COLONIA, Uruguay – More than 100 years of history and a current focus on agricultural research, old period buildings and modern laboratories cover a corner of Uruguay dedicated to the farming, where the work done has repercussions across the entire continent.
Creating and distributing technology for agriculture, stockbreeding and dairy production are what La Estanzuela has been all about since it was founded in 1914 with the commitment to constantly improve crops and the production of basic seeds.
That project, launched by the German Alberto Boerger, whose mortal remains rest on the ranch as he had requested, currently has laboratories that study soil, plants and water, milk quality, animal nutrition, seeds, entomology, and the quality of grains and phyton.
Some of the most modern parts of the institution are found alongside historic buildings named National Heritage Sites and where the country’s first robotic dairy operates.
In seeking solutions and developing products that promote efficient, sustainable farm production, La Estanzuela, an experimental operation of the National Institute of Agricultural and Stockbreeding Research (INIA) of Uruguay, works with a dedicated group of professionals including students from abroad.
One such participant is the Brazilian Caroline Da Silva Silveira, who came here from her country to complete her doctorate in Animal Health.
During a press visit in which Efe took part, the young woman said that in 2016 she came to the center located in Uruguay’s Colonia province, and during three years developed a line of research into “reproductive diseases that cause abortions in dairy cows.”
In October 2019, having completed her doctorate, Da Silva returned to the institute as technical secretary of the Animal Health sector.
The Brazilian currently works in the administration, directs a project on the control of bovine leukosis in Latin America, and can feel proud that four of her thesis papers have been published in international magazines.
Asked about her experience in La Estanzuela, the PhD in Animal Health said the cultural exchange is “fundamental” and that she grew here professionally “such a lot.”
In another part of this large research center a herd of cows was headed to be milked in the robotic dairy.
“This is the first of its kind in the country and its main purpose is to achieve “a benefit for people,” said Santiago Fariña, national director of the INIA Milk Production Program.
“What we want is to allow people to work like they do in the city, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, in other words, to avoid the sacrifice of milking cows twice a day, every day of the year,” he said.
To save humans from that kind of work, the robot milks cows with a mechanized arm, a task it carries out once the animals are trained by a series of incentives based on food as a reward.
Besides that, the apparatus can also detect any problem with the milk.
At another end of the farm where no animals are to be seen but rather a diversity of crops, the researcher into soil management and fertility, Andres Quincke, spoke of another task INIA undertakes based on care of the land.
“Uruguay does not escape the menace of soil deterioration,” the expert said, adding that by means of different management methods that farmers can and should put into practice, they can make sure their work causes no erosion or degradation of the soil.
Based on that, the research center has an enormous corn crop that clearly shows the benefits of correct soil management.
These are some of the activities developed by this operation covering some 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) in the southwestern Uruguayan province of Colonia, where such pursuits as beekeeping, agroclimatology, and the control of weeds and plagues are also being developed.