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Laurent De Smedt - Participant 2013-2015

In terms of management skills, I made a great leap forward in Argentina.


The focus of Laurent De Smedt’s project was on the apple and pear production of Univeg, which owns around 20.000 hectares of fertile land in Argentina.


The objective of Laurent’s mission was to prepare a plan for future plantings of the orchards after an in-depth analysis of the situation of the land. He studied the numbers of orchards,production per hectare, planted surface, varieties, age of the trees in order to get a general overview of each farm.

His greatest challenge at the start of the project was to earn the trust of the farm managers. The language barrier was a first problem since he did not speak Spanish at the start. After an in-depth approach of the field, he recommended investments in machinery in order to reduce the production costs. “This meant understanding the complexity of the Argentinean tax system, implementing procurement and purchase procedures as well as negotiating terms & conditions.”

How he benefited

Laurent learned how to do business in a foreign country with a company that owns around 20.000 hectares of fertile land. “At that time, the region which relies on the fruit business, was going down and companies were going bankrupt or had to restructure.” For Laurent, it was very interesting to see how the Univeg headquarters prepared and implemented the company’s restructuring. He was able to follow this process first-hand and also had the opportunity to help improve the company. “The process of how to restructure a company, write a new strategy and have it approved by the shareholders is a very interesting and instructive process to follow.”

The company – Univeg

The Univeg Group is a global supplier of fresh produce, operating in the fields of fruit and vegetables, flowers & plants, convenience products, transport & logistics.

The added value of the Prince Albert Fund candidate has been significant. He succeeded in establishing a long-term plan for the company’s own production in Argentina. During the time Laurent spent in the country we successfully changed our business model from a sourcing and exporting company with own production, to an own production company that exports. Laurent’s personal background (raised in a fruit-growing family) combined with his degree in business administration helped create a good link between numbers and the technical part. As a consequence, we asked Laurent to stay for another six months in Argentina.”

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