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Dr. Randy Ploetz - Ph.D. from the University of Florida

Dr. Ploetz received B.S. (Forestry) and M.Sc. (Plant Pathology) degrees from Purdue University and a Ph.D. (Plant Pathology) from the University of Florida (UF).
Dr. Ploetz studied the physiological impacts of Phytophthora root rot (PRR, caused by P. cinnamomi) and flooding on avocado, Persea americana, and dissected the profound and rapid detrimental interaction that occurs when trees are exposed to both factors. In half-sib populations from the national germplasm repository of this crop in Miami (USDA-ARS).


Dr Elizabeth Dann – PhD from the University of Sydney

She is a plant pathologist based at the Ecosciences Precinct at Dutton Park. Her research aims to increase the productivity and quality of tropical and sub-tropical crops through improved management of diseases. She obtained her PhD in 1995 from the University of Sydney, and undertook post doctoral research at Michigan State University, USA and at the University of Sydney, prior to joining the Plant Pathology (Horticulture) research team within the Queensland Government in 2002. She is recognised internationally for her work on systemic induced resistance in plants and its practical implementation.

Penny Kris-Etherton – Distinguished Professor of nutrition Penn State University

Dr. Kris-Etherton is Chair of the AHA Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health, and Past Chair of the AHA Nutrition Committee.  Dr. Kris-Etherton is a Fellow of the American Heart Association, the National Lipid Association (where she served as President), and the American Society for Nutrition.  She has published over 360 papers in the peer-reviewed literature and has received numerous awards from the American Society for Nutrition, the American Oil Chemist’s Society, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the International Nut & Dried Fruit Council, and the Northeast Lipid Association Chapter for her contributions to the profession.

PhD. Hannah Holscher – Professor of nutrition at Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

Dr. Hannah Holscher received her B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition and her Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Illinois. She is also a Registered Dietitian, having completed clinical training at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, Illinois. Dr. Holscher joined the University of Illinois faculty as an Assistant Professor in June 2015. As Director of the Nutrition and the Human Microbiome Laboratory, her research team aims to enhance human health through dietary modulation of the gastrointestinal microbiome.

Dr. Holscher has published in top nutrition journals including the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of Nutrition. She has also served in leadership roles at both the local and national level, including the FSHN Ambassadors and the American Society for Nutrition, respectively.


PhD. Naiman Khan – Professor at College of Applied Health Sciences – University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign.

Dr. Naiman Khan is the Director of the Body Composition and Nutritional Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a Registered Dietitian with broad experience assessing cognitive function, diet, and body composition.

Dr. Khan has extensive experience conducting clinical trials investigating the effects of dietary modulation on measures of physical as well cognitive and brain health. He has several research grants currently funded to investigate cognitive function and diet, has more than 28 peer-reviewed research articles, and has presented at several national meetings.


PhD. Britt Burton-Freeman - Director of Nutrition and Health Promoting Foods platform leader at the National Center for Food Safety and Technology (NCFST), Illinois Institute of Technology.

Britt Burton-Freeman, Ph.D. has been involved in obesity and metabolic disease research for over 15 years, including basic science and clinical research in academic, biotechnology and drug development settings. Dr. Freeman’s current research interests are in mitigating disease process through dietary approaches focused on the health promoting properties of whole foods. Specific disease targets are vascular disease and obesity, including food intake regulation. In her current appointment, she leads a public health initiative with FDA/CFSAN to develop and provide underpinning science for comprehensive approaches using innovative processing solutions to support the availability of safe food with health opportunities.

Matthew - CSIRO Agriculture & Food

Harley Smith is a veteran in the hydroponics industry, with over 20 years experience as a professional hydroponics consultant and educator. A well-known public speaker and presenter, Harley has taught hydroponic growing techniques to agriculture educators for many years, and he has been responsible for setting up hydroponics labs in hundreds of schools across the country. Mr. Smith is also regarded as an expert on plant nutrition and organic bio-stimulants, performing research and product development for hydroponic fertilizer manufacturers in the United States and Europe.


Alejandro F. Barrientos – Professor and Researcher, Universidad Autónoma Chapingo.

Alejandro F. Barrientos-Priego currently works at the Departament of Fitotenia, Universidad Autónoma Chapingo. Alejandro does research in Horticulture. Their current project is selection of avocado rootstocks.   


Zelda Van Rooyen - Westfalia Fruit · Westfalia Technological Services

Zelda Van Rooyen works with a group of researchers looking at increasing productivity, postharvest quality and innovation in all matters relating to avocado production. Anything from cultivars to rootstocks, pre-harvest and post-harvest pathology and physiology to tree manipulation at Westfalia fruit.


Mary Lu Arpaia - Ph.D., University of California, Davis

As a statewide extension specialist for subtropical fruit at UC Riverside, Dr. Mary Lu Arpaia has both an educational and research program dealing with all aspects of citrus and avocado production, with an emphasis on postharvest handling. There are two areas related to subtropical fruit postharvest handling in which she conducts research. The first deals with the role of preharvest management on postharvest fruit quality. Secondly, she conducts research that examines the response of subtropical fruit to the postharvest environment including temperature during handling and ethylene exposure. Dr. Arpaia also leads the avocado variety breeding program at UC, Riverside with the aim of selecting new varieties that are precocious, adapted to high density planting and have excellent postharvest quality.


Ramon Paz-Vega - Strategic Advisor to APEAM

Born in Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico, in 1960. Obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and Agribusiness from the Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey; his MBA from Universidad La Salle; and his Ph.D. degree in International Management and Business Ethics from the EGADE Business School of the Tecnologico de Monterrey, with a stay at IESE Business School in Barcelona.

Currently, he is an avocado grower in both Michoacan and Jalisco states, in Mexico; Managing Director of “Paz Mendoza y Asociados”, a company dedicated to consulting in agribusiness and fruit exports; Strategic Advisor to APEAM; Chairman of the Board of Avocados From Mexico (the company created to promote Avocados From Mexico in USA); Vice Chairman of the Board of the International Alliance of Fruit and Vegetable Exporters for the Advancement of Social Responsibility in Mexico (AHIFORES); and Board member of the United Fresh Produce Association.


Emiliano Escobedo - Executive Director for the Hass Avocado Board

Emiliano is the Executive Director for the Hass Avocado Board (HAB) based in Irvine California. The HAB represents nearly 20,000 producers and 100 importers to promote U.S. consumption of fresh domestic and imported Hass Avocados sold in the U.S. market. Prior to his current position, he was Director of Global Marketing and U. S. Operations for the Avocado Producer and Exporting Packers Association of Michoacán (APEAM), the largest avocado producer and exporter association in the world.  While at APEAM, Emiliano executed strategic marketing initiatives that positioned Avocados from Mexico as the world’s finest in the United States, Canada, Japan, Europe and Mexico.
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