Research Center Roundtable Sparks Farming Revolution

Beltsville, MD, September 9, 2016 - More than 40 nationally renowned scientists and researchers from the agricultural business community, along with state and local officials came out to the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) last week to participate in the inaugural Maryland Agricultural Business Roundtable. The goal of the Roundtable, created by Dr. Ellen Harris, Director of BARC, is to ignite a farming revolution, to educate the agricultural science community about the entrepreneurial side of their research, and connect scientists with the business community in an effort to bring their research to the masses. EDC President and CEO Jim Coleman was among the distinguished panelists who talked about avenues for connecting BARC research to the agricultural business community in Prince George's County and beyond. 

"The EDC is proud of the matchmaking it does in the business community, regardless of the industry sector," said Coleman. "This County is on fire with possibilities and has access to a host of incentives and grants at the federal, State and local levels that can be utilized in the farming industry to help get Prince George's County residents back to work. As the great-grandson of a farmer, I know that qualified labor is very important. I am personally committed to being BARC's partner for the farming revolution, and that commitment starts today!"

The Roundtable represents the first time that the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and the business community have come together to showcase how they can mutually help each other be successful. The scientists learned about technology transfer grants that they can access to move their research to commercialization. They also heard from the Chair of the Friends of Agricultural Research - Beltsville, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the research accomplishments coming out of BARC. Scientists briefly shared their research projects and discussed the benefits to agriculture and everyday living.

Kim Lewers, a USDA, Agricultural Research Service scientist, working on genetic improvement for fruits and vegetables, has been working on developing a strawberry plant that will bear fruit for nine months or more, instead of the typical three weeks common in this part of the country.

"I am grateful to Dr. Harris for bringing this group of people together who are interested in economic development through agriculture in this region," said Lewers. "I believe that a lot of potential has been discovered through the presentation Mr. Coleman gave, which can help local growers reach out to retailers to move their produce. This was very exciting."

Dr. Harris created the Roundtable to generate a discussion that will bear fruit for both the scientific and business community.

"Today's inaugural Maryland Agricultural Business Roundtable was absolutely wonderful thanks to the support of the EDC," said Harris. "We had amazing presentations from my scientists, who I am so proud of, and local business leaders who will make great partners. Because we had, not only businesses, but also State and county officials to talk with our scientists, our goal for this roundtable has been met."

Key officials in attendance included State Senator Jim Rosapepe, Greenbelt Mayor Emmitt Jordan, Prince George's Department of Environment Director Adam Ortiz (representing County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III), and Maryland Department of Commerce Strategic Industries and Entrepreneurship Director Peter O'Neill, and several national program leaders from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"I found today's Roundtable to be very refreshing. Governor Hogan has made it clear to the Commerce Department that agricultural development is very important. Having the opportunity to come to the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center to learn about their research, which is critical to food production in the State and the country, represents a unique opportunity to partner with many entities to work on this issue," said O'Neill. "A partnership with the EDC must happen if we are to deploy programs relevant to entrepreneurs, and larger companies. This is a jewel of a program."

For more information about how the EDC can assist in matchmaking between the agricultural community and businesses, please contact David Lewis, EDC Business Development Director at (301) 583-4650 or Also, be sure to follow the Prince George's County EDC company page on LinkedIn (click here) to stay informed about key business news.