Uruguay-native influences farming practices at home

Jared Raney

Bernardo del Campo, or Bernie as he likes to be called, is a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at Iowa State whose interest in biorenewable technology was sparked nearly a decade ago while he was attending the Universidad de la Republica in his hometown of Montevideo, Uruguay.

“In Uruguay, I saw something that really opened my mind,” del Campo said. “I went to one of the seminars, and there was a tractor running on biodiesel. That was unbelievable. That was my only experience of biofuels.”

Though Uruguay is a big agricultural country, its technology is not as innovative as in the United States. For farmers in Uruguay, biodiesel is more of an abstract concept than a feasible solution.

“I liked the idea of biofuels, but I didn’t have an opportunity [in Uruguay] to pursue it,” del Campo said.

Born near Montevideo, Uruguay, del Campo grew up working on the family farm, a part of his life that influences him to this day.

His mother inherited the farm after del Campo’s grandfather passed away, and though his uncles sold their portions of the family land, she kept hers as a way to spark interest and gain real-world experience for her 12 children.

“My mother would always try to complement our studies with more practical things,” del Campo said.

While he was at the university, del Campo worked on his family farm as a soybean counselor and farm manager.

“I don’t consider that work,” del Campo said. “I learned so much from the farm. It is still an important place for the family.”

Today, del Campo holds a position as the lead agronomist and financial counselor for his family farm. Working on a farm in varying capacities at such a young age was part of what drove del Campo.

“It’s still sometimes a surprise to me that I’m here,” del Campo said. “My English used to be so terrible, and whenever I would say to them I want to take an English class, they would applaud me but say ‘No, you’re going to take two English classes.’”

That philosophy drove del Campo to the United States after he graduated as an agronomist engineer in 2007. He interned at Pioneer, which brought him to Iowa State for a master’s degree in biorenewable resources and technologies with a co-major in industrial and agricultural technologies.

“All the energy and the integration of agricultural systems really got me passionate about the field,” del Campo said.

During his time at Iowa State, del Campo has made powerful impressions both on colleagues and faculty.

“His ability to interact with people and his desire to work with them and spread the gospel of biorenewables makes him special,” said Thomas Brumm, associate professor of agriculture and biosystems engineering and del Campo’s master’s program advisor.

The dream of del Campo is to make a difference with his research by taking these technologies where they are needed.

“I’m hoping to develop here not the technology, but the understanding and export it. With simple stuff, if we can make it happen there; it could do so much,” del Campo said. “Here we can make money, but in other places, we can save lives. The potentials are great for the U.S., but even greater for developing countries.”