Western Grower & Shipper 2018 11Nov-Dec

vegetables that consumers have grown to love. Just this March, Duda Farm Fresh Foods—which invests 2 percent of its annual budget in research and development—added six more patents to its celery varietals. Their impressive

mandarin to the United States. He named them “Delite” and launched the easy peel industry that was to follow. “There are many types of citrus, and as farmers, we are the innovators looking for new varieties to develop to bring

surpasses public sector funding. Between 2008 and 2013, public food and agricultural R&D declined by approximately 20 percent while private R&D funding increased by 64 percent. This includes investments in research, development and outreach of new varieties and technologies to mitigate animal and plant diseases, as well as increase productivity, sustainability and product quality. The agricultural technology boom is also playing a significant role in the surge of R&D funding. AgFunder reported that in 2017, investment in agtech startups reached $10.1 billion—a 29 percent year-over-year increase. To support farmers’ efforts in innovating new fresh produce varieties, agtech start-up companies are developing technology to assist in everything from planning and optimization to automation and irrigation management. In fact, Hazel Technologies, a resident of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology and winner of the 2017 AgSharks™ Competition, has developed sachets that can be placed in boxes of fresh produce to extend shelf life. Hazel’s sachets time-release active ingredients into the storage atmosphere of commercially-packed produce, biochemically fighting spoilage by slowing the aging process and proliferation of disease. As investment in R&D continues to soar, new innovations, such as Hazel’s spoilage-fighting inserts, are game changers for the industry. It can open doors for new fresh produce varieties to flourish and perhaps become the star menu items at local restaurants.

to the marketplace for the consumer to enjoy,” said Heather Mulholland, fourth- generation farmer and chief operating officer at Mulholland Citrus. By the same token, broccolini—a broccoli-Chinese kale

hybrid—graced our plates more than 20 years ago through the successful partnership between Mann Packing (which was recently acquired by Dole) and Sakata Seed. Broccolini, which has smaller florets and a longer, thinner stalk than broccoli, was developed by Sakata Seed’s plant breeders and successfully brought to the American market by Mann Packing. Today, the popularity of broccolini is rising and more restaurants ranging from fast casual to fine dining are using it in haute side dishes. With changing diets, a rising world population and an increase in the global demand for food, the list of companies who are dedicated to prioritizing R&D continues to grow. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that private sector funding in food and agricultural R&D has risen rapidly over the last decade and now

Duda Farm Fresh Foods’ Red Celery is grown from an heirloom seed variety that Duda’s researchers developed for nearly 20 years.

celery R&D program has resulted in 33 patents that contribute to enhancing the flavor and quality of celery grown in their fields. The addition of these new patents will allow for the development of new celery varieties and flavor profiles that are sweeter, crisper and have less strings. “Duda has been innovating for 92 years, as we recognize that we have to be innovative to survive and thrive,” said Sammy Duda, senior vice president of national operations for Duda Farm Fresh Foods. “With our continuing investments in R&D around flavor, taste, texture and convenience, we aim to improve the eating experience of our consumers while improving the sustainable production practices that are essential in today’s environment. We are excited about our investments and the new products the investments will allow us to introduce.” In addition to creating new and improved varieties, farmers are also growing their commitment to R&D by expanding the market and offering new commodities to consumers. Mulholland Citrus, which today specializes in easy-peel mandarins, was the first to propagate, grow and market the W. Murcott variety in the early 1990s. While traveling halfway around the world, in Morocco, Tom Muholland of Mulholland Citrus came across a species of citrus not available anywhere in the United States: the seedless W. Murcott mandarin. Mulholland Citrus then became the first American company to bring the

Driscoll’s R&D team of “Joy Makers” use science, sense and imagination to create newer, better berry varieties.

14   Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com   NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2018

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