Ricardo Escobar: the vision and seal of ASD

Ricardo Escobar has served as manager of ASD Costa Rica for the past 18 years, through which he has stamped an unmistakable seal on the company's vision, which has been opened to the world and is recognized as a pioneer in the development of new varieties of oil palm and technologies for their cultivation. Thanks to Ricardo's vision, ASD has taken part of its most valuable genetic material from Costa Rica to Indonesia through strategic alliances with prestigious companies; in the future the best ASD varieties can also be produced there to be more easily acquired by the Asian market. On the other hand, it is also true that the development of compact varieties has completed a long road that began when Dr. D.L. Richardson was the director of the oil palm research program; today these varieties have already gained a place in the international market. Also, the recognition of the unique traits of these seed varieties has driven ASD to make a sustained effort on achieving the commercial viability of compact clones. ASD is proud to be the only company in tropical America that has managed to consolidate the cloning of oil palm through a unique methodology that uses inflorescences as the source of explants.

Ricardo obtained his M.Sc. in Tropical Crops at CATIE in Turrialba in 1976. Very soon after graduation, he was contacted by the then Research Director of PIPA (Oil Palm Research Program) of Chiquita Brands (the company that initially created ASD), to work in that program in the Coto area in southern Costa Rica, where he remained for four years. After this first relationship with oil palm, he went to Brazil to work with EMBRAPA on the genetic improvement of perennial tropical crops as a consultant to the OAS. His work on the genetic improvement of guaraná (Paullinia cupana) is still the basis of the efforts to produce better varieties of this plant, a very popular stimulant in Brazil, that little by little is gaining ground in other countries that recognize its many medicinal qualities.

The next step was to accept, in 1987, a position at FAO to establish an oil palm breeding program in Thailand; which he did successfully between 1987 and 1990. Right at the end of that project, he was again called to Costa Rica, this time as manager of ASD, and then as director of the company's research, a position that he holds to this day. To fulfill his new administrative responsibilities, he obtained an MBA degree in banking and finance.

Ricardo feels that his most important contribution as manager of ASD has been to organize the company so that it is competitive in the international market, taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of having to carry out the genetic improvement of oil palm in Costa Rica, and from there to send the improved seeds to the whole world. As a result of this effort, we have successfully competed with varieties and clones that show novel traits and the ability to adapt to very diverse environments around the world.

Ricardo's satisfaction lies in the fact that he has achieved a state of administrative maturity for ASD, so that the directors of the various departments recognize the course charted and are able to establish the organizational foundations that allow scientific development with an emphasis on permanent innovation. Within this scheme, the figure of the general manager is seen as a facilitator of resources and a counselor, such that the strength is in each one of the department heads. The initial impulse is well established, so ASD is already a mature company with a well-established culture, an emphasis on customer service and the quality of its products, and it has established itself as a leader in the international market for oil palm seeds and clones.

RICARDO ESCOBAR

Ricardo Escobar, ASD General Manager and Research Director.