Bernardo M. Villegas
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Largest Vineyard in the World

             Last April 18 to 27, 2023, First Metro Corporation, EDI Staffbuilders and the University of Asia and the Pacific led a group of some top Philippine corporations—especially in infrastructures, renewable energy and agribusiness—in a road show to Spain.  The purpose was to try to convert pledges and promises to invest in the Philippines to actual inflows of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) from Spanish companies. It was a response to the appeal of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the private sector to help follow up the results of his many trips abroad, a major objective of which is to bring in long-term capital to help improve Philippine infrastructures, renewable energy supplies and food security.

            Thanks to the participation of Alliance Global under the leadership of Kevin Tan in the road show, members of the Philippine delegation could hold their heads high when it became clear that it was not a one-way investment relationship:  the Philippines begging for investments from Spanish business enterprises.  Investment capital from the Philippines is also flowing into Spain through Emperador Properties, a subsidiary of Alliance Global that bought from the Domecq family the largest vineyard in the world.  It boosted the self-respect of members of the Philippine delegation that a country like the Philippines with a per capita income of less than $4,000 can produce a vibrant company like Alliance Global that can afford to purchase, not only the largest vineyard in the world, but the tallest building in the capital of Spain, Madrid.  Spain has a per capita income of more than $30,000, seven times more than the Philippines.

            Thanks to the hospitality of Mr. Jorge Domecq, President of Emperador Properties that manages the properties of Alliance Global in Spain, members of the Philippine delegation were treated to a tour of the Vineyard that produces the grapes for such famous international brands as Fundador and Emperador.  Since I could not personally join the tour because of a previous commitment, I reproduce here an account of the tour written by Mr. Gregorio A. Mabbagu, an economics professor from the University of Asia and the Pacific who helped managed the entire road show. 

            It was a perfect sunny day in the morning of April 20, 2023 at exactly 9 a.m.  when the bus for the Vineyard tour arrived at the AC Hotel Atocha by Mariott.  The members of the Philippine delegation who could join the tour were greeted by Mr. Jorge Domecq, President of Emperador Properties and Mr. Alvaro Jimenez, CFO.  The travel to Toledo, where the vineyard is located, took about one hour.  Upon arrival to the vineyard location, the Filipinos were proud to see the Filipino flag flying at the main office where they were going to receive the briefing which was given by the Chief Agricultural Engineer.  The Filipino delegates were impressed to learn that the Vineyard is the largest, not only in Spain, but also in the whole world.  It covers an area of 450 hectares all devoted to vineyard farming. 

            The total property covers about 510 hectares in Daramezas located  in the valley of Tajo River, municipality of Guadamur, Toledo.  The project, which started in 2014 with the planting of grape vines, has the main objective of specializing in the production of wine grapes for distillation.  The yield capacity per hectare amounted to 20,000 kilograms.  Most of the vineyard area, about 432 hectares, is used for the Airen variety of grapes, because  this variety has the highest yield and at the same time commonly used for winery and distillery. The other areas are utilized for other varieties, i.e. Colombard, Palomino, Chelva, Gamacha,  Blanca, Jaen, Macabeo and Rkatsiteli  varieties.

            Demonstrating the need for farm consolidation to attain economies of scale, the whole vineyard is monitored   remotely through the use of smart phones and computers.  This is done through precision viticulture and the use of satellite for monitoring purposes.  There were installed sensors for humidity and salinity monitoring at different depths in which data are transmitted and controlled by computers.  Despite the vast land to be monitored, there are only 12 key officers overseeing and managing the entire vineyard, already including two agricultural engineers.  Grape harvesting is done through Grape Harvester New Holland 9090X Dual, the biggest NH machine running and harvesting at 4 km/h speed.  Pruning is also done mechanically during winter.  Barley grass is intercropped between the grape vines.  Harvesting happens once a year during September. 

            It was obvious to the Philippine delegation that Industrial Revolution 4.0 has already arrived in Spanish agribusiness ventures.  With the advent of new technologies, the management team of the Vineyard has been installing solar panels with agrivoltaic energy.  Sustainable faming practices are also being adopted to the extent feasible.  In September 2021, a joint project with Iberdrola provided more solar panels in the Vineyard.  Moreover, CO2 fingerprint calculation is being monitored together with the use of app LAVOLA in the effort of reducing CO2 finger print.

            To ensure protection from pests or animals that can damage the grape fruits, mechanical falconry was installed since 2019 to scare bird pests.  An important conclusion drawn by members of the Philippine delegation is that the primary objective of food security that is high in the priorities of the present   Administration requires our combining all the four stages of the industrial revolution that started in England during the last decades of the 18th century.  We have to complete Industrial Revolution 1.0 which had to do with replacing human labor with machines in the farming sector.  We still have a long way to go to complete Industrial Revolution 2.0 which is all about electrification of the rural and farming sectors.  Industrial Revolution 3.0—which has to do with the electronic revolution—still has much to contribute to improve the whole agribusiness value chain, i.e. from farming to post-harvest to logistics to processing and all the way to the retailing of food products.  Finally, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Data Analytics, etc.—the very stuff of Industrial Revolution 4.0—have much to contribute to bring down the prices of food products, both the basic ones and the non-basics such as wine and other alcoholic drinks. Indeed, the visit to the largest vineyard in the world inspired those who are already heavily invested in agribusiness or are about to diversify significantly into this very important sector to do everything possible to complete all the stages of the industrial revolution as can be applied to the objective of food security.

            It was reassuring to read news about the expansion plans of Alliance Global upon the return of the Philippine delegation from the Spanish road show.  On May 10, 2023, the Business World carried a story about Alliance Global setting P70 billion capital expenditure for expansion of its various businesses.  Understandably, the largest portion has been set aside for its flagship real estate company, Megaworld Corporation.  Emperador, Inc. is being allocated P7 billion which will mainly be used to fund its international operations as it plans to expand its overseas market to account for 50 % of its business by 2025 from the 35 % reported in 2022.  Much of this will be contributed by its Spanish operations.  Emperador intends to double its branded single malt sales and achieve a high single-digit growth in brandy sales.  As the members of the delegation did at the end of the vineyard tour when they were brought to the tallest building in Madrid to cap their day with a sumptuous lunch and an abundant supply of brandy and other types of liquor:  Let us drink to the success of the plan of Alliance Global to dominate the world of brandy and single malt.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.