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  • Writer's pictureAna María Vázquez-Catoni

Meet Sol Rosado-Arroyo, Agronomist in the Private Sector and President of PRABIA

Multifaceted and with nothing to stop her, Sol has focused on how to bridge the knowledge gap between private industries and local farmers.

Sol Rosado-Arroyo, M.Sc. has been working for 16 years in the private sector of agricultural biotechnology in Puerto Rico (PR). Currently, she is the development manager of BASF, a German company with more than 150 years in the market dedicated to the production of chemicals. BASF produces pesticides, plastics, among other materials. About a year and a half ago, she entered the seed improvement business.

Sol is the manager of the trait development branch. Since 2018, Sol has served as president of the Puerto Rico Agricultural Biotechnology Industry Association (PRABIA), a non-profit organization whose purpose is to educate on issues of biotechnology and agriculture. PRABIA is made up of six agricultural biotechnology companies working in PR: BASF, Bayer Puerto Rico-Crop Science, Corteva Agriscience - Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, Illinois Crop Improvement, RiceTec and Syngenta. Sol's role at PRABIA is to educate farmers and the general public and liaise with the government, the legislature, and the private sector.

"... and very early on I decided that I was going to bless others so much more than I have been blessed."

Sol was sure that she wanted to work in a profession where she would have an impact. At the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM), Sol began her bachelor's degree in engineering. She discovered that she did not want to continue in that field and she switched to a bachelor's degree in agronomy. At the same university, Sol did a master's degree in crop protection, specializing in nematology, focusing on how sustainable agricultural practices can be aligned for nematode management.

When Sol finished her thesis, she started working in the private industry. Sol worked at Ricetec, followed by Pioneer, Dupont, and finally BASF. Currently, Sol is the quality and compliance manager at the facilities in Guanica, PR. Sol has focused on understanding agronomic practices and pest management. She is excited about her work because it allows her to explore different perspectives.

My position gives me the opportunity to work on everything I like. I can work from a social point of view, from a scientific point of view in the field, and at the same time it gives me the opportunity to look a little further and understand how to protect the genetic integrity of the seed. In other words, I work on understanding how to take care of people from a security and compliance point of view."

For 16 years as a researcher, Sol has been working a variety of crops, such as corn, soybeans, sorghum, rice, sunflower and wheat.

A complete adventure. I always say, I have never worked on what I studied in my master's degree. I have never strictly worked with nematodes. However, this has allowed me to grow and apply what I have learned to other areas of science.”

Expanding her horizons through PRABIA

“In PR, they have been doing agricultural biotechnology for 40 years. At some point, 85% of the world's seeds pass through PR. From PR, we sow seeds for the future and create agro-technological tools for an evolving climate."

Although PRABIA has existed for 25 years, it has been around for five years in the public eye. Since 2012, Sol held different positions within PRABIA until reaching the presidency in 2018.

During her administration, she has given a twist to the public perception of the private sector. Sol has strived to open PRABIA to the community and make it more accessible. One of Sol's concerns has been the small number of students studying agricultural sciences. She helped solidify collaborations between universities, such as the UPRM, the Universidad Interamericana and the Pontificia Universidad Católica at Ponce, and the agroindustrial companies. As president, her goal is to open PRABIA to the people, and to be a facilitator in agricultural development, and this includes alliances with Academia (COOP plans, summer internships, internships).

Puerto Rico is small in area, but great in potential, because beyond all the advantages that we have as a country, the best thing that PR has is the potential of its people. I love my country very much, not everyone is blessed to do what they are passionate about, in the place they love, surrounded by the people they love. So I take every opportunity I have to make myself accessible to people. "

Sol believes in the importance of effective and accessible communication for farmers and the general public.

“Transfer technology, make ourselves available, focus on what unites us, causes them to be well, to practice efficiently and safely, it is important that communication takes place. As president, I want to represent the Industry well, but above all, help the country and give people the opportunity to learn from what we do, to be proud of the professionals and farmers of PR. "

Sol believes that there is a misperception of the role played by multinational companies focused on producing seeds in PR.

We are more than seeds, we are Puerto Rican scientists working together creating tools for an evolving climate and focused on making Puerto Rico an agricultural destination. Transferring knowledge, communicating effectively, creating educational tools, making ourselves available to our people has been important. "

“Scientists can do everything. Science has given me that opportunity."

