Ricardo Migueláñez. Agricultural Engineer @rmiguelanez
The emblematic Juan Carlos Rico Mateo, more widely known as Carlos Rico, is not only a farmer through and through, but he’s also the president of one of the largest agricultural cooperatives in Castile-León, Sociedad Cooperativa General Agropecuaria, or ACOR, which has primarily been producing sugar beets since it was founded in 1962.
ACOR is a cooperative which currently comprises around 5,000 members in Castile-León, one of the largest regions of the European Union. ACOR has been operational for 53 years.
In its early days, it focused solely on milling sugar beets delivered by the Cooperative's members. Until 2007, ACOR had two sugar mills and an alcohol production plant in Valladolid province (with a milling capacity of 16,500 tons of beets per day between the two of them and ethyl alcohol production of 30,000 liters per day).
As of 2005, in view of major imminent sugar reforms announced by the EU, it started to diversify its bioenergy-related activities, i.e. the production of edible oils, flours made from strong wheat, biodiesel and renewable energy.
Our protagonist this week is 54 years old, was born in Iscar (Valladolid), is married and has three children. He studied agricultural engineering at the Technical University of Madrid and has always had ties to the farming industry. We have featured other people in this section who have worked in diverse sectors before ending up in ours, but that's not the case here.
Given his personal experience as a farmer, he knows perfectly well how a cooperative works and, therefore, has a clear objective: to defend the work of members and to help them obtain the greatest returns from their hard work.
Rico is a friendly, extroverted person who has earned the respect of members of the sugar industry in his region, and also in Madrid. Running a cooperative is no easy task, and he's done a fantastic job over the years, always seeking out new possibilities for the organization and aiming not only to maintain the model operational, but also to expand its horizons.
On a personal note, he has a great sense of humor and is very loyal to his friends, family, hometown and especially ACOR, and I would also highlight his strong commitment to the sector and the cooperative. He grew up in a family that taught him the value of hard work, and everything he has he earned through blood, sweat and tears. Although he likes to joke around over some beers with his friends and colleagues, at work he is all business.
At the helm of ACOR, he has spearheaded an enormous shift towards professionalization, diversifying the business and expectations to enhance efficiency on a daily basis.
Although his most immediate rival in this sector is a huge international company, thanks to Carlos Rico, ACOR has been able to increase the land used for growing sugar beets every year and has helped it become a leading crop in the region with the necessary support from the regional and national government.