As a scientist, I’m interested in how new discoveries and knowledge can make life better for people, and this made me jump at the opportunity to join Mars as the new Global Chocolate Director of Cacao Plant science. One of the pillars of our cocoa sustainability strategy is improved scientific research on the cocoa plant and how it’s cultivated. With a better understanding of how to breed stronger, more productive cocoa trees, how to manage cocoa farmland effectively and how to more effectively control pests and disease, we believe we will be able to offer farmers the best possible tools for them to produce more cocoa in a sustainable way and to improve their livelihoods.
Before joining Mars, I served as a Supervisory Research Geneticist at the USDA-ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Miami, Florida, where I developed and implemented genetic improvement programs for cacao, mango and avocado and conducted genetic research on many other tropical fruit crop species.
As well, the International Cacao Breeding Program I developed at Miami was a collaborative project between USDA-ARS and Mars and included breeding trials in South and Central America, West Africa and Asia. I was also one of the key scientists involved in the cacao genome sequencing project (you can learn more about that project by going to the Cacao Genome Database web site) and I have extensive experience with the application of molecular markers to enhance plant breeding.
At Mars, my role is the scientific director for all cacao science from “plant to bean.” This involves the supervision of five scientists, three Mars research stations (Brazil, Indonesia, and Cote d’Ivoire) as well as collaborative agreements with national and international research organizations.
Working on the cocoa genome was a highlight of my career, and I’m looking forward to learning even more about the cocoa plant, especially on the genetic level. I believe that the contribution Mars is making to advance cocoa science is really valuable, not only because it is advancing science but also because it is helping the farmers who are so important to the cocoa industry.