Interview: Ramsés Acosta Valenzuela – Del Campo y Asociados

Ramsés Acosta Valenzuela is a native of Guasave, Sinaloa. He is a Biochemical Engineer with a major in food and industrial processes, a graduate of Instituto Tecnológico de Culiacán.

He has over 10 years of professional expertise at Agrícola Del Campo y Asociados, where he started as food safety auditor. He currently serves as food safety coordinator, for the production of a variety of products: tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplants and blueberries, throughout the company.

Interviewed by Eleven Rivers Growers, Ramsés tell us about his experience of working in the farming sector.

1. What do you like most about your job?

Since I was a kid, it was very clear to me that I wanted to help people somehow, and this is why I devoted to the world of food science, so I can contribute in a certain way to society and the environment.

A job like this always involves permanent learning, considering that there are constant changes every day; being able to develop innovation and creativity have been important keys for me in the optimal development of the purposes of the management department, having a solid work team, interrelation between areas, continuous use of technologies, as well as being able to work in the field and farming processes of various facilities, interacting with several people, their traditions, the satisfaction of fulfilling the desired goals is, without a doubt, what I like the most about my job.

2. What has been the greatest challenge you have faced as a professional within the farming industry?

The greatest challenge has been to create a food safety culture. As we know, changing the habits of personnel takes time, dedication, surveillance, feedback and most importantly, continuous education. We educate personnel by example; and this is when we see compliance achieved, making of the best food safety practices a daily routine and not an obligation for personnel.

3. What strategies do you carry out to implement continuous improvement within the processes of food safety from the company?

We have a solid department in the company for continuous improvement of processes, and we are mostly based on Deming circle. This helps us improving competitivity within the company by planning and analyzing the purposes from the management department, whether these are from food safety, quality, social or environmental responsibility, and the way to achieve them, and doing so through meetings with upper management. After setting well defined purposes, we implement them through guidelines and directions agreed at the planning stage. Once the plan is running, we focus on verifying that everything is in compliance and going in the right direction, we perform constant evaluations to indicators proposed by our work team, and finally, meetings are carried out to study the result reports and the areas of opportunity, which serve us to continuously improve processes, and in this manner, to set and develop new plans within the company, which annually lead to positive consequences for the company.

4. What are the benefits that having food safety and social responsibility certifications has brought to the company?

The certifications obtained have helped us promoting and integrating our farming community, giving a better quality of life to our collaborators, improving our processes and products, reducing the environmental impact and at the same time, generating better agreements with worldwide clients.

We have ensured that personnel carry out their work with greater quality and feeling a sense of belonging, as certain interest is motivated when there is mutual recognition. At the same time, we have seen a positive impact in our collaborators with a better work environment.

5. Why do you think having a food safety culture is important within farming companies?

I believe a food safety culture will continue thriving and playing a significant role in our search for understanding and supplying healthy and safe food; it will also be one of the important requirements requested for GFSI-approved commercial certification schemes. This is the reason why we are expecting to generate and promote best practices in personnel behavior, in food handling and development, in order to ensure safe food for all.

6. Out of the social responsibility practices being carried out within your company, what is the one you find the most motivating and why?

I am motivated by many practices the company carries out, but the one that motivates me the most is empowering the worker, which makes them feel like an essential part of the company. Developing their knowledge, skills and talents allows them to develop their work more comfortably and with greater productivity; in a more relaxed working environment and aligned to the purposes of management. I am convinced that making a constant practice out of this will help us mitigating significant social problems we have today.

7. What has been your experience in training other coworkers within the company?

I really like what I do.

During the years of expertise in training and education, we have increased awareness and educational level in food safety and quality discipline among members of the organization and the community, creating responsibility for the best practices we develop at Del Campo y Asociados. This has helped us improving the quality of life and working conditions of our workers, leading to a continuous education for the development of a food safety culture within the organization.

I have the idea of working with other farming companies and becoming a vehicle of support to society and the farming community; managing to associate as industries to promote training support to small businesses and young entrepreneurs.

8. What opportunities do you see for the farming industry in terms of food safety and social responsibility given the health situation we are experiencing at the moment?

Being a food company and implementing food safety and social responsibility programs, we have huge competitive advantages to prevent and care for the health of our workers, as we have been implementing hygiene practices among our personnel for years. This is why implementing health protocols has been feasible and easy for us.

Given the crisis we are facing, we have the opportunity to challenge our system, so we must be more efficient and plan each activity; we will have to do more with less, communicate better, and be more creative in order to respond to this new challenge the best that we can. This will let us gain knowledge and will help us becoming more efficient as a company, for sure.

9. What are the benefits being weekly audited by Eleven Rivers Growers has brought to the company?

As pioneers in implementing the Eleven Rivers Growers program, it has been at all times a contributor to continuous improvement of processes and products within our organization; as it has helped us find flaws in the system and correcting them. It has also allowed our personnel to acquire new knowledge and learning; given that Eleven Rivers auditors have extensive working experience in many other companies, they are sharing some of their knowledge in our company every week. It also allows our personnel to fulfill their tasks daily and with the programs established, helping us keep our systems ready for each weekly inspection.

One of the advantages of the Eleven Rivers Growers program is constant promotion of the training program to technicians of each company, keeping them updated in the most relevant and currently needed subjects.

10. Is there anything else you would like to add?

As the personnel responsible for food production, we have a great responsibility to supply safe food for any consumer, implementing the best food safety practices, performing them in a healthy work environment and also, being vigilant to working needs of our employees; providing them with decent treatment and in turn, mitigating environmental problems to have a cleaner and safer place to live, and thus reducing the environmental impact that may affect us in the future.