Guatemala: “This new tissue culture laboratory responds to our near-shoring strategy”

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Located 40 km from the International Airport in Guatemala City, Guatemala, we can find Pegón InVitro® (PIV), a recently inaugurated tissue culture laboratory. Through opening this laboratory, Popoyán – a Guatemalan agricultural company founded in 1976 – aims to expand its services both on the Guatemalan and the international market. “The few tissue culture laboratories in Guatemala are private and serve internal needs only. This is the first commercial tissue culture lab at this scale that has been built to support national and international customers,” says Fredy Romero, laboratory manager at Popoyán. In this article, he and Francisco Viteri, General Manager of Popoyán share more detailed information about the new laboratory.

The PIV laboratory in Guatemala

What’s in it?
The PIV laboratory produces various crops such as ornamentals, bananas, plantain, berries, coffee, agave, and others. According to Popoyán, in the first phase, the laboratory has a production capacity of 10 million plants; 5 million through the traditional tissue culture production method, and 5 million plants through the Temporary Immersion Bioreactor (TIB) technique.

The laboratory is also equipped to use techniques such as somatic embryogenesis. Romero states: “It is built with modern infrastructure and equipped with state-of-the-art technology, such as climatic chambers, LED trolleys, media preparatory, and a specialized temporary immersion bioreactor room. The goal of this project is to significantly increase the production capacity in a short time frame. In crops such as ornamentals, bananas, and plantains, the PIV technology allows to produce elite materials and disease-free plants.”

An impression of the PIV laboratory and its equipment

A near-shoring strategy
Viteri adds: “This new tissue culture laboratory responds to our near-shoring strategy, which allows Popoyán to significantly reduce shipping costs and time. Guatemala is strategically located near the US Market and has very good logistic connections to the European Market. However, increasingly strict Phytosanitary restrictions regarding the transportation of plant material from one country/continent to the other are pushing growers to multiply their starter material in tissue culture. Guatemala’s climate is well suited for the production of several crops, both in the open field and in greenhouses.

However, elite materials tend to come from tissue culture labs in Europe, Africa, or Asia. This new laboratory intends to complement the portfolio of seedlings that are produced to meet the growing demand that is being generated in the domestic and international markets. In addition, high shipping costs and long delivery times are pushing growers to search for other options closer to their production sites and their market.”

A team is at work in the PIV laboratory

“Our objective is to bring crop starter material, scale it up in Guatemala, and deliver it to production sites in Guatemala, the US, and Europe. This will significantly reduce shipping costs and time. In other words, the new laboratory provides us with competitive advantages: faster adaptability, the agility to scale up, and the possibility to deliver faster to customers.

But not only that. It also contributes to Popoyán’s biotechnology hub. This hub is a biotech campus that unites players into a one-stop shop concept where we can provide more services for breeders and producers. For instance, nursery, breeding, phytopathology diagnostics, and molecular marker services. Moreover, the new laboratory helps us to reduce our CO2 footprint,” he continues.

Starting commercial shipments and partnerships
The PIV started operations in September 2023. The laboratory is part of Pegón Piloncito®, a business unit of Popoyán which is responsible for the production of seedlings of different crops for Guatemala and neighboring countries. This business unit produces seedlings from seeds, cuttings, and now tissue culture. According to the company, it has an annual production of more than 300 million seedlings. Romero comments: “The crops that we produce in the PIV laboratory are available to be exported to any part of the world, the first commercial shipments to Europe and the USA will start this year.”

Some of the crops that are produced in the PIV laboratory

“To introduce our tissue culture lab and the services we offer, we will participate at Greentech in Amsterdam, and Cultivate in Ohio where we will be able to interact with customers. We are also signing strategic partnerships with a tissue culture lab in the Netherlands that will support us in that part of the world. So far, the market reaction to this project has surpassed our expectations,” he concludes.

For more information:
Ignacio Viteri
(502) 40044821
11 avenida 37-80 zona 11 Colonia Las Charcas
Guatemala C.A
[email protected]

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