Passing the Baton in Spain

From a 20 hectare project in 2017 to millions of trees planted in 2021 alone, this is the success story of the Land Life team in Spain. With our first Regional Director Angelica Bercetche now embarking on the new challenge of becoming the Head of Implementation in the Amsterdam office, Francisco Purroy has arrived to not only fill her shoes, but to take the Iberia team to a whole new level. Francisco has already begun to pick up the baton as our new Regional Director for Iberia. 

We spoke to both of them together to hear a little more about what they both hope to accomplish in their new roles.

Can you first both introduce yourself and tell me when you started at LLC and what you do for us?

Angélica: My name is Angélica Bercetche, I started as a project manager for our reforestation projects in Spain and in 2020 became the first Regional Director. 

Pancho: My name is Francisco Purroy, nickname Pancho, I joined Land Life on the 1st of November and I am a vet by training. I have been working for 15 years in business development and have led business growth in several companies. I am super happy to join Land Life as the Regional Director of Iberia, so Spain and Portugal. 

Angélica, we know that you played a big part in making Spain one of land life’s main hubs today. How did this happen?

It was a real team effort. In the beginning, we were responding to an opportunity that we had with some really great partners on the ground there. At the time it was just one small project that had come up and we followed through with it, but then we realized how much potential there was in Spain. Firstly because of the need for restoration in general. There was and still is so much degraded land. Spain has a good forestry infrastructure and we found trustworthy partners in terms of land management. We were also able to build a strong network with regional governments and local communities. This was in combination with great knowledge and experience in our team that we could leverage on and that’s just how it started. 

Tell me a little bit about what you were actually doing in Spain, Angélica?

Yes! It was a transition that happened naturally, I was a project manager at the time and for one customer in Spain, I was asked to deliver reports on the operational progress of this project i.e. how the planting was going. At that time we discovered there was this potential in Spain, we wanted to bring in more customers which meant conducting different projects at the same time.

Later, we decided to do year-on-year projects which meant hiring people, training them and getting all of the forestry expertise on our team. So we turned what was a team of two people into twelve in less than three years, and we were planting 20 hectares that first spring in 2018 and now we are aiming for 2,000 within one year. So it was quite a growth cycle. What I was doing specifically was hiring these people and managing them, but also being responsible for the delivery and the external partnerships and relationships with the regional governments as well as landowners, contractors and press.

So now Pancho, you’re taking over all of this!

Yes, I feel super lucky to have this opportunity and to work with such a highly skilled team, both technically and personally. Of these people, five or so have joined Land Life in 2021 like myself. The team is talented, ambitious and experienced. There is a super good mix, a lot of diversity and a lot of passion for restoring land all over Iberia. 

What kind of expertise is there in the Spanish team?

There’s a wealth of knowledge on forestry, biodiversity and ecosystems. The team has a strong operational background in sales in a way. When we talk about land partnerships and finding suitable land for us that requires a lot of top-down and down-up approaches to bring in governments and small-town councils and everything. This requires good relationship skills to take care of the contractors, nurseries and all the partners we need to make these projects happen. I am very lucky to have Nacho Martín Andrés, who is our recently promoted Operations Lead by my side. His expertise as a forestry engineer and skills for coordinating our people and work have been pivotal to the growth and success of the Spanish team.

What are your main responsibilities in Spain now?

I want to make sure that we can realize our planned growth and find new land to plant on. Since I’ve started I have been working on our land partnerships, getting contracts signed and speaking to regional governments and regional directors of environment and forestry. I am also traveling quite a lot to Portugal and different parts of Spain to find new partners and new landowners who can give us opportunities.

Can you tell me a little bit about the projects you are focusing on at the moment?

One of the important growth areas for us is Portugal. Our pipeline is increasing quite significantly so we really need to pay attention to our work here.  Also, we need to be very well in touch with the regional governments here in Castilla y León where our office is and the majority of our current plantings are.   We are committing to a large number of hectares in Castilla y León, the planting season has already started and we need their help to get all of the authorizations and approvals in place so we can really kick off and get to the numbers we want. 

Angelica, you will move from Regional Director to Head of Implementation. Does this mean bringing the best of what has been done in Spain to other geographies?

Yes and no. I’ll start with why not- every geography we work in right now is quite different, especially in terms of our operations. Spain is definitely the one where we have invested the most with a team on the ground and we are involved in every single step of the process. This works because of the scale of the projects and the proximity to Amsterdam, but that doesn’t apply to every geography. We are looking to be efficient, but we are also looking to leverage the knowledge that is available in each place and that means that in some geographies we work a lot more with partners who have the networks for the experience built in there. A lot of my work will be to extract our processes and that standardization and apply it to our new geographies so that we have a Land Life quality seal of approval for each and every one of our projects despite the differences in how those processes are put into place. 

How will you bring what you have learned from your position in Spain to the new role?

My new role didn’t exist in Land Life until now. The advantage of that is that it can be shaped and molded into what we think is necessary. The way I’m trying to understand it now is to say my job is to make sure Land Life projects in terms of our operations are high quality, to make sure they are successful and that we are learning from them. A lot of my role will be moving these operational managers across the world so everyone is starting to learn about what Land Life is doing in different places. It’s actually going to be really fun!

Any final comments on passing the baton?

A: It’s funny because if you asked me what expertise I would imagine for the Regional Director of Spanish reforestation projects, I wouldn’t have said a political science major like me or a vet with food technology expertise like Pancho, but the reality is that I’m just so excited for Pancho to be in this role. He is A) a great leader for the team, empathetic, sensitive and has his priorities straight and B) a great ambassador for Land Life in general, so I couldn’t be happier that he is taking over this role. 

He brings a really fresh perspective to everything and above all he is really passionate about this, so concerned about the world for his daughters.

P: Wow, you’re going to make me cry, Angelica! I am super grateful for Angelica and all the things she has taught me with great patience and support. I was impressed with her. She knew everything from tree species to planting operations to anything you can think about in great detail. That gives me the courage and ambition to take this role as my perception is that everyone in the team has the same approach and same type of beliefs so we are going to make this happen. 

A very nice positive note to end on!