June 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter
By J. Scott Angle
You get first shot at the latest blueberry varieties developed in Gainesville, strawberries from Balm, peanuts from Marianna, forages tested in Ona, tropical foliage from Apopka, sweet corn from Belle Glade and squash from Homestead.
The common thread running through this tapestry of discovery is the Florida Foundation Seed Producers (FFSP). John Beuttenmuller and his team make sure that our innovation machine runs for you.
FFSP works closely with the UF/IFAS plant breeding team on cultivars that thrive under Florida conditions. When those varieties are ready for release, Florida farmers get the opportunity to use them, generally years ahead of international competitors.
Meanwhile, when that head start plays out and you’re moving on to new varieties, FFSP eventually licenses cultivars abroad to protect its intellectual property, and they reinvest that money into Florida-focused innovation.
It’s hard to imagine that we’d have a new blueberry lab in Gainesville without this revenue stream. You’re getting an innovation factory for the next discovery funded in significant part from royalties from the last breakthrough.
FFSP licensing royalties have also been used to build greenhouses for our strawberry breeding team. And one of the high-profile gifts of our last capital campaign was the establishment of the FFSP Plant Breeding Endowment. It sets up a friendly competition to find the most potentially impactful new breeding projects at UF and brings in representatives from industry to pick which ones to fund.
FFSP does more than promote new versions of old standbys. It is central to the search for the next new Florida crop. Namely, it’s been a prime sponsor of 33 projects aimed at figuring out if enterprises ranging from barley to vanilla, olives to vegetable high tunnels, are the best bet for a new commercially viable commodity.
And now that we’ve got 15 new faculty with expertise in artificial intelligence, we need to jumpstart their work. FFSP helped light the fuse by providing much of the funding to bring together 11 teams around projects ranging from accelerated precision plant breeding to automated strawberry yield protection. We expect AI technologies, licenses and startup companies to result.
Beuttenmuller is a friend of the Farm Bureau. He sits on your Peanut and Cotton Advisory Committee. He’s long made sure Farm Bureau is represented on his FFSP board. Nate Jameson, whose wife Anna is on the Sumter County Farm Bureau board, is FFSP’s board vice president. Kevin Morgan served on the board until his retirement as assistant to the former Farm Bureau president. Another former FFBF administrator, Jaime Jerrells, served on the FFSP board and continues to do so in her new role for the commissioner of agriculture.
Beuttenmuller is a great example of someone who helps ensure that UF/IFAS innovation is relevant to Florida farmers by actually getting it into your hands through commercialization.
New crop varieties are intellectual property. By protecting that property, Beuttenmuller and FFSP are protecting Florida agriculture.
Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).