Produced by Taybele Piven, Director of Operations for WDM Group - LATAM
Cristian Kühlenthal, a civil engineer with more than a decade of experience in agribusiness, joined MaxAgro in early 2005, as manager of the construction project of the slaughtering plant “Planta Faenadora Las Pataguas”. Years later, he managed the commercial area, globalizing brands in upscale economies, these milestones earned him the title of CEO, a position he holds today.
In an interview with Kühlenthal, he explained us the current production plans of the company and consolidation efforts, after growing more than 100 percent last year, among social, sustainable and innovation activities.
Business Review Latin America: What are MaxAgro’s top three differentiators in the agribusiness sector in Chile?
Cristian Kühlenthal: We are a family business that focuses on the production of quality products, a process based on vertically integrated models on all of our business areas. For example, in the case of pork production, we control the process since the purchase point, manufacturing, breeding, slaughter and commercialization.
We are a company that integrates environmental regulations, working with an open door policy, transparency and in direct communication with our neighbors.
Finally, all the above points empower and enable each of our employees, constantly seeking new ways to make each of our more than 1,600 employees, feel pride in belonging to our company, through a direct, personalized treatment and mutual respect. They are our greatest capital.
BRAL: What is the role of your employees, local farmers, producers and suppliers, in the success of MaxAgro?
CK: Our employees are our most important resource because they are the ones with the abilities, inventiveness, commitment and knowledge to succeed, allowing us to continue growing. Undoubtedly, without this great human capital we would not have been able to get where we are. Each collaborator has been instrumental in realizing our goals, growing above the market and becoming the second largest pork producer in Chile.
In relation to our national and international suppliers, they have also been very supportive on our growth, not only by understanding our expansion plans, but also by becoming part of them. In this case, I would like to highlight one of our greatest allies, Zoetis, a laboratory that through its product Improvac, has allowed not only to achieve better production parameters within our animals, but also to improve our meat quality by optimizing our farm welfare standards.
MaxAgro acknowledge the commitment, support and help from each of our suppliers, since they have been part of the sustained growth of the company.
BRAL: What social initiatives would the company implement in coming years?
CK: Internally, our People Management team works with numerous communications programs to make our employees feel full ownership of MaxAgro. The department also generates quality related contests for our workforce to raise their concerns and ideas on how to improve our processes. We began this path seven years ago under HR Management, which we later renamed “People Management”. Since then, we have carried out various activities, ranging from our quarterly magazine Maxnoticias, to celebrations such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas party, Children's Day, Labor Day, etc. Every day we try to do activities that deliver greater sense of belonging to our workers, and for each of them to feel better about their daily job.
We participate in environmental committees and town meetings, and are continuously implementing corporate social responsibilities, aiming to make 2017 our first social report, in order to measure and objectify our various actions.
BRAL: Are there any plans to expand MaxAgro’s farms or production plants?
CK: We are in the process of expanding our business units, a project we materialized last year with the purchase of two new production farms related to breeding pigs, which pushed our growth by 120 percent in relation to animal production.
We are also in the process of integrating these new operations to all production and environmental standards MaxAgro has today, as we want to make this process as quickly as possible so that we can improve current conditions in acquired farms and the environment of our neighbors. This process is a little bit slower, due to investments in technology that are subject to environmental assessment by Chilean regulations.
Regarding the business unit of fruit, in recent years we increased our agro more than 500 hectares, with the inclusion of table grapes, kiwi, avocados, cherries, tangerines, etc. In 2014, MaxAgro joined Geofrut, one of the largest fruit exporters in Chile. For the coming years, we plan to expand in a range of 80-100 hectares per year, considering that we have this space available.
BRAL: Do you seek to enter other Latin American economies in coming years?
CK: Our high quality products integrate global standards for a worldwide distribution. MaxAgro exports products to the most demanding countries such as Japan, Korea, China, USA, Europe, England, Canada, Latin America, among others. For that, we continuously review the conditions of each of the markets, in order to meet all current international food and industry regulations.
We commercialized with nearly 50 countries around the world and every day we investigate new markets.
In Chile, we have distribution throughout the country thanks to an alliance with “Don Cerdo” and through a network of six outlets in the south of Chile.
In the medium term, we seek to consolidate Maxagro as the second largest producer of pork in Chile, grow orchards in our fields and increase exports through Geofrut.