Sixteen researchers will present their projects during the Center for Produce Safety’s second Produce Research Symposium June 28 in Orlando, Fla.


The spotlight isn’t on the scientists for long. Each researcher is allowed just eight minutes and a maximum of five slides to present his or her objective and findings. Then a moderator will question the researcher and a panel representing several aspects of the produce industry — production, processing, handling, retail, foodservice and regulatory agencies — about how the research is applicable to different parts of the supply chain.


Each project will be discussed for about 25 minutes, and audience members also may ask questions.


“It’s a unique format,” said Bob Whitaker, chief science and technology officer for the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del.


“It’s the researcher’s data, plus what it might mean to people in the industry once they get back to their offices. At the end of the day, we want people in the audience to go home with answers, or, at a minimum, to know who is doing research of interest to them so they can follow it in the future.”


Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director of the Davis, Calif.-based center, said about 300 people attended last year’s inaugural event in Davis.


Whitaker said attendees will hear results from studies that were funded after the center’s technical committee reviewed and prioritized research proposals. Since it was founded in 2007, the Center for Produce Safety has funded 40 research projects with nearly $7 million.


“This is data that can be used across the supply chain to build and improve better food safety programs,” he said. “That’s what the Center for Produce Safety is all about.”


Fernandez-Fenaroli said some of the 16 presentations will be from completed research projects while others will be midway reports. She and Whitaker pointed to one particular project that they thought would be of interest to a wide audience.


Researchers have been studying ways to use the data that produce companies collect every day related to things like audits, water testing and GAP monitoring.


“What do we do with that data to make it work for us?” Whitaker said.


Fernandez-Fenaroli said the project could help shed light on trends and help the industry better assess good agricultural practices.


She said some other presentations are commodity-specific, covering things such as leafy greens, tomatoes, melons, nuts and tree fruit.


Whitaker said the symposium gives people in the produce industry a chance to connect with researchers.


“It was really interesting after the first symposium reception to see researchers talking with growers and processors that they wouldn’t normally encounter,” he said.


“Those kinds of connections and collaborations can be made. That results in research that is more readily usable by the industry.”


In addition to the 16 projects presented during sessions, nearly two dozen other projects will be covered in a poster session.


Online registration is $125 through May 31 and $150 from June 1 through June 27. On-site registration is $175.