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Drones: Zamorano’s Own is a Pioneer in Salvadorian Agriculture

Carlos Francisco Mercado Mata ’06 has vast experience in the commercialization of agricultural products for markets in El Salvador. His experience extends to the development and implementation of marketing strategies and technologies with the goal of automating agriculture in Latin America.

When it comes to work and entrepreneurship, for Carlos Francisco Mercado Mata, Class 2006, quitting is never an option, but rather he is constantly adapting to change and innovating business as the correct and only path forward. He is a successful promoter of agriculture in his country as co-founder of the first Salvadorian agricultural drone company, Hylio. He offers national producers, most notably in the sugar cane industry, competitive and high quality agricultural inputs as well as cutting-edge technology to improve their crop yield.

Carlos credits Zamorano with instilling in him strategic and visionary thinking, which allows him to see and quickly evaluate which business opportunities are attractive. When Carlos’ partner mentioned unmanned aerial prototype vehicles (VANT or drones) that were being developed in Houston, Texas, USA, Carlos did not hesitate to seize an opportunity to revolutionize the Salvadorian sugar cane industry.

Presently, this Zamorano graduate´s company offers its services to the largest Salvadorian sugar mills. Introducing this technology, Carlos has made a significant contribution to the industry which has resulted in the important reduction in the use of water resources. Also, it has opened access to using these new technologies for small farmers whose access was previously not possible due to the high price of more traditional methods such as small planes or helicopters.

Among the services offered by Hylio, air-bound drone activities focus on critical research, as well as foliar, insecticide and fungicide applications, all spanning annually more than 10.000 hectares (the equivalent of nearly 25,0000 acres) of crops.  The result has been a 14% increase above and beyond for the area previously not covered due to technology limitations. Carlos has also helped in the formation of new service companies that offer low cost, faster launch-time applications that has driven competitiveness ahead of other companies.

This Zamorano visionary has helped to introduce the first drone company not only in El Salvador, but in the Central American region as a whole. In the first year of its launch, the company won the Central American Innovation Prize for its outstanding innovative work in Guatemala. “With our technology, we have contributed to improving the productivity of small farmers by introducing drones that provide data not previously available to small farmers due to lack of access to small planes and helicopters. We have simultaneously contributed to greenhouse gas reduction as well as a 90% reduction in the use of water for agricultural applications”, he added.

Adapting to change in a short time

Carlos Mercado Mata, in another of his multi-faceted professional roles, also works as the commercial manager of Grupo Fertica, a chemical fertilizer company supplying the Central American region. In this role, he has faced and overcome numerous challenges including the renovation of the company’s commercial structure, as well as making necessary adjustments to position the company for globalization. “During these years, several challenges have existed which would have been impossible to overcome if Zamorano had not taught me to be flexible and adapt to change in a short period of time”, he commented.

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With his contributions to Salvadorian agriculture, Carlos has made changes in the application of edaphic fertilizers and the use of nutritional formulations, based on soil analysis and plant requirements.  He has created awareness of the importance of nutritional bases, as opposed to element saturation or imbalances, and the critical role of agricultural inputs to maintaining not only price competitiveness but also quality and effectiveness.

An uncommon element.

Carlos recognizes that his accomplishments are directly related to the training he received at Zamorano, noting that his Alma Mater prepared him to make decisions in a practical way and to face adversity in a short period of time. He credits Zamorano with building his character and helping him to understand the bigger challenges with which he had to cope on his own.  He cites Zamorano as an institution that inspired his independence across years of knowing that graduating depended entirely on his own efforts. “The discipline that the university offers is one of the main character builders that has helped me to perform in my job and reach my objectives. Zamorano taught me the importance of being honest in my business transactions, even in the most difficult moments. Zamorano also helped me to make decisions in a practical way and to face adversities in a short period of time”, he added.

“The university’s learning-by-doing practical program showed me that there are always challenges and that quitting is never an option. During my studies at Zamorano there was an optional class that helped me to grow in my vision and it was a class in entrepreneurship. I consider that this course planted a seed in me, helped me search for the necessary mechanisms to begin my projects and activated in me the strong desire to start a business. Also the combination of classes and work modules was key at Zamorano. Learning to produce, process, market and administer are pillars that today have made me unique in a very competitive market which day by day demands more from its professionals”, he concluded.

Carlos Mercado Mata is a shining example of the types of Zamorano graduates whose successes are marked by the banner of innovation and entrepreneurship that favors big and small farmers alike in their countries.

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