The Center was originally developed in 2003 as a seed production facility to supply our local contracted farmers as well as increase our ability to export tobacco seeds around the world. Spotting a unique opportunity, we decided within a year to expand it into a training facility as well as a state-of-the-art research and development center.
Set on an 206-acre parcel of land, the facility features excellent soil, an ecological reserve area, and a pond that not only offers a source of irrigation, but also offers excellent fishing for our guests. In addition to office, meeting and conference facilities, we have constructed advanced greenhouse, seed and pollen processing and tobacco curing infrastructure onsite.
There are four main programs at the Center: a breeding program, a seed production program, a training program and an agricultural research & development (R&D) program.
Breeding Program: Our tobacco breeding program is cutting-edge, and we are constantly taking on new challenges. Unique to Brazil is our use of double haploid tobacco plants to develop new cultivars, and we continually strive to improve our capability in this area. We are always on the quest to improve the quality, increase the yield and increase the disease resistance of our tobacco cultivars.
This program has released more than 26 new flue-cured and burley tobacco cultivars since its inception. Great strides have been made in developing bacterial wilt-resistant burley hybrids as well as developing cultivars' resistance to tobacco mosaic virus, PVY, nematodes and other disease pathogens. We also work to improve our wrapper tobacco operation and to assist our affiliates' operations and Universal-assisted areas with tobacco breeding and cultivar selection.
Seed Production Program: All of the tobacco seeds used to grow our contracted tobacco volume in Brazil are produced at the Center. We utilize state-of-the-art equipment to produce high-quality seed. Our Breeder Seed stock undergoes a screening process in order to reduce levels of nornicotine converter plants, which assists in lowering levels of TSNAs in commercial tobacco. We continue to develop and evaluate new techniques and technologies that enable us to produce better seeds in a more efficient manner.
Training Program: Initially, we intended to use the Center only for our new technicians and to train our field and processing personnel. Recognizing that more people could benefit from this opportunity, we decided to extend the training to employees from our overseas operations as well as our customers. The program is now one of the key features of the Center, offering training in tobacco cultural practices from curing to grading, as well as leaf buying, grading and processing.
The Center offers on-the-job-style training, which includes printed technical information, visits to our different tobacco growing areas in Brazil for hands-on experience, and an overview of our processing operations.
We offer our affiliates and customers the opportunity to provide their technicians a condensed training period of three weeks, covering everything from seedling production to grading the cured leaves. This intensive training results in better-trained personnel for our company and our partners.
Agricultural R&D Program: R&D activities occur both at the Center as well as on farms throughout southern Brazil. All new technologies, crop inputs, GAPs, production materials, tobacco cultivars and tobacco equipment are thoroughly evaluated at the Center before broad introduction to our contracted farmers. Promising new aspects of tobacco production identified at the Center are then introduced to selected farmers across the tobacco zones to confirm the original findings. Once a new practice or product has completed initial on-farm evaluation, it is then introduced to all our farmers who would benefit from adoption or use.