Interview: Fernando Gallardo Galaviz Tomato Valley CEO

Juan Fernando Gallardo Galaviz is an entrepreneur in technological innovation. He is currently Tomato Valley CEO, an organization of innovation and entrepreneurship with technological grounds; He is also the founder of various software development companies, and is a native of Jalisco but has been residing in Culiacán for 18 years.

1. Could you share a bit of your professional experience?

I have been working in the IT industry for more than a decade, founded various software development companies, I have been a technology advisor for various companies in Mexico; I even founded the first Hacker School in Northwestern Mexico and I am a Tomato Valley co-founder and CEO.

2. In your opinion, how important is innovation for companies in Mexico?

It should be our bread and butter; we have seen how the progress in technology has shut down companies for not following this path, such as: Kodak, Nokia, etc. This should teach us that we need our companies to have an innovation approach, always trying to come up with solutions to the needs of consumers, and that these are solutions made by anticipating the competence and the market

I believe that Mexico has the talent for innovation, however we have become very traditionalist; we settle when something is working, and try not to move it, for the fear of doing something different, which may not work.

3. Since when was Tomato Valley born and what are the main services it provides?

Tomato Valley was born 10 years ago as a little community focused on technology and entrepreneurship. These days, we have presence in seven cities in Northwestern Mexico and we currently have a set of events as a community; some of them are abroad. We also work with companies as advisors and consultants, as well as providing support in technology development.

4. What are the benefits the company has achieved by signing collaboration agreements with important institutions such as Harvard and the NASA?

We have achieved very interesting things: With Harvard we make a statewide study to evaluate the level we were on subjects of innovation and entrepreneurship; this gave us the lead for a more accurate work.

NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge is an international Hackathon for coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, builders, developers, and others in cities around the world, where teams engage with NASA’s free and open data to address real-world problems on Earth and in space. Space Apps has over 18,000 developers at more than 200 events in 75 countries.

Our team has achieved two third places to an international level, and participants get the opportunity to work with great data and information as well to network with an international community focused on science and technology. Tomato Valley hosts seven Hackathon locations in Mexico.

5. What are the institutions you work with to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in Sinaloa?

We work with several institutions in the state; here are the most important:

  • Sonar Empresarial; a civil organization comprised by students, professionals and businessmen looking for development and transformation of our environment by promoting entrepreneurship and a business culture.
  • Cámara Nacional de la Industria Electrónica, de Telecomunicaciones y Tecnologías de la Información (National Chamber of Electronic Industry, Telecommunications and IT) (CANIETI, for its initials in Spanish); is an institution of public interest that brings together over 1,000 companies in Mexico, engaged with activities related to the electronic, telecommunications and IT industry, with more than 80 years of experience.
  • Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Monterrey Technological Institute of Higher Education, in English); is an interdisciplinary educational institution with 75 years of experience, with the purpose of improving competitivity and the development of Mexico.
  • Endeavor; a leader in the High Impact entrepreneurship movement globally, it promotes economic growth and employment creation through a global network of entrepreneurship.
  • WorkHere Coworking; an organization promoting a shared work space in which, other than finding an ideal space, you can network and make alliances, having proper tools and facilities to develop your project.
  • Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa (Autonomous University of Sinaloa University; Educational institution in Sinaloa with more than 145 years of experience, having a wide educational program that goes from high school to postgraduate degree.

We collaborate with these institutions providing the different services our organization offers, such as: training events, student workshops, technology development, and of course; we have organized Hackathons, involving more than six national] universities, to give an example.

6. How do you think you could connect and generate interest in young people towards the agriculture activity?

I think we need more teamwork among agriculture and technology, taking students to see what is happening in the field, so they see the value this industry has in our lives. To gradually stimulate their involvement in creating solutions, and believe a bit more in their opinion. We need this to be a team effort, where young people studying agronomy can also talk to IT and International Businesses students.

7. What are the main results brought by the AgTech Hackathon?

We obtained some very good prototypes, but what made the most impact was that participants realized how little they knew about agriculture. There were some prototypes on AI solutions, automation and prevention… These are solutions that can be very useful when supported by the agriculture sector.

8. In your opinion, which technological innovation projects can improve Sinaloa agriculture production?

There are some. Automation and improvement on accuracy of chemical application, in data analysis of soil, weather, and consumption habits.  Automation of routine tasks with robotics to reduce the human risk and the entire subject on genetics.

9. What agriculture projects are you currently working on?

The companies of the Tomato Valley group are currently working in different areas with an impact on agriculture: 2 projects are focused on water; 3 projects are focused on data; and 1 project is focused on robotics. The advantage of being a community is that it allows us to support and work in different areas to implement better solutions to problems we try to resolve.

10. Anything else you would like to add?

First to all, I would like to congratulate you for the work you do, at Tomato Valley we know that we can generate high value and wealth in Northwestern Mexico through knowledge, and we hope we can work with more with growers to bring the technology where it is needed, kind regards.