Pozo Almonte Agricultural Research and Development Center Receives Responsible Care 2020 Award
The initiative, which is part of SQM's Atacama Tierra Fértil Program, was recognized in the “Community Relations” category for its contributions to local development and work to strengthen farming and ranching in the area.
The Pozo Almonte Agricultural Research and Development Center was founded in 2019 to boost local farming and livestock production. Based in the town of La Tirana, the initiative includes a 1000 m2 greenhouse for producing a variety of hydroponic crops and a cheese-making facility for manufacturing gourmet goat cheese.
The project has equipped the community with technical tools through courses, training sessions, tours and free one-on-one advising so that each local farmer, rancher or entrepreneur can access this knowledge and generate their own initiatives, enabling them to improve their household finances. Given the initiative’s impact and scope, it was recognized by the Chilean Industrial Chemical Association (Asiquim), which honors different member companies for putting the principles of the Responsible Care Management System into practice in Chile.
Pablo Pisani, Director of Communications, Sustainability and Public Affairs at SQM, explained: “We are very proud of this award, since the project was co-designed with the local community and is well aligned with the regional development strategy of making this part of the country self-sufficient by supplying its own local products.”
The executive added: “This recognition is consistent with our international certification in Responsible Care, which is valid until 2022, where we make voluntary, ongoing commitments to enhance our production processes, management, distribution, use and availability of products, while caring for the environment and building close relationships with communities near our operations in Nueva Victoria, where we produce iodine.”
During the pandemic, the greenhouse has continued to function and donate produce to community soup kitchens, neighbors and people in need because of job or income loss, making it a source of social assistance that delivers fresh, safe and quality products.
This project is part of SQM’s Tierra Fértil Program, with support from the Municipality of Pozo Almonte.
About the Project.
The Pozo Almonte Agricultural Research and Development Center has a hydroponic facility designed with automated mechanical ventilation systems to withstand the adverse weather conditions and extreme temperature fluctuations in the Tarapacá Desert. It uses automated floating root and substrate drip irrigation systems that help save water, which is purified using inverse osmosis. With a proper supply of highly soluble nutrients produced by SQM, optimal conditions are created for faster, high-quality development of greenhouse produce, such as lettuce, chard, bell peppers, hot peppers, among other crops.
The project includes all elements of modern-day farming and serves as a large-scale laboratory for training farmers so they can experiment on their own farms.
Meanwhile, the 170 m2 cheese-making facility for producing gourmet goat cheese has all the essential features for making a quality product with all the required health permits. The facility also has a refrigerated truck for transporting milk from the ranchers’ milking rooms to the production facility. In addition, they receive assistance with fodder production and veterinary consults and a genetic enhancement program for animals.