Obviously, it's not just the retention floor. There is a need to generate incentives for the surpluses that are generated by the retention floor to drive the inversion of agroindustry or processing. It's all a systemic part: there must be retentions and other public policies put in place precisely to increase production, to process this production and to generate any investment in technology, in innovation, which we are going to need to compete.

—If you have to choose a normative and regulatory model for another country, what do you think has promoted the most technological innovation?

"I don't study every case." He read it from Israel and it seems fantastic. There has been a synergy between the public and private sectors. The world of Agtechs in Argentina is very well developed. It remains to be seen that these companies are famous and can climb and penetrate the market. Mauá I believe it will be a platform that will help these Agtech to pass through the valley. →

Automatic translation from spanish.

Go back