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Expo hawks ostrich meat, manure power

April 27, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

MEXICALI — Visitors to AgroBaja, the first international agricultural exposition here, left with pockets full of business cards and two earfuls of sales pitches that made the future of the agricultural industry seem brighter than ever.

According to more than 190 exhibitors set up under a huge white tent five miles south of Mexicali, there is money to be made in solar power, quail eggs, low-flow irrigation systems, bees, electricity produced from manure, abalone farms and ostrich meat.

Ostrich meat?

It tastes like beef but is healthier, according to ostrich wrangler Rodrigo Clark of Mexicali.

The exposition is the brainchild of the Mexican Agricultural Secretary Genaro Lopez Bojorquez and was put together by Abel Gaspar Gallegos.

Gaspar said AgroBaja is significant because it is the first- ever agricultural trade show on the northern Mexican border.

He is already planning the 2002 event and is considering working with American partners to bring AgroBaja to the Imperial Valley.

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"We would be proud if an American organization joined us. It would be good business for both," Gaspar said.

The exposition opened at 10 a.m. and was inaugurated at 4 p.m. when Baja California Gov. Alejandro Gonzalez Alcocer snipped a ceremonial red ribbon and walked through the complex accompanied by a thick crowd.

As he walked, Gonzalez said this sort of event is just the beginning of Mexico's efforts to work with the United States and the world for the benefit of their respective economies.

Regarding the U.S. specifically, he said there needs to be "more cooperation and more understanding" between it and Mexico.

Gonzalez walked past the booth of Mario Cota. Cota's company, Cota Agricultural Products of Mexicali, specializes in growing iceless green onions.

By leaving out the ice and the big waxy shipping boxes needed to transport ice, Cota can save money and still keep the product cold.

After harvesting the onions, he works with packing companies in California that hydrocool the onions, partially freezing them for shipping all over the world.

"Sixty percent of my product goes to Mexico but 40 percent goes to the United Kingdom and the U.S.," Cota said.

Another exhibitor the governor walked past was the representative for the state of Colima.

Colima is a Pacific coast state northwest of Mexico City. The representative, Alejandro Bernal Astoraga, stood proudly in front of the agricultural products his tropical state is promoting.

One of the tropical fruits that Colima has had success exporting is caranbolo.

Bernal said a box of 12 goes for $40 in Japan. He hopes the success of the product in the Japanese market bodes well for future sales to other parts of the world.

The caranbolo is shaped like a large light lemon with wedges already cut out. When cut, slices look like stars. Bernal said it tastes like a combination of a peach and an orange.

At the booth representing Baja California, the governor stopped and rallied his public relations troops.

Nancy Garcia of Mexicali explained how Baja California is working to move water to Tijuana via new aquaducts and farm more efficiently.

Water is the chief concern of Baja California, she said.

To augment supply, desalination plants are in the works for the Pacific coast of Baja California.

Those plants would provide freshwater from saltwater for residents of coastal Mexico who rely on the Colorado for most of their water, she said.

Besides the main tent, AgroBaja features a livestock area, stands for a cattle auction Saturday and exhibitors of tractors and implements.

In the livestock section of the exposition giant misting fans sold by Sanidad Quimica de Baja California cooled milk-producing cows.

Cornelius Van Milligen, president of Kentucky-based Enrichment Inc., came to AgroBaja because he wants to work with companies such as Sanidad Quimica and the dairy industry in general.

Van Milligen is a manure man. He wants to see the dairy industry return to the Imperial Valley because it would mean more manure he would be hired to handle.

He pointed to the three cows chewing cud while being blasted with mist-cooled air.

"Those cows are standing and eating. When cows eat they produce milk.

Those cows … " he pointed to three depressed cows lying down to conserve energy in the heat. Those cows had no giant misting fans.

He said the cows without the fans are the cows most Imperial Valley locals remember when they think of the dairy industry here.

Van Milligen scoffs at those who say the Imperial Valley is too hot for dairy cows.

He envisions dairy cows by the thousands cooled by gigantic fans. The fans would be powered by the manure the cows produce.

For a fee, he will act as project manager and set up clients with dairies powered by generators that burn manure for fuel.

"I get excited when I think about the possibilities," Van Milligen said.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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