Domenico Battagliola, CEO of La Linea Verde Group: Quality comes from the field – Cooperation with Serbian agriculturists in implementation of innovations and sustainable production
(Domenico Battagliola) The Italian company La Linea Verde has recently presented an ethical model of an agricultural product supply chain, which enables the establishment of partner relations with agricultural producers of raw materials meant for the market of fresh washed fruit ready for consumption. The CEO of La Linea Verde Group, Domenico Batagliola, explains for eKapija how this model can be useful to agricultural producers in Serbia.
The Serbian branch of La Linea Verde has been operating successfully since 2017 in Ruma, where it employs 100 workers, and Battagliola also reveals how agricultural production in Serbia can be improved, from the angle of a successful Italian company.
– In the territory of Serbia, La Linea Verde, together with the suppliers, is building a short and integrated supply chain, which is supposed to secure the availability of raw materials of constant, consistent quality throughout the year. This is a model that La Linea Verde has already successfully tested in Europe: in Italy, for example, the relations with agricultural partners have become so close that they have resulted in the establishment of the “Organization of Agricultural Producers Sole e Rugiada” – an organization which today gathers the farms and companies in which La Linea Verde has a stake, as well as another 70 reliable partners, with a total of 2,000 hectares of farming land.
In what way can your model be useful to agricultural producers from Serbia?
– Thanks to the constant support of our agronomists, the agriculturists that are part of the supply chain have the opportunity to learn natural, modern techniques of cultivation and fertilization, increasingly based on the principle of sustainability. In concrete terms, based on the Italian model, we are implementing an integrated and organic agricultural practice in Serbia in order to get a healthy, quality and ecologically acceptable product. Agriculturists are also supported during the process of certification, whereby they get a guarantee for the sale of their product.
The harvesting at a plastic green house (Photo: La Linea Verde)
Which demands does La Linea Verde put before the suppliers in Europe and in Serbia? Are there any specificities?
– The first and the basic requirement is certainly to comply with the production stipulations dictated by La Linea Verde, as well as to honor the environment and the biodiversity, which entails the implementation of integrated or organic methods of agricultural production, which I have mentioned already. Furthermore, there’s the use of production techniques which help save water and entail the least possible use of chemical pesticides.
The company carries out a part of the agricultural production itself, while getting a part from the suppliers. Has the coronavirus pandemic had an impact on that process and on the suppliers?
– In general, the primary production process in the field has continued following the dynamics of the production which was already planned and programmed before the pandemic. The same can be said for our suppliers, who have continued carrying out their production activities in line with the schedule. Last year, a growth of the sales was recorded, which has confirmed the fact that La Linea Verde Dobrinci was able to respond to the constantly increasing demands of the end-users for fresh ready-to-eat products.
Finished products (Photo: La Linea Verde)
La Linea Verde specializes in the production of the so-called “IV gamma” products. What does this mean exactly?
– In the categorization of the treatment of fresh fruit and vegetables, the term “IV gamma” pertains to fresh, cleaned and washed vegetables, ready for consumption. In English, we would simply say “ready to eat”. It is an agricultural product which is not processed, but only improved, keeping its organoleptic characteristics. La Linea Verde always seeks to get good and very fresh raw materials in order to provide the consumers with a quality finished product, because we stand behind the idea that quality comes primarily from the field.
In what way can agricultural production in Serbia be improved, from the angle of an Italian company?
– From our angle, agricultural production in Serbia can be improved through the implementation of European regulations on agricultural production. The market is becoming increasingly demanding: reduced use of pesticides, implementation of standards such as Global Gap and SMETA are now an inevitable condition for the agricultural producer to continue offering its product in the market. The implementation of our knowledge in the territory of Serbia is therefore a great advantage for Serbian agricultural producers and can direct them toward innovations.
The Serbian branch of La Linea Verde has been operating successfully since 2017 in Ruma, employing 100 workers. Can you tell us anything about the results you’ve achieved?
– That is correct. Our investment is worth around EUR 10 million. It has provided jobs for employees of various profiles from the territory of the municipality of Ruma and its has also upgraded the techniques of primarily production at our suppliers, reaching the amount of farming areas of around 140 hectares, including the subcontractors; on an area of 5,900 square meters of the factory, we have achieved daily productivity of 65,000 bags of washed salad and 55,000 packages of unwashed salad. Throughout it all, we have also focused on marketing and logistics, which has led to a good and continued cooperation with all the big supermarket chains in Serbia, both in the sales of our umbrella brand DimmidiSi and in packing their trademarks.
The interview with Domenico Battagliola is the second in the range of conversations with companies-members of Confindustria Serbia, through which the representation of this Italian industry confederation in Serbia promotes the operations of Italian companies.