Organic treatment: biotech puts bacteria to work.

Author:Fitzgerald, Tara
Position:TEN UNDER TEN - Company overview



Name AliBio

Sector: Biotech

Founded: 2003 in Mexico

HQ: Mexico DF

CEO: Alfredo Suarez Rivero


MEXICO CITY -- Alfredo Suarez Rivero, CEO of Alianza con la Biosfera, jokes that bacteria have suffered from a bad reputation ever since Louis Pasteur discovered germs. But Suarez Rivero has no fear of microbes.

Since 2003, his small biotech company in Mexico City, which translates as Alliance with the Biosphere, has been cultivating and selling microorganisms that can be used in wastewater treatment systems, in agriculture to enrich depleted soils and in fish farming to help protect shrimp and salmon from disease.

Trained as a civil engineer, Suarez Rivero found a new calling when he was forced to make a career change when his construction business collapsed following a severe economic downturn in 1994. The 54-year-old Mexico City native returned to school to pursue environmental and management studies. With that foundation, he established an environmental division within the chemical company Productos Quimicos Mardupol.

Suarez Rivero said that when he realized it was not the right fit for either side, he offered to buy the operations from Mardupol with an original investment of $1.2 million. "I formed Alianza con la Biosfera with new partners and a new business vision," he said.

AliBio, as the company is known, was set up to target three areas: wastewater, agriculture and aquaculture. In contrast to some of the larger agro-chemical companies that rely on chemical components or genetically modified crops, Suarez Rivero said AliBio focuses on sustainable products that aim to restore or maintain environmental balance. "What we are interested in is that the combination of various microorganisms work in synergy to achieve high production levels without disease, or soil deterioration, or water contamination," he said. Ultimately this means achieving a larger harvest of salmon, shrimp or other products.

AliBio managed to break even in 2005, Suarez Rivero said. Revenue reached $3.8 million (50 million pesos) in 2009, and Suarez Rivero has set a sales goal of 85 million pesos for 2010, or about $7 million at the current exchange rates. "The demand for organic products worldwide is growing at around 20 percent annually, and all our...

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