Hard times call for smart solutions. This includes assisted pollination of cherries and kiwi fruit as well as portable anti-frost machines. These are just some of the solutions that Chile’s Zimex Smart Agro has turned to as part of their focused smart solutions to solve and meet the needs of growers. They see themselves as “market developers of niche agricultural technologies to not only Latin American growers but in the wider agricultural market,” says the company owner and CEO Pier Zecchetto.
The Zimex electrostatic spraying machine used for assisted cherry pollination.
Assisted cherry pollination
“A solution we offer that is growing very fast is the enhanced pollination or external pollination of fruit trees. We collect it out of trees during bloom, in partnership with a company from California and Washington called Antles Pollen that has almost 100 years in the business. The pollen is collected either in the US or in Chile from selected pollinator varieties and then we apply it to the customer’s production varieties. We are developing several different techniques of application that have confirmed to be several times more efficient and improve the yield dramatically. Now we are not just focusing on the beehive we are proving it can be much better applied by use of a unique setting of a special type of electrostatic spraying machine. That’s already being done commercially. Last season represented 30% of the surface pollinated. Here in Chile and all around the world there’s a problem with bees, they are decreasing in number. Our solution can help both growers and bees,” explains Zecchetto.
They are pollinating mainly cherries, kiwi fruit, plums, pistachios and almonds. “We are developing trials with other species like hazelnuts and investigating the use on avocados. We are already serving over 1,000 hectares of cherries in Chile and over 8,000 hectares for different fruit types in the US. For Kiwifruit we pollinated about 500 hectares in Chile alone last season and we are growing fast. We already started to export cherry pollen to Europe. We made the first export to the Czechia during April. We are keen to expand into Europe.”
“Zimex finds, at global level, technology that is viable for use in Latin America. We start by validating the technology in our market by doing large field trials with our own R&D team and also hiring third party research institutes and consultants or Universities that specialise in scientifically measured trials to do more scientific statistical trials. We are a small company but we spend $40,000 to $50,000 dollars a year in R + D. If it proves to be a game changer for the industry we develop the market throughout the continent. We only bring a handful of products into our market. At first we’d look for innovations around the world. Now it is the opposite, innovative companies from around the world come to us looking for our help to enter the American market. They recognise us as being specialists and serious about it,” explains Zecchetto.
He started the company in 2004 by selling reflective film to use in-between the tree lines of Pip fruit and Stone fruit orchards to increase the colour and soluble solids of fruit before they ripen. “We started making the film in Chile, then exporting it to the US, Italy, Germany and a little to Australia and Egypt too. I am also looking for distributors of the film in Europe and South Africa,” states Zecchetto.
New Zealand style oil heaters for frost control in orchards.
After a very bad frost in Chile, about 10 years ago, Zimex brought portable wind machines made in New Zealand into South America, with around 300 already sold. Zimex also imports patented speciality organic high-impact nutrition products for plants from the US and Mexico such as a liquid fertilizer made out of food waste that otherwise would go to landfills and emit methane gases, and a highly concentrated Calcium for irrigation extracted from ancient coral deposits.
Jorge Dutrey, commercial manager of Zimex says: “In Chile the fruit industry is on the highest level in the world, we are in the top three producers and exporters in many fruit types while we export 90% of our production. If we can introduce new technology in Chile, the next development step in the rest of Latin America or new continents becomes smoother.”