By: Ernesto Fantoni, VP of Product Development at Ahern
On March 28th, I had the privilege to participate in the inauguration of the new Ahern Tech Center in Culiacan, Mexico. With beautiful weather and no detail forgotten, the Ahern team treated visitors to a memorable event.
The highlight of the day, at least for me and for every agronomist, was the presentation of the tomato and pepper trials from a multitude of seed companies. The trials were conducted in greenhouse, net house, and open field. Under different growing conditions and fertilization protocols, the results remained very consistent.
I especially focused on the protected crops and had the opportunity to evaluate multiple varieties at the same time, facilitated by knowledgeable technicians who provided many details.
Instead of explaining which varieties impressed me most, I want to share with you what truly astonished me at the Ahern Tech Center — the healthy condition of the plants.
In a time when Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus has made the entire Mexican Ag. industry scared, I did not see one single plant affected. Having visited Israel many times since 2014 when the virus was first discovered, and having consulted with the most prominent Israeli virologists, I know the symptoms very well and am capable of diagnosing ToBRFV easily.
With no symptoms visible at the Ahern Tech Center, especially considering the amount of people in contact with the farm during the construction process, I wanted to know what protocols were adopted to achieve such results. Jose Luis Gonzalez, director of AIS, said that he implemented very strict sanitary rules, that could easily be replicated on any farm:
1. Unauthorized vehicles are NOT allowed in the production areas (open field, watering system or around production areas). NO EXCEPTIONS.
2. Authorized vehicles are required to pass through the disinfection pool.
3. Upon arrival, visitors will receive a robe, shoe covers, hair net, and gloves that must be worn in all the production areas.
4. Wash and disinfect hands before entering and exiting the production areas.
5. Upon entering areas of production, use disinfecting mats to clean your shoes.
6. If you intend to visit all areas of production, please start in the greenhouse, followed by the net house, and finally, the open field.
7. Do NOT touch plants unnecessarily.
8. Use of cellphones is strictly prohibited in all areas of production.
9. It is strictly prohibited to smoke anywhere in the Tech Center.
10. All of our staff is trained in the ToBRFV protocol and follow it to the letter. We have dedicated staff to each area, thereby assuring low risk of disease transmission.
11. Please report any anomaly, leakage of water, plant with abnormal symptoms, etc, immediately.
12. Please refer and follow to these rules and regulations. You can find them strategically placed throughout the tech center.
The Ahern Tech Center is an example for the entire industry of what any farm can accomplish given clear and thorough protocols. At this time, ToBRFV cannot be eliminated, but it is in our hands to minimize the damage done to valuable crops.