Spurring local and sustainable growth
From Costa Rica to China
The region of Upala, Costa Rica, is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, by two rivers to the northwest and southeast, and the Cordillera de Guanacaste mountain range to the south. Although traditionally a cattle ranching region, its microclimate and rich soil make it ideal for growing pineapples.
Upala Agrícola was established in this region in 1996 and acquired in 2008 by a group of Costa Rican entrepreneurs interested in growing and exporting sustainable pineapples produced according to environmental best practices. Today, the company grows pineapples on more than 2,400 hectares, has two packaging facilities, and exports around 100 containers weekly. It employs more than 950 people, making it the largest employer in the region.
Upala Agrícola’s sustainability certifications include Rainforest Alliance, among others, as well as ISO 14001 which refers to environmental management standards.
Sustainable Use of Resources
Upala Agrícola’s commitment to sustainability can be appreciated throughout the entire pineapple production process. Three full-time employees are responsible for ensuring the implementation of good agricultural practices and the responsible use of natural resources.
Approximately 38% of its land is allocated for conservation and used as biological corridors, allowing connectivity between habitats, while great care is given to the land used for production.
An environmental risk matrix is used to identify potential impact of pineapple cultivation based on soil studies and landscape assessments.
Water is also important for Upala Agrícola. Water sources and nearby communities are protected by establishing buffer zones where no chemical products are applied. Vegetation zones are respected along roads. Drainage systems and pathways are created to avoid erosion from planted areas and prevent water sedimentation. The company treats wastewater in its own water treatment plant.
The company also reduces its carbon footprint and environmental impact through precision agriculture. For example, Upala Agrícola is experimenting with precision agriculture by using drones to conduct field and soil analyses, and planning seed planting patterns to enhance environmental benefits.
Upala Agrícola has also achieved carbon neutrality by minimizing energy use, planting trees, and buying carbon credits. More than 3,000 native trees are grown in the company’s tree nursery. These trees are used for restoration projects. For example, the company grows the tropical hardwood Almendro Amarillo – the main shelter of a local endangered green parrot.
On top of the efficient management of natural resources, Upala Agrícola has also been able to recover land that was degraded and deforested due to livestock farming. Water sources previously contaminated by cattle are now protected by natural barriers that prevent runoff of polluted water.
Finally, as the company is the largest employer in the area, it runs a Corporate Social Responsibility program aimed at maintaining good relationships with local communities. This includes helping improve roads and supporting educational and health projects.