Startup Stories: Subafresh’s Digital Marketplace For Fresh Produce
Which platforms do you know that provide a point of sale for fresh produce? And how many of these offer a secure payment gateway? If you can’t answer this question, you should definitely get know Subafresh. We talked to Jorge Rafael Martí Rodríguez, CIO at Subafresh about their solution and ways to start a food industry career.
Pathway into the food industry
Please introduce yourself briefly. Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Jorge Rafael Martí Rodríguez: Computer and senior management technician, with over 25 years in the horticultural sector. I’ve been in charge of the IT management in various companies of the wholesale sector, implementing ERP systems and different technological solutions for Sales and commercial management. I am currently Head of Administration at Frutas Rovi, LLC and Chief Information Officer at Subafresh, LLC.
Why did you choose the food industry and what has been your pathway into the field?
This is a field where I am highly experienced. My hometown, Valencia, is encompassed within a Mediterranean region rich in very diverse types of crops with a long tradition throughout hundreds of years.
It’s always been quite a challenge to bring technology to this primary sector. The wholesale distribution of products, the implementation of ERPs and technological applications have also had to have an important pedagogical work behind it, which is, at the same time, very necessary.
I started almost 25 years ago when we set out to take this management to the online world and create tools for wholesalers and distributors, as well as for producers and small farmers. This is how Subafresh.com was born.
What was your biggest career challenge so far?
It was giving a technological solution to a sector as primary as agriculture and agricultural production.
What was your biggest career success so far?
Creating and setting in motion Subafresh.com
What is the unique appeal of the company you lead? How do you isolate yourself from competitors in your industry?
So far, what has been created in the horticultural field, in what online wholesale platforms concerns, are websites where buyers and sellers could contact each other and showcase their products. Those websites failed in what’s essential: they provided neither verification tools, nor did they intervene in the possible transactions.
The challenge was to create an online ERP and a payment gateway where the payment and shipping are controlled and guaranteed.
The technological solution that Subafresh makes available to its customers is the possibility of having an arbitration account and an expert service that provides coverage throughout the European Union. All through a digital payment gateway developed by ourselves. There is nothing like it.
To what extent do you interact across the world and how important are the international markets for your company?
Subafresh is an online platform accessible from anywhere in the world. Current operations limit us to the European market, but we’re making great efforts to operate in Asian and Latin American markets later this year.
Why is now the time to start the work in the food sector?
Thanks to the mobile technology and the democratic use of smartphones, we can take with ourselves portable technologies, that years back would need big and potent equipment, to very rough places that were difficult to physically cover. Now we’re at a time where the whole of this field is about to outburst, allowing us to make really interesting things. The complexity of this sector also serves as a motivator.
On the appeal of the agricultural sector
How do you perceive the current labor market situation of the food industry in general and how does it modify the demand for employees in your company at the moment?
It is hard to create job profiles in such a wide and complex sector as the online agricultural one. The first thing that a platform which pretends to mediate in this type of transactions is: verifying agents.
These could be agricultural engineers who are responsible for certification and agricultural expertise. These are also agents that, by being on the front line of the field, could fulfil the pedagogical work of introducing electronic tools in the business.
There’s also the computer engineer specialized in agricultural ERPs, who takes their experience online.
The profile of the international agent who speaks several languages is also essential for any platform that wants to break through in different markets.
And then there are the Community managers who are responsible for socializing such a sectarian and monolithic environment, beside fostering a trusty environment in commercial operations.
Which game-changing product can we look forward to?
We’ve designed a payment gateway that can securely operate without the need of payment protection insurance or any other type of payment intermediaries.
We’ve also created an online work gadget that is not just a mere showcase of products. From Subafresh.com you’ll be able to manage sales, purchases and articles as if it was an ERP.
How is the food industry going to change in 5, 10 and 25 years?
Technology and online sales in the agricultural sector will end up having a larger availability of product locations, hence, a greater optimization of the resources that take them to where they have been bought. From Subafresh, we’re convinced that this will not only lower the costs, but also enable a much more transparent and simple access than we have had until now. Buying directly from the producer or farmer will be possible.
Where do you see major and minor problems of the occupational field of the food-industry and what countermeasures would you suggest?
Right now the occupational field in the horticultural sector is concentrated mainly in the generational relief. Until a few years back, the abandonment of the field by the new generations suggested a major crisis in this sector. Such crisis has motivated many young people to return to the fields. These young people come back with the technological experience that their parents didn’t have. That’s where a major pedagogical work takes place.
Food industry career opportunities and necessary skill sets
What career opportunities are currently given in the agricultural sector and the food industry? How will these change in your opinion?
The labor sector focused on the agricultural world is full of new opportunities: Sensorization, Big Data, IoT, robotics through the use of drones. All of this focused to a major optimization of resources.
How important are foreign experience and international communications skills to you in the agricultural sector?
They are essential, as I explained before. The availability of having commercial agents and verifiers in different markets opens up to greater possibilities.
Are there differences between the theoretical science to the food industry and the real market situations? What is important for graduates?
There are always many differences between theory and reality; even more when it comes to the agricultural sector. This is a sector that prioritizes the needs and solutions mainly to the localization of its products. Potato farmers in Almeria will never have the same needs as potato farmers in France.
To new graduates, a long formational career in this field awaits them, but they will also be asked for a pedagogical work in the sector. They are who must get the tools and technologies closer to the agricultural world.
What can your company offer that other employers cannot?
An opportunity to work in a relatively new environment with many things to do and rethink.
Which measures do you perform to promote the cooperation of your employees?
A platform such as Subafresh entails many challenges and a pile of problems that need to be solved. Making teams that are capable of detecting and solving these challenges. This builds up a synergy that wouldn’t be possible in a pyramidal structure.
Which basic qualifications should an employee fulfil to get employed at your company? What are basic requirements to getting started?
Enthusiasm and motivation that fuels the will of facing hard and complex challenges, such as taking technology to the agricultural sector, and previous experience in the horticultural field.
Which three qualities should an ideal candidate have?
- Knowledge of the sector
- Technological training
Jorge, thank you very much for this interview!
About the interviewee
Jorge Rafael Martí Rodríguez is a computer and senior management technician with over 25 years in the horticultural sector.
He has been in charge of the IT management in multiple companies of the wholesale sector, implementing ERP systems and different technological solutions for sales and commercial management.
Currently, he is Head of Administration at Frutas Rovi, LLC and Chief Information Officer at Subafresh, LLC.