Aicardo Roa-Espinosa is said to be a true American success story. Born in Palmira Valle, Columbia, he was home-schooled while his father moved frequently due to political fears. After attending college on scholarship from the city of Palmira, he received his bachelor’s degree in agronomy engineering and worked in Columbia’s sugar industry. In search of higher engineering education, he moved to the United States and received a master’s degree in 1985 and PhD in 1989, both in biological systems engineering, with a specialty in soil and water engineering from UW-Madison.
Today, he is considered the leading authority in the use of polymers in erosion control and water clarification. His U.S. career began as an industrial stormwater project coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
His extensive experience in soil conservation yielded award-winning dust-control developments for landing helicopters in the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom campaign with the U.S. Marine Corps, marking him as one of the most knowledgeable people in the United States in polymer-based erosion control.
After this success, he formed his own company, Soil Net, in 2004, to apply the technology. The company produces, supplies and develops separation technology for a number of different applications, including polymer-based vegetable-oil refining, biodiesel refining, erosion control, waste separation and transformation, and water clarification. As president of Soil Net, Roa-Espinosa discovered new ways to transform solids into fertilizers, animal feed, glue, erosion control products, and slow-release fertilizer.
Remembering his roots, he co-founded Centro Hispano of Dane County, created for Wisconsin-based Cuban refugees to acclimate to life here. Recognizing that education was a fundamental factor to his success, together with Ron Simmons, Peter Muñoz, and the DNR, he founded a Madison elementary school tutoring program. He is also a board member of the Badger Chapter of the American Red Cross and board president for the Latin America and Caribbean consortium to support cassava research and development, the crop of the poor lands in many countries.
An honorary fellow of the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences, Roa-Espinosa supports student research in collaboration with his laboratory in Belleville, Wisconsin. There, he is working to create a practical, economical polymer to control soil loss and the associated components such as phosphorus, fertilizers and agrochemicals. He enjoys traveling, botanical gardens, art museums and soccer. He has two children, Tomas and Samuel, and is married to Susan Byram.