From diversified food
businesses to a thriving
software development industry
The North Region is Costa Rica’s breadbasket, producing 80% of the country’s root vegetables, two-thirds of its legumes, 65% of its milk and 55% of its meat.
However, abundant hydroelectric and other renewable power and the influence of seven universities attract a number of other industries to the region. Ciudad Quesada, Los Chiles, Guatuso, Zarcero and Sarapiqui are home to companies in food processing, agribusiness, software development and sustainable energy.
- Food Industry
- 301,299 population
- 66% under 35 years old
- 118,878 labor force
- 25% with high school education
- 7.3% with university education
About the region
Ciudad Quesada, a main city in the north, has long been a hub for agriculture but is increasingly attracting other businesses. It is about 60 miles from the San Jose airport, and a little more than 100 miles from Liberia International Airport, thus easily reached from anywhere in the world via nearly 720 flights a week.
A new road will soon connect the region to an expanded Port of Moin in Limon, where $1 billion in construction is underway to quadruple shipping capacity and accommodate enormous Post Panamax ships, providing access to the Eastern seaboard of the United States, the Caribbean and Europe. Also linking the area to the world is redundant fiber optic broadband that ties to submarine fiber optic cables both in the Pacific and Caribbean.
Electricity is plentiful and affordable. Hydroelectric generation capacity outpaces demand by more than a 3-to-1 margin. Even so, companies seeking to reduce their own carbon footprints are experimenting with other forms of abundant sustainable power, including biomass, wind and solar.
FOOD INDUSTRY THAT SERVES THE WORLD
The region’s agriculture has evolved into an export industry that grows and processes foods for the world. TicoFrut, based in Muelle, is one of only three orange juice suppliers to The Coca-Cola Company’s Minute Maid brand. It exports all its products to North America and Europe. Dos Pinos, the country´s largest dairy processing coop, produces milk powder to customers across Central America, the Caribbean and the United States. La Paz Fruits operates the world’s first certified carbon-neutral frozen fruit plant and was recognized by the World Trade Organization as a global success story.
Other regional companies are taking advantage of the area’s biodiversity to produce organic and natural products. For example, Ipecacauana del Norte harvests and processes ipecac roots for export to pharmaceutical companies in Germany and China. Rey Rojo Investments produces gluten-free flours, chili powder, spices and other food products.
IT, BIOTECH AND SUSTAINABLE INVESTMENT
Over the years, the region has developed a rich tech cluster anchored by Avantica Technologies, a Silicon Valley-based software developer with a 15,000 square-foot center in Cuidad Quesada, where 100 innovative, highly trained, fully bilingual engineers work.
TEC’s San Carlos campus uses its state-of-the-art biotech and molecular biology laboratories for public and private projects. The facility offers several services, including: development of protocols and diagnostic methodologies for biological material, pathogen cleansing for seed certification, genetic improvements and modifications, nuclei transfer using unique micro-projector and micro-manipulation equipment, among others.
A growing demand for sustainable energy production and regional reliance on truck, farm and earth moving equipment provide new investment opportunities for companies to establish regional hubs for components manufacturing and maintenance and repair operations. Plus, the explosive growth taking place in the region creates opportunities for companies seeking to export novel, sustainable construction materials, biomass and energy generating products.
The fast-growing software developer is a pioneer in nearshoring services with operations in Costa Rica and Peru. It has done more than 3,000 client projects, producing programs for finance, healthcare, wearable devices, mobile services and other applications. Much of that work was completed in Costa Rica, where two-thirds of Avantica’s global workforce is based.
The company collaborates closely with clients to help launch and extend their mobile, cloud, analytic, search, social networking and enterprise web applications. Avantica, which offers application development and quality assurance testing, among other services, employs highly skilled and constantly trained engineers. Many of the company’s 450 employees are experts at multiple platforms, including .Net, PHP, Ruby and HTML5 as well as mobile platforms like iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
It has supported Fortune 500 companies, as well as innovative start-ups funded by top venture capital firms like Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners, and others. Most clients are based in North America, and share a time zone with the bilingual Costa Rican engineers working on their business, which makes communication between customers and developers easy.
As Avantica grew from its Silicon Valley roots, it sought additional expertise in its founders’ homeland. Costa Rica offered everything needed for software development: highly educated engineers, an entrepreneurial workforce, political stability, rock-solid intellectual property protection laws and reliable telecommunications.
In 2009, Avantek was born with the incorporation of 5 visionary entrepreneurs and a team of talented engineers who joined Avantica and later became Avantica San Carlos. Recently, it moved into a new 15,000 square-foot development center in San Carlos, where it employs 100 people. The city is an easy drive from San Jose, the nation’s capital. Another 250 Avantica employees work in the Guanacaste and San Jose offices.
The North Region is attractive because it has been a reliable source of skilled engineers graduated from the local universities, thanks in part to collaborations between the Northern Zone Economic Development Agency and business, academic, and government leaders. In cooperation with local universities, Avantica recently launched an Innovation Lab to create research groups that will explore new technologies to develop products and services.
“In the last 10 years, the Northern Zone of Costa Rica has grown significantly in software development,” said Jose Pablo Rodríguez, General Manager at Avantica San Carlos. “To meet the need for talented software engineers, there has been close cooperation between local universities, private enterprise and local government.”
Avantica’s continuing growth may require it to recruit experienced software developers outside of the region by leveraging the area’s affordability, accessibility and tranquil lifestyle – enticing workers seeking a better quality of life.
The company’s innovation has been recognized consistently. It has been honored by the Costa Rican Chamber of Information and Communications Technologies and the Chamber of Exporters of Costa Rica. The company’s CEO, Mario Chaves, was also recognized as a visionary partly responsible for building the nearshore outsourcing market.
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