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Magdalena: Agriculture for the Future

With a prominent focus on building a more intelligent relationship between land and people, Magdalena has spent the last 40 years producing and transforming the agriculture industry of Guatemala with a passion for developing the industry and its products towards a sustainable future. The company works year-round to produce and commercialise products derived from the sugar cane milling process which has established Magdalena as a key player in renewable markets. We’re so glad to be returning to Magdalena, to see how its focus on sustainability and innovation continues to drive its operations and build a better world for tomorrow.  

Magdalena found its origins in 1983 with the Leal Family who purchased one of 19 sugar mills in Guatemala at the time. Through this purchase, the family-run and owned company began a long journey set on developing and investing in Guatemala’s agriculture and energy sector. Just 7 years after the Leal family began milling sugar cane, it began a range of cogeneration projects utilising sugarcane bagasse to generate electricity. Sugarcane bagasse is a byproduct from the milling process, which can be utilised to generate electricity and so Magdalena develop its own energy matrix. As the company gained more energy and power contracts, the company installed a second tandem of mills which doubled the sugar production for Magdalena and so increased its ability to generate more electricity.  

Magdalena is a pioneer in the renewable energy industry that is capable of producing electricity, marketing it and then transmitting it across the national energy infrastructure. This development from by-product to renewable energy resources, influenced a key turning point for Magdalena as it began to see the significant impact of its sustainable operations to produce a valuable renewable energy resource. Today, Magdalena is responsible for roughly 8% of Guatemala’s total energy needs through its power matrix.  

1995 saw yet another large step up for Magdalena in terms of research, as it constructed its first lab to produce high-quality sugar cane seeds. The lab research focused on understanding which sugar cane seed varieties were best suited to the soil across the company’s operations, and so would produce the greatest crop yield. This focus on research allowed Magdalena to increase its sugar cane outputs significantly, which then required a new grinding mill just 5 years later to keep up with the sugar cane production. The new and third grinding mill for Magdalena, installed in 2000, established Magdalena’s facility as having the largest grinding capacity in Central America, and the second largest in Latin America. 

With so much sugar cane being milled year-round, Magdalena began refining it to produce refined sugar products which could be marketed and sold to both domestic and international markets. When installed, the sugar refinery attached to the sugar mill was one of the largest in the world. Today, Magdalena has a daily grinding capacity of 40,000 metric tons, which provides 24% of the national production of standard, brown, golden, raw, and refined sugars. Magdalena’s sees 20% of its sugar products delivered to local markets, however, the other 80% is taken from Guatemala as exports. By developing such a large exporting marketing for its sugar products, Magdalena continues to bring significant economic development to the region that provides added benefits to those surrounding Magdalena’s facilities. 

In 2010, Guatemala’s energy industry was rapidly expanding to meet the demands of its population, and so Magdalena ventured further into the energy sector where it developed its technologies to integrate biomass and mineral fuels which would diversify its energy matrix offerings. Due to the increasingly significant role Magdalena began to play in the energy industry, the company had integrated some of its operations with the corporate government, which continued to support and develop its energy production opportunities as it began producing electric power serving a much larger variety of markets across the region.  

Over the last 40 years, the steady progression by Magdalena through its production of sugar and then energy has continued to bring significant economic benefits to the region. However, its product offerings do not end there, instead, Magdalena is focused on ensuring that it produces as little waste as possible, and so it takes the molasses produced as a byproduct from the processing of sugar cane and uses it to create alcohol. Magdalena now can produce up to 420,00 litres of alcohol a day, adding yet another asset to its portfolio of offerings all based on its sugar milling operations.  

One thing that remains evident throughout every aspect of Magdalena’s operations is a keen focus on reducing waste and maximising the productivity of its crop yields. This commitment to reducing waste stems from the company’s firm commitment to building a better future for Guatemala, and subsequently the planet. Therefore, Magdalena has set up a range of sustainable initiatives that are working to reduce its operational carbon footprint by investing in green harvesting, agricultural design, organic compost, and the application of microorganisms and biological nutrients. These initiatives seek to nourish the soils in which the sugar cane grows, whilst utilising the most modern agricultural techniques to achieve strong yields that can continue to allow Magdalena to play a vital role in developing renewable energy for the future.  

When we last covered Magdalena, it announced it was developing into the solar and wind energy production world to support its operations and the local communities of Guatemala. In recent months, MPC Energy Solutions has announced that it plans to build a 65 Mega-Watt solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in Guatemala, where its output will be sold to Magdalena under a 16-year fixed-price power purchase agreement (PPA). The sale to Magdalena highlights the leading role it continues to play within Guatemala’s energy production industry as the largest private energy production company in the country.

Once, operational the plant is expected to produce roughly 141 Gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per year, which will add yet another vital input to Magdalena’s renewable energy division. The recognition of Magdalena by MPC Energy Solutions as the right provider of the solar field’s output exemplifies its expansive role not just in Guatemala but across the global energy sector.  

Ultimately, Magdalena is a thriving sugar can producer that has vastly expanded its operations and is now one of the country’s largest private renewable energy producers. Over the last 4 decades, the company has continually developed its operations with sustainability and innovation in mind to bring essential investment into the region to support Magdalena’s circular economy model. Therefore, Magalena remains committed to respecting the planet and its natural resources and these are what are going to power the future of the planet.   

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