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Company-university partnership helps build Mexico’s greenhouse industry

Valentina Magana is a college student who is breaking ground literally and figuratively while learning in a unique agricultural program. The program is in the Koppert-Rappel Research and Training Center (CEICKOR) and it’s one Magana liked because of its practicality. “We work half a day and study half the day—it’s very useful because we really get to apply our subjects,” says Magana.

While the technical university was founded in Mexico in 2014, it’s proving to not just be any ordinary post-secondary institution. Instead, it’s one that’s designed to educate students as well as support Mexico’s greenhouse industry.

“Greenhouses are an industry growing in Mexico. And many of the projects don’t have experienced people so it’s amazing to feel that your skills are in demand,” Magana adds. In fact, after three years at CEICKOR, Magana is on her way next month to the Netherlands for an agricultural internship with Priva, an international greenhouse/horticulture technology company.

Expanding knowledge
While the university was designed to help expand Mexico’s industry, there were other incentives as well. “We needed to create these opportunities here for young people,” says Felix Tarrats, CEICKOR’s director. Those opportunities included learning about areas of agriculture such as sustainable farming, irrigation, developing new technology, improving organic growing and more.

Much of that developing knowledge is applied in the 3.5 years of the program to the university’s in-house production area. “We have seven hectares of production: five hectares of tomatoes on the vine and two hectares of organic TOVs,” says Tarrats. The program is divided roughly into 70 percent practical training and 30 percent with classroom subjects.

In-house work
That greenhouse is also particularly unique in this university. It’s in partnership with Globalmex International, Inc, which sells organic and conventional tomatoes under its Magic Sun brand. Via that partnership, students get first-hand experience by working in Globalmex’s greenhouse and the company also provides sponsorships to students coming into the program.

“A lot of the students, after they do their internships in a Globalmex greenhouse, graduate to work for Globalmex, but many others work elsewhere in the industry,” says Globalmex’s Anthony Otto. “CEICKOR is on the leading edge of technology in greenhouse growing. A lot of research and growing protocols that are tested end up benefiting us as a company. We are very proud of this program and it takes us above and beyond just selling product to doing something that we have seen is making an impact on Mexican agriculture.”

Filling industry needs
At the same time, the university produces trained graduates who are immediately ready to work in the way the industry needs them. “Having students trained through a comprehensive internship program is an effective way to share our knowledge, and prepare future employees to bring job skills and enthusiasm to our greenhouses,” says Otto. “It’s hard to find ready-trained people to work in agricultural markets. So for us to have a steady supply and a hand in generating that work force is a benefit for Magic Sun growers.
And, as Tarrats points out, CEICKOR’s larger mandate is improving agricultural practices overall in Mexico. “Other universities in this area offer more traditional curriculum. Here you have the company and the university working together. So the students are completely involved in that process—they learn by doing things and immediately contributing,” Tarrats says. “Some students will go on to work in the greenhouse industry. But then others will come back with what they’ve learned and work in their communities.”

For more information:
Felix Tarrats

Anthony Otto
Globalmex International Inc.
Tel: +1 (715) 764-3034
[email protected]
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