Umbrella Genetics Vision

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The global population is projected to increase 50% within the next 40 years from approximately six billion to nine billion by 2050โ€”all to be fed, clothed and even fueled by agricultural products. Furthermore, as people rise out of poverty, higher living standards such as greater meat consumption and personal mobility will place even more demand on food crop production (wheat, rice), animal feed (corn, soybeans), fiber (wood, cotton) and fuels (sugarcane, switchgrass).

The increasing demand for higher production and diminishing margins of crop product values at the farm gate created a great global upheaval in commercial Ag-business. Additionally, lessons learned and policies implemented after the catastrophic damage caused by the Dust Bowl of 1930โ€™s led to a global effort seeking for sustainable solutions for increasing agricultural production. Genetic improvement of existing elite crop varieties to meet the demands is one of the few globally agreed upon solutions to the sustainable agriculture challenge, a close second to the primary proposed solution: leveraging data science based agricultural and farm management practices.

The last five years have also witnessed the major breakthrough of the century in genetic engineering with the discovery of CRISPR enzymes, that make application of recombinant DNA technologies as simple as making breeding crosses- procedurally. Despite uncertainties in the regulatory landscape and freedom-to-operate concerns- that are complicating the use of this technology for commercial product development- there is tremendous interest in leveraging it for crop improvement and agricultural product development, both in public and private sectors.

Now that the technology is considered a given, the next big challenge that faces the crop genomics community is : How can we leverage available technologies to enhance and accelerate crop improvement for sustainable agriculture?

Our organizational vision is to help empower research towards this objective via providing often expensive and rare expertise on applications of technology and leveraging data for decision making to the scientific community.

Elhan Ersoz