Used to store and ship grains, produce soybean oil, flour and biodiesel, LDC’s General Lagos plant was completed 25 years ago. And since then, the facility located in Argentina’s Santa Fe province, where the Paraná and Salado rivers meet, has become the world’s largest soybean biodiesel production plant. And it’s one of the most important private ports in the country.
LDC has been operating in Argentina since the nineteenth century. Since then, LDC originates in that country tons of agro-industrial products, which are processed and delivered to various destinations.
General Lagos construction works began in November 1989. When building a crushing plant in the province of Santa Fe, the team decided to install a port on the nearby Paraná River.
“We started doing the necessary drawings, models and plans, then in mid-1990 we began to build roads, leveling the soil, installing storage cells and an oil production line, as well as building the port”, says Diego Casanova, who started as Director of Quality and Movement in the project and now is LDC’s regional logistics manager.
Once construction works were initiated, the Buenos Aires industrial team moved to Rosario to finish the assembly.
Respect and hard work
In March 1992, LDC inaugurated the port and, a month later, the first shipment arrived.
Gerardo Franke, who in 1991 was Production Supervisor and now has the role of regional industry manager, remembers the constant need to plan ahead and to keep growing: “The years went by so fast. There was always movement. The complex had a life of its own, and from the beginning there was a particular buzz.”
Marisa Bozzo, human resources assistant who joined in 1992, remembers what it was like to be the only woman on the team.
“At that time, there were about 80 of us and I was the only woman. It was a challenge, but I always felt a lot of respect and it was easy to fit in,” she says.
“I was a receptionist and we had only three phone lines on the floor. Communication was done by radio. We also used telegraph and typewriter,” she recalls.
Major reforms and constant growth
Just like other LDC operations in Argentina, the plant has not stopped growing since then. Major reforms in 1996 and 1997 saw new warehouses to store cereals and soybean meal and pellets, new facilities to unload wagons, and construction of a second production line.
With an annual production capacity of 600,000 tons, it became the largest soy-based biodiesel processing plant in the world.
And with LDC Argentina being one of the country’s biggest companies, General Lagos became its second largest private port where more than five million tons of products and sub-products are shipped annually.
The ships that enter and leave the port of today carry flags of distant places including Egypt, Indonesia, South Africa, the US and Belgium. The plant is as busy as ever.
“Loading grain into one of those 40,000-ton ships takes around 24 hours; loading soybean meal could take a little longer,” says Daniel Cecchini, head of the port and employee in General Lagos for 25 years.
But the team knows to look after each other: “Watching the activity increase has brought us enormous satisfaction,” says Gerardo. “But the most important thing for us is our people.”