Sol has stood out as a versatile professional. Apart from being a researcher and president of a professional group, Sol co-founded an organization called “Reinventadas PR”, where she seeks to create spaces for collaboration, support and promote self-sufficiency. With 10,000 members, it has opened doors for women who want to move forward.

Sol is also the host of the radio program “Manos a la Tierra” where issues relevant to the agricultural, cultural and food industry of PR are discussed. She is also the director of the College of Agronomists of Puerto Rico - Southwest District.

During Sol's academic development, she emphasized how scientific communication ("sci comm") was not something that was studied.

Her skills have helped her connect with the general public and farmers and build rapport. She does not hesitate to help others through mentoring: "If someone understands that I can help them, how can I say no? You don't know how you are really impacting someone's life."

Being versatile has its advantages

Sol's experiences help her reaffirm how "the scientist of today has to do everything." Sol mentions how the private sector looks for people who are versatile and with varied skills.

“I ask myself: What extracurricular activities does the person I am recruiting do? Beyond doing science, how does the person cultivate relationships with others? Is that person a fast-learner?"

When Sol was in high school, she began working as a clown in a fast-food business. Later, she was promoted to cashier and then to manager. When Sol was finishing her master's degree, she had her first job interview. There, the recruiters mostly asked her about her experience in the fast-food business. They asked her how she managed people, schedules, what resources she used, etc. This is an example of how an experience outside her profession helps her be a more complete professional.

“If you do not have self-esteem, the first stumbling block in your professional life, you will not have a good time. If you have that strong base, you will use the stones to build bridges. "

Sol believes in the importance of self-love, over any triumph.

“The human part of you will always be there. You have to be sure of what you are. Before filling your bag of knowledge with professional achievement, it must first be filled with self-love. It is useless to receive many awards and feel nothing. One's most important project is oneself, and your greatest reward is you. From there, one will be a good scientist.”

When you work in a male-dominated industry...

Sol’s journey in the private sector led her to obtain positions where they have been dominated by men. She mentions that with her occupying those spaces, she becomes an example and at once educates.

“I don't take it personally. I make sure my claim is genuine and on merit. I do not hide my identity as a mother and I am transparent in my needs. I have confidence in myself and my abilities."

According to Sol, industries have made significant progress in diversity and inclusion efforts and programs to empower working women. However, less than 50% of leadership positions are held by women. Sol mentions a phrase she thinks about a lot: "They demand that you be a mother as if you don't work and they demand that you work as if you are not a mother." Her experience in the industry, as well as in Reinventadas PR, has taught her that many women do not apply for leadership positions for fear of failing their children or their partner. Additionally, her experience as a recruiter, she has seen women hold back in negotiating salaries. Sol thinks that the lack of representation of women in leadership positions goes beyond discrimination.

There are many women who are terrified of taking the leap. There will always be discrimination, but if you don't jump in, the answer is always no. If you jump, it's yes or no.”

"Science is the entity that executes. The government is the entity that facilitates. It cannot be the other way around."

By 2050, the global agricultural sector will be challenged with more people, less space, fewer resources, and more food to produce. Currently, 85% of the food consumed in PR is imported. Sol is convinced that for a country to be prosperous, it has to be aligned with science and agricultural development. Sol adds that more education is needed about the importance of agriculture, the recognition of farmers as essential workers and the origin of our food.

“Agriculture is a business and an engine for development. As a country, we have to influence that and put what we do at the service of the people. It is not enough for people to consider us important during times of pandemic. ”

Sol considers it important to highlight women in agricultural sciences because she creates role models who are accessible, with whom they can relate and represent their science and humanity.

“(It is important that) people see that what we do is not so complicated, it is interesting and it has an impact. Putting a face and plotting a story is what catches people's attention. We can put a thousand "infographics" but when you show a face, people can identify.

The definition of success, according to Sol

Sol is the mother of two daughters. "That is my 'full-time job', being a fan of my daughters." She loves to cook and color. Sol emphasizes that "the business card does not define me, nor the positions.” For her, her success is defined by her daughters and her family being proud of her. She says "success is defined by yourself."

"As a scientist, I want to produce the best seed, but before being a scientist, I am a mother and a Puerto Rican, so every decision I make has to be based and focused on the country that I want my daughters to enjoy."

You can contact Sol by email and Facebook: Sol Rosado.

This interview was conducted, transcribed, and written by WAgS co-founder, Ana Maria Vazquez-Catoni.



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