With just almost a week left for the celebration of the “Agribusiness, new challenges” day, Legal Dealmaker interviews Eduardo Galocha, one of the in-house lawyers speaking at the meeting, and head of Legal at Atlántica Agrícola, to learn more about the issues that currently concern the sector.
How does a lawyer specialising in digital transformation and innovation become the legal director of a company in the agricultural sector? What thrills you most about the challenge ahead?
The agricultural sector is currently of high interest to many professionals.
We are currently in the process of creating a common strategy to coordinate and guide the efforts of the main actors towards the same goal: economic, social, and environmental sustainability, in the context of technological transformation.
To be involved in creating this new strategy against such a backdrop is what attracted me most in terms of challenge and, above all, to be able to do it from within a company that is a key player on a global scale.
In recent years, as a legal advisor to companies, I have provided legal advice on corporate matters, the launching of new products and services, as well as on privacy matters, and technological innovation.
My aim is to add value by actively listening to the agricultural sector and contributing knowledge acquired from other businesses.
It seems that we only think of the agri-food sector when something goes wrong, but on many levels, this rather neglected industry is seeing major advances from which we all benefit, in terms of data, environmental sustainability, food safety, etc. How are these new developments being experienced/interpreted by Atlántica Agrícola’s legal department? (factories, land, energy, products, etc.)
The agri-food industry is an extremely strategic sector in terms of the development of the economy, society, and regions, as well as for the environment. We still have a lot of work ahead of us when it comes to conveying to the public how important this sector really is and what it means for all of us.
On one hand, Atlántica Agrícola provides ecological solutions with low or zero environmental impact, something that improves sustainability levels both from the point of view of caring for the planet and from the perspective of fostering people’s health and well-being, and, on the other hand, from a technological point of view, where we are also implementing innovative projects targeting the agricultural sector. For example, our company is currently working on a cloud-based business data integration system, which will allow us to deploy initiatives based on disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence or machine learning, enabling better, faster decision-making, while fully complying with personal data protection regulations and guaranteeing a high level of robustness in terms of cybersecurity.
Today sees us all moving together in a new ecosystem where sustainability and data are at the heart of everything. From the Legal Department, I not only try to create secure environments for the company and all our stakeholders but also try to anticipate and help to foster the new legislative frameworks we need to develop and from within which we are expected to manufacture as much, well, fast, cheaply and “green” as possible. The high costs and risks involved in the research, development and registration of new solutions require a careful, realistic legislative policy on both national and international levels.
Now, of course, is the right time to work collectively as an industry to bring order and efficiency to international regulatory affairs. This is precisely what we are doing right now.
As for purely legal matters, what issues are you most involved in? Which ones need external advice and which are dealt with by the department itself? When using external law firms, what requirements must they meet? What is Compliance like in your sector and what important developments are coming at a European level?
The Legal Department is currently defining its Good Governance and Compliance policies for all our stakeholders (employees, customers, distributors, partners, suppliers, etc.) and, as strange as it may sound, considers the planet to be our most important stakeholder.
With all this in mind, we provide training for our subsidiaries and network of agents around the world, then adapt the new policies according to the country and legal framework in each area.
It is definitely not an easy sector to work in when it comes to adapting to regulatory frameworks that are constantly changing and over-demanding in terms of the real possibilities for development that we have.
In July 2022, the new EU Biostimulants Regulation will finally come into force; it will be an important milestone because this will be the first time that “plant biostimulants” will be regulated in the same way as fertilisers and not as phytosanitary products.
This new regulation is the result of years of intense work and negotiations, responding to many of the demands made by a sector at the forefront of technology and focused on improving the conditions of fruit and vegetable crops.
The pioneering spirit that some of our fertiliser and agricultural biostimulant manufacturing companies have is what often means our solutions are ahead of current legislation, meaning we live in a kind of “legal loophole” and have to deal with the consequent problems when it comes to marketing some of our products.
Likewise, all these regulatory changes mean we need to constantly redefine and update our entire contracting policy with our Distributors worldwide.
Finally, I would like to point out that we do occasionally need to seek external advice from professionals outside the company on certain matters, such as, at present, those relating to Labour laws and Tax issues. In these cases, when it comes to outsourcing professionals, we prioritise, above all, their ability to listen and agility and capacity to help us anticipate and adapt quickly to the new scenarios I have mentioned above.
The war provoked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in addition to the brutal atrocities we are all witnessing, is causing a serious raw material crisis and an increase in freight costs that make it unsustainable for many small and medium-sized businesses in the agricultural sector and/or related industries. How is your company dealing with this and what do they notice is happening around them?
The world is undergoing a major transformation driven by global trends that are causing a profound impact. These global trends are macroeconomic and geostrategic in nature; they will not only be at the root of the main challenges the Spanish agricultural sector will have to face but will also be a source of new opportunities.
Furthermore, demographic changes are taking place due to the increase in the world’s population and its consequent growth in demand for food, not to forget the climate crisis too, which is having major repercussions for this sector.
If we include other factors, which have been made worse by the war in Ukraine, such as the lack in supply of raw materials for manufacturing, the shortage and cost increase in the logistics chain, or the difficulty to travel and work hand in hand with our customers or potential customers, among other issues, it is obvious that the time has come for us to continuously reconsider our objectives and think about how to face our challenges.
Finally, can we safely say that a traditional sector such as agriculture, traditionally rooted in the past, is – on many levels – the future?
Recently, we have noticed how badly the food sector has been affected by natural disasters such as pandemics, military conflicts, or the spread of pests and how such events can lead to a drop in the production and import of certain foodstuffs, causing both a shortage of resources and price volatility.
Faced with such scenarios, the capacity to produce food without relying on the outside world will become increasingly important.
Agriculture will become an increasingly strategic and fundamental player in ensuring food supply and safety, just as the energy sector today plays a strategic role and is even being used as an instrument to exert pressure during international conflicts.
About Atlántica Agrícola
Atlántica Agrícola is a world leader in nutrition, biostimulation, and plant protection. With 40 years of experience and over 200 employees, the company is now expanding globally through eight subsidiaries and a distribution network that delivers its solutions to more than 60 countries. Atlántica Agrícola is a growing, constantly adapting family business, committed to creating a healthy, sustainable and competitive form of agriculture focused on the health and well-being of people by offering effective, sustainable solutions to farmers all over the world. Its botanical extracts, microorganisms, and biostimulants, along with its new highly specialised, targeted products are firmly recognised as high-quality solutions by customers in the four continents where the company operates at present.
About Eduardo Galocha
Eduardo Galocha has more than 25 years of experience in the field of law and legal advice for both public and private companies. Before joining Atlántica Agrícola as director of the Legal department, he worked in the SIGNE business group, providing corporate legal advice on launching new products and services, as well as on privacy matters and technological innovation. Previously, he worked as a consultant and legal advisor for the Ministry of Justice in the technological modernisation of the Justice Administration. Currently, he also directs and is a Legaltech lecturer in the Master’s degree at UNIR.
Eduardo holds a Law degree from the University of Seville and, among others, a Master’s degree in Digital Law and New Technologies from the Universidad de Salamanca, an MBA from The Power Business School, an Expert in Compliance certificate from the Madrid Bar Association and has also completed a postgraduate course in Agile Management of Scrum, Kanban, Lean and XP projects from the IEBS Business School.
*More info about the “Agribusiness, new challenges” event here.