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Leadership Spotlight: Luis Bakker Jr.

By 3 de marzo de 2022junio 13th, 2022No Comments

Trustee Emeritus Luis Bakker first visited Zamorano University at the invitation of Simon Malo, a fellow Ecuadorian and former Director of the EAP. Luis felt his worlds colliding as he walked the grounds. While studying poultry studies at the State University of New York (SUNY), Luis’ dormitory was named for Dr. H. Knapp, the originator of the “learning by doing” educational method integral to Zamorano. This was the same method by which Luis himself studied agriculture – ¡aprender hacienda! – and over the course of his life, Luis has always been able to recall those lessons imparted on him “by doing” with ease. Learning by doing wasn’t just a short-lived university experience for Luis. This educational touchstone proved to be integral to the man he is today and to the success of the business built through his family’s hard work.

Luis was impressed by Zamorano’s students, and the deep relationships that the school maintained with its alumni. He recalls the thrill he felt at seeing future generations from across Latin America learn valuable lessons about food production, and the pride at knowing that they would be boons to their local communities upon graduating.

From the moment he was elected to serve on Zamorano’s board, Luis cared deeply about the preparing these generations for the evolving “real world,” one in which they would be expected to thrive in spite of changing technologies, growing populations, and increasing food insecurity. Through his initiative, the board added the Ag Vision Committee to closely examine emerging technologies and ways in which students can leverage those capabilities to positively impact food production. “We have to equip these future leaders in the best way possible, by providing them with the skills they will need to be successful Zamorano ambassadors,” Luis says.

Luis’ dual passions – his faith in the dynamic potential of Latin America and the value of a good agricultural education – are a direct result of his own unique experiences. He was born in Caracas, Venezuela to a Dutch father and an Ecuadoran mother and attended the local American school before his parents enrolled him in military academies in the United States. Attending school far away from his family and traveling long distances alone at a young age instilled in Luis a resilient nature, and he gradually came to understand the unique customs of his new home, even developing an affinity for grits and sausage!

Although his secondary schooling took place under the strict standards of military discipline, his true education started at home and Luis credits his parents for teaching him, by their own example, about honesty, hard work, self-motivation, and the significance of personal legacy.

It was his parents who inspired Luis’ choice of career through conversations about agriculture and livestock management. His father used to tell him how important food production is, given that “most people eat two-three times a day, and all must eat at least once every twenty-four hours!” Although simply said, this advice was profound in its deeper meaning and led Luis to study poultry management at the State University of New York (SUNY). It was here that he came to truly understand the lifestyle of a farmer. “I was in awe of farmers and the many hardships that they overcome on a daily basis to produce our vegetables, our fruit, and our dairy products,” he says.

Following his graduation from SUNY, Luis moved to Ecuador and began working with his father to develop their family poultry operation, Pronaca. Over the course of several years, Luis dedicated himself to learning the intricacies of the poultry industry and he travelled extensively throughout Ecuador and internationally, continuously seeking new ways in which to innovate the business.

“It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it,” Luis says, reflecting on a time when he had to make the difficult choice to temporarily shut down operations during a breeding crisis. “Sometimes I wonder how the business was able to bounce back after nearly going bankrupt,” he says. “But we never stopped persevering. In an area with high levels of poverty and unemployment, everything we did was a team effort and we always made sure that we took care of those around us and stood by them.”

Luis also credits his strength of faith and gives thanks every day for his many blessings. He is grateful for his six children – three boys and three girls – and, after being widowed, for marrying a second time and sharing his life with Kate Semerad, a fellow Zamorano Trustee Emeritus.



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