FFAR Announces 17 Inaugural Fellows for Graduate Training Program in Food and Agriculture Science

Universities and Industry Leaders Collaborate to Provide Interdisciplinary Training for the Next Generation of Food and Agriculture Researchers

The 2018 FFAR Fellows met with FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey during the weeklong training at NC State.

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) today announced 17 inaugural recipients of the FFAR Fellows award. As part of the program, graduate students from across the U.S. gathered at North Carolina State University for a weeklong training course designed to prepare them for successful careers in food and agriculture science.

“The future of agriculture relies on training a strong scientific workforce,” said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey, Ph.D. “The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is pleased to support the next generation of food and agriculture researchers and I am excited to see how the FFAR Fellows will grow through this program.”

The $2.7 million FFAR grant was matched by a consortium of industry leaders dedicated to preparing the agricultural workforce to optimize impact on the future of agriculture science. The program will award two additional cohorts of students in 2019 and 2020. A team at North Carolina State University manages the FFAR Fellows program.

John Dole and Rebecca Dunning of NC State commented on the FFAR Fellows:  “Selected from over 100 wonderful applicants, the 17 FFAR Fellows are an impressive group of Ph.D. students who we know will have a lasting effect on food and agriculture. The FFAR Fellows program will give them the tools and training to hit the ground running and make an impact from day one in their future positions.”

The FFAR Fellows Program pairs doctoral candidates with academic and industry mentors to equip students with the skills needed to facilitate their transition to the workforce. Awards were granted in two funding categories. Stipend and Professional Development Fellows receive fully-funded support for three years to pursue research projects and interdisciplinary training. Professional Development Fellows have support secured for academic studies and will use the FFAR Fellow award to participate in the three-year interdisciplinary training program.

Learn more about the program and how to apply to be a 2019 FFAR Fellow: https://ffarfellows.org

The following individuals received a 2018 FFAR Fellow award:

Abby Barker, Colorado State University: Barker is a Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Bioagricultural Sciences & Pest Management Department at CSU. Her research project aims to understand herbicide resistance in weeds and develop recommendations for sustainable herbicide management practices. Barker’s industry sponsor is Valent U.S.A. LLC.

Lindsey Becker, North Carolina State University: Becker is a Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Plant Pathology Department at NC State. Her research examines the beneficial relationship between Mortierella elongate, a fungus that breaks down organic matter in soil, and tomato plants. Becker’s industry sponsor is Novozymes.

Francesco Cappai, University of Florida: Cappai is a Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the plant molecular and cellular biology program at UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. His research uses new breeding techniques to develop blueberries that are machine harvestable, which would lower the costs of production. Cappai’s industry sponsor is Gourmet Blueberries Ltd.

Zach Dashner, Pennsylvania State University: Dashner is a Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Department of Plant Science in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State. His research aims to understand iron uptake from soil in cacao plants and improve farmers’ ability to grow crops in iron-deficient environments. Dashner’s industry sponsor is Mars Wrigley Confectionery.

Alison Deviney, North Carolina State University: Deviney is a Stipend and Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department at NC State. Her research aims to improve manure management in livestock operations through nitrogen recovery and understand barriers to adoption of sustainable technologies. Deviney’s industry sponsor is Waste 2 Green, LLC.

Jeremie Favre, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Favre is a Stipend and Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Agronomy Department at UW– Madison. His research will explore best management practices to maintain seed yield of Kernza over time. Kernza is the grain of Intermediate Wheatgrass and is being developed as the first commercially available perennial grain grown in the USA. Favre’s industry sponsor is Perennial Agriculture Project, in conjunction with the Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation and The Land Institute.

Shelby Hoglund, University of Arizona: Hoglund is a Stipend and Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science at the UA. Her research aims to quantify the benefits of using green waste recycling to improve soil health, conserve irrigation water, and improve agricultural productivity. Hoglund’s industry sponsor is TAB AG Group.

Annie Krueger, University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Krueger is a Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Department of Entomology at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research will develop agricultural land management practices to improve the health of Monarch butterfly populations. Krueger’s industry sponsor is Monsanto Company.

Morgan Mathison, Michigan State University: Mathison is a Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Department of Community Sustainability at MSU. Her research explores how using Adaptive Multi-paddock (AMP) grazing influences the health and wellbeing of farmers who adopt the practice. Mathison’s industry sponsor is McDonald’s USA.

Maci Mueller, University of California, Davis: Mueller is a Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis. Her research aims to improve the distribution of elite cattle genetics through new breeding technologies. Mueller’s industry sponsor is Recombinetics.

Mary Ortiz Castro, Colorado State University: Ortiz Castro is a Stipend and Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management Department at CSU. Her research seeks solutions to combat bacterial leaf streak in corn by understanding the ecology of the disease and creating an integrated management program. Ortiz Castro’s industry sponsor is the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee.

Camilo Parada Rojas, North Carolina State University: Rojas is a Stipend and Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Plant Pathology Department at NC State. His research aims to develop sweet potato varieties that are resistant to black rot, a devastating disease threatening producing across the U.S. Rojas’ industry sponsor is The North Carolina SweetPotato Commission.

Suneru Perera, University of Saskatchewan (U of S): Perera is a Ph.D. student and Stipend and Professional Development FFAR Fellow in in food and bioproduct sciences at the U of S College of Agriculture and Bioresources. His research explores new processing techniques to expand the uses of canary seed, a cereal grain that was approved for human consumption by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health Canada in 2016. Perera’s industry sponsor is POS Bio-Sciences in Saskatoon, Canada, a bioprocessing contract research and development company that creates value-added products from biological materials.

Ananda Portela Fontoura, Cornell University: Fontoura is a Stipend and Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Department of Animal Science at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. In partnership with her industry sponsor Vetagro, she will work to define nutritional therapies that can improve the metabolic health and productivity of dairy cows at the onset of lactation and when exposed to heat stress.

Lovepreet Singh, University of Maryland: Singh is a Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Plant Science and Landscape Architecture Department at UMD. His research aims to understand the mechanism behind Fusarium Head Blight resistance in wheat and develop management practices to help mitigate this disease. Singh’s industry sponsor is KeyGene.

Jaimie Strickland, Michigan State University: Strickland is a Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at MSU. Her research explores how micronutrients, like vitamin A and E, can improve health of dairy cattle. Strickland’s industry sponsor is Elanco.

Jiayang (Kevin) Xie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Xie is a Stipend and Professional Development FFAR Fellow in the Department of Crop Sciences at Illinois. His research aims to increase drought tolerance in plants through methods that do not decrease productivity. Xie’s industry sponsor is Monsanto Company.

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