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

Dr. Ploetz  is an authority on diseases of tropical fruit crops and has written several hundred scientific and popular articles on these topics, including four books. He has made significant contributions to our understanding of the ecology, origins and relatedness of the causal agents and the diseases they cause. He has visited  70 countries on consultancies, to speak at scientific meetings, and to advise students and research projects. He received the UF Research Foundation Professorship Award in 2004, the SPP Award in 2011, and theAmerican Phytopathological Society’s Excellence in International Service Award in 2008, and Fellow award in 2016.


Dra. Elizabeth Dann – PhD from the University of Sydney

Dra. Dann has broad expertise in the discipline of plant pathology. Her research aims to increase the productivity and quality of tropical and sub tropical crops through improved management of diseases. Current active areas of avocado research include assessment of avocado rootstocks for resistance to Phytophthora cinnamomi, optimizing phosphonate treatments for management of Phytophthora, identification and management of black root rot of avocado and evaluation of new chemistries, soil amendments and “non- traditional” approaches for improved soil health, reversal of tree decline, increased yields and postharvest fruit quality performance.


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

Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton is Distinguished Professor of Nutrition in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University. Her research expertise is cardiovascular nutrition. She conducts controlled clinical nutrition studies designed to evaluate the effects of nutrients, bioactives and dietary patterns on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. She has published over 350 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 others


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

Dr. Hannah Holscher completed postdoctoral training focused on the human microbiome, as well as a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences and a B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois. She is also a Registered Dietitian. Research in Dr. Holscher’s laboratory, the Nutrition and Human Microbiome Laboratory, integrates the areas of nutrition, gastrointestinal physiology, and the microbiome. Her research focuses on the clinical application of nutritional sciences with an overarching goal of improving human health through dietary modulation of the gastrointestinal microbiome. Dr. Holscher was recently recognized as a 2017 New Innovator in Food and Agricultural Research.


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

He is a Registered Dietitian with broad experience assessing cognitive function, diet, and body composition. Dr. Khan’s research has taken a multidisciplinary approach to integrate knowledge in cognitive neuroscience with the disciplines of nutrition, and body composition to understand the behavioral and physiological interactions between attention and memory function, nutrients (e.g., carotenoids), and abdominal adiposity in pediatric and adult populations. He has several research grants currently funded to investigate cognitive function and diet, has more than 50 peer-reviewed research articles, and has presented at several national meetings.


PhD. Britt Burdon-Freeman - Director of the Center for Nutrition Research at IFSH.

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 Smith - CSIRO Agriculture & Food

Harley Smith is a Team Leader at CSIRO Agriculture and Food in the Wine Grapes and Horticulture Group in Adelaide, South Australia. Dr. Smith received his PhD in Genetics from the Department of Energy-Plant Research Laboratory at Michigan State University, studying how proteins are transported into the nucleus in plant cells. Dr. Smith also leads a recently funded Hort Innovation project focused on irregular bearing in avocado.


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. Dr. Barrientos has extensive experience in avocado geneticresources, propagation clonal avocado and has been working to obtain dwarf rootstocks from avocado, in addition to being selecting clones of this species with resistance in the absence of Soil moisture, research that has been developing for several years.


Zelda Van Rooyen - Westfalia Fruit · Westfalia Technological Services

Zelda van Rooyen obtained her PhD in Agriculture in 2006 from the University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Her dissertation focussed on solving the postharvest (physiological) challenges experienced when shipping ‘Pinkerton’ avocado’s to Europe. Zelda joined Westfalia Technological Services (WTS) (Tzaneen, South Africa), the research division of Westfalia Fruit (Pty) Ltd, in 2007 and became involved in postharvest storage trials specifically aimed at facilitating Market Access for South Africa to gain entrance to new markets which required cold sterilization treatments. Zelda also became involved with screening and testing new rootstock material produced by the rootstock breeding programme at Westfalia Fruit, as well as various other horticultural trials.


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”; Chairman of the Board of Avocados From Mexico; 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 Marketing Director and Market Analyst for the Avocado Producer and Exporting Packers Association of Mexico (APEAM). In 2013 Emiliano was recognized by Vance Publishing as 40 under 40 in agriculture for his leadership and commitment in advancing the cause to double food production by 2050. In 2010, he was recognized by The Packer Newspaper as one of the 25 leaders in the fresh produce industry.

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