"The best shield for the difficulties is the value of what we do"

Álvaro Amaya Estévez, outgoing director of Cenicaña.

Reflections by the outgoing director of Cenicaña, Álvaro Amaya Estévez, about the Research Center, agribusiness and the future.

During the interview, there was space to comment on the results of an article published in The Economics on the artificial synthesis of the genome of a bacterium, remember the conversations with a Japanese professor while he was studying for his master's degree in the late 70's and reproduce some talk
with his predecessor in Cenicaña, Dr. James Cock.

It was to be expected, if something identifies Dr. Álvaro Amaya it is his ability to rescue stories, readings, anecdotes or simply news from his memory to put some idea into context.

He did so to make a brief balance of 19 years at the head of the Directorate, to reflect on what is coming for the future and leave a message for those left behind.

As of June 30, 2019, he retired to "dedicate part of his life to that capital that is silent, always there: the family" and to dedicate more time to reading the works of Gabriel García Márquez, of which He has read all of them, and from scientific magazines like Agronomy Journal y Crop Science, 'bibles' of an agricultural engineer dedicated to research.

What are you most satisfied with during this period as CEO of Cenicaña?

One of my greatest satisfactions is the confidence that mills and growers gave me to meet Cenicaña's challenges and for the agro-industry to improve its productivity and competitiveness.

Since I came as a breeder, they gave me a vote of confidence that prevents me from leaving with nostalgia; On the contrary, I am satisfied that I have contributed to the progress of the sector with what Cenicaña knows how to do and also happy that there remains a solid team.

Is there a particular achievement with which you think you responded to that vote of confidence?

Each director corresponded to a different environment, to seek answers to particular situations. Dr. Samper did a great job with the creation of the Center and its structuring and Dr. Cock came to strengthen it; he brought up the approach to the use of databases, introduced the molecular issue and how to go further to understand the response of a technology in the field; The boom in mechanized harvesting and environmental issues corresponded to him, to which it was necessary to respond from Cenicaña with the Automated Meteorological Network.

All these steps marked our efforts and the path to follow in the context of what was needed; Today we do it with research in physiology, sensor studies, biotechnology and implementing actions according to the availability of technologies.

One of the reasons why Cenicaña stands out as a model for creating others is that it not only investigates and produces results, but identifies needs, works together with the sector and transfers the results. That was a great support and a work philosophy.

Could you say that the development of technology and its application was key in your management?

Apply what was already coming and strengthen it in the face of new situations that arose. We came with a lot of climatic information, commercial production data, we refined the detailed study of soils and crossed all this information.

We faced the challenge of mechanical harvesting and proposed the Cate project to improve efficiencies; In the stratification of agronomic management, we raise awareness of specificity, and we continue to strengthen the transfer of technology, management that came from Dr. Samper.

I took as a challenge that the researchers were part of the technology transfer because in an environment like that of sugarcane (where there are many factors affecting cultivation), the interaction between those who generate knowledge and those who have experience was a way of generating trust.

What was the most difficult moment you had to live through?

When a challenge is taken, it is understood that not everything will be easy, so difficult times are not conceived that way. The threats from the environment are permanent and all of them are part of what we do, the weather, pests, diseases ... so, the best shield for difficulties is Cenicaña's ability and the value of what we do.

The biggest difficulty that I could have faced is that each one (mills and cultivators) 'separated blankets' and in this period that difficult moment never came. When the relationship was not the best, we made the approximations for each part and we always promoted that union, having as axis the development of technology.

Did you have any pending tasks?

There are always things to do because we do not have a crystal ball and as we progress the processes are more complex.

It has been a personal motivation to work in a closer way, everyone, mills and cultivators, and this has happened gradually. The development and sustainability of the business depends on everyone and it is a challenge for Cenicaña to ensure that this integration is maintained, that we work together around technology, but that everyone does better every time.

In addition to fostering that union, what other challenges remain for the future?

This industry is based on a plant that is a treasure compared to other crops, because there is an established chain in the production, transformation and marketing system. Sugar cane has enormous potential not only for sugar, but for energy and in the added value that can be achieved by incorporating advances in biotechnology and at the molecular level, such as a product of pharmaceutical utility.

The challenge is to get more out of what is produced and, of course, there is a big challenge in reinforcing the adoption of technology, for which a training program has already been established.

A final thought for new generations of researchers and cultivators ...

Be ambitious, have goals and dreams and always with an optimistic look. I always have been and that is the strength that I have had. Here in Cenicaña there is a generation of young people with many expectations that must be guided and placed in context. At the industry level, there is a young group that must be strengthened with what happens in the environment so that their views are more comprehensive. Let's not think that we are building a wall, but that we are building a cathedral.

Information Letter | JUL 2019: 4-5  PDF version