A Minute with Manotas:

Svensson’s new Americas president on climates, crop times and a century of solitude

As horticulture continues a time of unprecedented velocity of change, companies like Ludvig Svensson not only innovate but anticipate. Screens are no longer limited to shading to keep sun out and energy in – they’re a key to controlling the entire greenhouse climate. To get a total picture of how Svensson intends to continue equipping growers for success, we sat down with new President Mauricio Manotas.

How long have you been with Svensson and in what capacities?

11 years - two as East Canada Manager based in Ontario, five as Mexico-Latin America Manager based in Mexico and Colombia, four as North America West Coast and key accounts manager based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Ludvig Svensson, Inc. President Mauricio Manotas

What is your background?

I have a background in engineering and have worked all my life in the greenhouse industry. Before joining Ludvig Svensson, I designed and built greenhouses for four years, working as an account manager with Hortilux Schreder, a leading Dutch company that sells supplemental lighting. In addition, my family are growers, producing roses in Ecuador.

How has the industry evolved since you’ve been part of it?

I’ve seen a major shift toward protected agriculture in vegetables, an emphasis on growth optimization, an increased focus on maximizing productivity, and as of late, a special movement toward local/organic agriculture.

How has Svensson changed in your time with the company?

We have almost tripled in size, having major focus on customer service and trying to more fully understand growers’ needs. That’s why we believe in working with local partners and having sales reps who speak not only the language but also understand the regional climate and culture. We now have our own marketing department, allowing us to keep up with social media, web pages, newsletters and focus on the best way to communicate with distributors and end users. We are also investing a lot of resources in stock management and forecasting tools as well as up-to-date CRM (customer resource management) mobile systems. In regard to the product line, we have always tried to come up with smart products, keeping fire protection as a must have feature.

What long-term trends are you seeing in terms of climate control and the greenhouse industry?

Not saving energy is no longer an option. Competition among producers has never been stronger than today, and they need to optimize energy and water use. I’m also starting to see companies being concerned about their carbon footprint; they’re getting a push back from consumers. For many years different industries grew used to having unlimited resources like water and perhaps easy access to cheap energy. That’s no longer the case. Greenhouses are becoming geared more and more toward being energy/water efficient.

Manotas sees energy savings as a must-have in today’s greenhouse, and the company’s products are designed to answer that demand.

Where do you see the greatest growth potential for Svensson?

We still have a lot a room to grow when it comes to optimizing climate control on existing houses. More and more growers are recognizing the value of double screens, whether two energy screens or an energy screen and a light-diffusing screen used in combination. Also, in developing markets we have a long way to go in explaining the screen concept. It’s something we’re working on, though of course I can’t give away all of our secrets.

Huge growth potential comes from the vegetable industry, says Manotas, and growers like Enza Zaden (shown here) are reaping the benefits of Svensson’s screens.

How will the company have to change to meet the greenhouse industry’s changing needs?

We need to make sure we listen to the growers and our distributors; that’s why we have people in places like Russia, Mexico, Canada, Korea, Japan, Holland and of course here in North America. We’re constantly changing. We have an R&D team working constantly on products that we’re going to launch one, two and three years from now and beyond. That’s why we have always been the leader in our market segment. We try to innovate and anticipate.

How important are climate screens to successful growing? How will their role change in the coming years?

They’re pretty important. Over time growers have learned that screens are not only useful for saving energy but also for controlling the climate inside the greenhouse. You can control light and humidity, which are a basic component of growing any crop. We see growers investing more into that concept—controlling more of what they already have, maximizing square footage use.

For those who don’t use climate screens, what surprises them most?
You mean when a non-user becomes a user? I would say how much they can control their crop times with the use of screens.

What are the greatest hidden benefits of climate screens?

For a long time growers have thought that a screen is used only to save energy. That’s still valid, but you can get many additional uses from a screen. I think light control and light quality is a big one; we proved the benefits of diffuse light several years ago, and you can see now that a lot of other companies jumped into that trend. We like to innovate, not to follow.

What role will Svensson’s new product offering/restructuring play in the company’s future growth and development?

We need to innovate, and we need to be efficient—that has always been our moto for the past 25 years here in America. Better products, better systems, better service. That’s what it’s all about.

While Manotas keeps future innovations close to the vest, Svensson’s screens with unique light diffusing white strips have proven effective for many growers.

What’s coming down the pipeline at Svensson?

Right now we’re going through a major change, regrouping our products by families and changing all the names. So far we have gotten great feedback because we’re separating the products by their use. You have a family only for sun protection; you have a different family for energy savings, another for light diffusion and so on. That in itself has been a pretty intensive task for everybody from production to marketing to sales. We have three or four exciting products coming to the market in a short window of time. I can tell you that one of them is focused on light diffusion. For the other ones you need to stay tuned, but as always they will be an innovative new solution for growers.

That’s what’s going on at Svensson, please give us a bit of background on you:

Education. BS in Engineering, additional studies in project management and marketing and sales.
Personal. Colombian/Canadian married with two kids, a boy and a girl.
Favorite book. Being Colombian I have to say One Hundred Years of Solitude from Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I read it in middle school the first time and at least another four times after that. Great author, great book.
Favorite pastime. My two little ones keep me busy enough, but I do enjoy playing soccer and even though I’m a horrible golfer, I enjoy going out and playing a few holes.

For more information:
Ludvig Svensson, Inc.
Stella Thomas
T: +1 704 357 0457
M: +1 704 517 8055
E-mail: stella.thomas@ludvigsvensson.com

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