Innovación y Emprendimiento
Let’s Improve Agriculture!

While in the past, a calendar allowed the agricultural sector to forecast rain and drought season, nowadays, the countryside is ruled by uncertainty and sudden climate changes.

Solar Ciencia Agrícola S.A.S., an entrepreneurial project born in Ibagué, Colombia, was founded in 2010 as a means of counterbalancing risks through the development of physiological regulators and pesticides that result from scientific research. What’s so special about this project? Such as neuro-linguistic programming educated people into changing their behavioral and emotional models, this company uses four products to manipulate plants and increase or decrease various processes in their metabolism. The ultimate goal is to increase production of rice, corn, rubber, African palm, sorghum, banana, cocoa and cotton, among many others.

The first product is GEN 10, which combines many physiological regulators with a worldwide cutting-edge technology that preserves chloroplasts (the plants’ solar cells that store the energy) and multiplies cells, causing the plant and its roots to grow without being permeable and vulnerable to pests and diseases. Plants increase their ability to feed themselves and become stronger. “Before the arrival of these developments into the market, growth hormones were applied into plants, making their cells thinner and elongated, the perfect dish for pests and diseases”, explained Germán Andrés Castaño, CEO of Solar Ciencia Agrícola SAS.

The second product is PROSOLAR AMBIENTE, which is applied on fields in order to hold back the chemicals expelled by the plant’s metabolism during sunny days, and reintroduce them on cloudy or rainy days, when plants tend to work at their lowest capacity. In a way, this technique fools plants, which continue their natural processes as if they were exposed to sunlight.

REGULATE is the third product. In Castaño’s own words: “it’s unbelievable, it induces plants into a coma”. What’s the purpose? When a drought is around the corner, plants can store as much water as possible when induced into a coma, in order to avoid losing it through leaves and roots, which are common spots of water-loss at the moment of nutrient exchange with the environment. When the weather becomes more stable and it rains again, the plant gets out of the coma by itself and its metabolism goes back to normal.

This trilogy of clever products corresponds to physiological regulators, whereas the fourth product is a fungicide. This molecule, which is still under patent revision process, controls a disease called Phytophothora spp. So far, there is no other product out there that prevents or cures this disease, such as this molecule does. According to the numbers from the Colombian National Business Association (ANDI), in 2012, 92 million dollars were spent in Colombia in fungicides related to the prevention and control of this disease.

The results from this work have been self-explanatory. In 2010, Solar Ciencia Agrícola SAS had sales of more than 300 million pesos; in 2011 they increased to almost 600 million; in 2012, sales were 900 million; and in 2013 they were hoping to close the year with at least 2 billion pesos in sales. 

With farmer genes
Who came up with these creative ideas? A generation of land lovers, that do not only share a name throughout three generations Germán Helí (father), Germán Andrés (son) and Germán Felipe (grandson), but also their love for Colombian agriculture. Although Germán Andrés, CEO of Solar, travelled to England for six months after graduating from high school in order to study business English, he always knew that his place was back home.

“I was raised among rice, sorghum and cotton crops. I enjoy the countryside, and I hope to live in a ranch one day, away from everything”, says the oldest of three siblings. That’s why he hasn’t lived in big cities for long periods of time. After coming back from an exchange program in Cambridge, he went to Medellín to study Business Administration in EAFIT. After three semesters, he moved to Bogotá and transferred to CESA, where studied for only six months.

Back in Ibagué, he worked with his father, Germán Helí, for one year, at Insumos Tropicales, their first family business, which allowed them to become the biggest agrochemical distributors in the country. This 57-year-old Agricultural Engineer, specialized in distribution, has dedicated his entire life to the Colombian countryside, and his love for land has driven him to promote a campaign, along with ANDI, to relocate agrochemical warehouses in order to reduce contamination, among other achievements. He also built the first agroindustry park, Los Ocobos, meeting all national and international regulations for the manipulation of agrochemicals. Today, this family manages three businesses: Solar Ciencia Agrícola SAS, chaired by Germán Andrés; Efitec S.A., specialized in plant nutrition (where his brother Juan David works at); and Nesta Bio Ciencia, which focuses on organic products (where his other brother, Diego Felipe, works at).

The legacy started by his father allowed Germán Andrés to pursue further studies. He began studying Literature at Universidad Javeriana and Advertisement at Unitec, at the same time. Though he finished both majors, he never claimed his Literature diploma, since the acquired knowledge was more than enough for him. Instead, he chose to go back to his farm and grow rice, an experience that later on led him to an economic backlash due to the rice sector crisis that he had to face. “When I fall, I stand up faster and more willingly”, says Germán Andrés, father of two kids: Germán Felipe (11 months old) and Sara (4 years old). And, in fact, after this crisis, Solar Ciencia Agrícola SAS was born.

iNNpulsa, a strategically
That entrepreneurial momentum allowed this firm, with the help of Ibagué’s Chamber of Commerce, to win the EDI 007 bid, promoted by iNNpulsa Colombia, and the 309 million pesos award in 2013.

It was clear from the beginning how the money would be spent. It will go directly into finishing the construction of two plants (pesticide and physiological regulators and additives), endowing them with machinery, registering them at ICA, and bolstering commercial ties with their vendors in China, where they are already networking.

“iNNpulsa Colombia changed our lives. I had estimated all this for a period of at least five years and, thanks to this initiative, I’ll manage to do it in one”. It seems that neuro-linguistic programming ultimately worked for Andrés: “I was always convinced that these resources would be ours. When it still wasn’t a fact, I would tell my team: when we get the money from iNNpulsa…” Because thinking and wanting something make words come true.

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