Mars Extends its Partnership with UC Davis and City of Davis for a New Research Program on Cacao

Ribbon-cutting at Mars' new research facility in Davis. From left, Neil Willcocks and Howard-Yana Shapiro (Mars Wrigley), Brett Lee (mayor of Davis), Gail Taylor (chair of Plant Sciences, UC Davis)
Ribbon-cutting at Mars' new research facility in Davis. From left, Neil Willcocks and Howard-Yana Shapiro (both at Mars Wrigley), Brett Lee (mayor of Davis), Gail Taylor (chair of Plant Sciences, UC Davis). (photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis)

New research facility and greenhouses will strengthen crop research

Mars Wrigley’s new research laboratory in Davis, California. Mars and UC Davis will partner on many projects. photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis
Mars Wrigley’s new research laboratory in Davis, California. Mars and UC Davis will continue to partner on many projects. (photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis)

 

Mars Wrigley, a segment of Mars, Inc., held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its new research facility in Davis, California, on Wednesday, January 29. Celebrating the ongoing research partnership between Mars and UC Davis were representatives from the university, industry, and local government. Rice and cacao geneticist David Mackill, who leads the Cocoa Genetics and Breeding team at Mars Wrigley, and is also an adjunct professor in UC Davis Plant Sciences, served as master of ceremonies.

Mars started a research thread at UC Davis in 1974, working with the School of Veterinary Medicine, building the Multi-Disciplinary Research Unit, later focusing on cacao, mint, peanuts, and other crops. The company will continue to advance cacao, peanut, and mint production, with research on crop genetics, sustainability for an uncertain future, and plant disease control. Working in partnership with Mars are the UC Davis Departments of Plant Sciences, Plant Pathology, and Nutrition; the Agricultural Sustainability Institute; the School of Veterinary Medicine; and other campus programs.

Cacao pods, from Theobroma cacao, containing cacao beans which will be processed for chocolate. photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis
Cacao pods, from Theobroma cacao, containing cacao beans which will be processed for chocolate. (photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis)

“In this next stage of our UC Davis relationship with Mars, great research and innovation will happen with academia and industry working together,” said Gail Taylor, professor and chair of the Department of Plant Sciences. “With Dave Mackill and Senior Fellow Howard-Yana Shapiro, both working at Mars and as UC Davis adjuncts, we look to additional affiliates we can host to be part of this vibrant science-based campus community.

“We have a number of plant science researchers, including Ed Blumwald, Richard Michelmore, Allen Van Deynze, Alan Bennett, and Luca Comai, who are already working with Mars on topics such as plant stress tolerance, plant physiology, genomics, and breeding,” added Taylor.

“UC Davis is the foremost center for agricultural and environmental sciences in the world,” said Shapiro, who also serves as Chief Agricultural Officer at Mars. “The new greenhouses under construction at UC Davis, scheduled for completion in April, will help with this collaborative research. The greenhouses will allow us to bring tropical tree breeding to UC Davis for the first time, which will mix with the other global crop breeding programs on campus.”

 

David Mackill, left, Plant Science director at Mars Wrigley, and an adjunct professor at UC Davis Plant Sciences, tells guests about the impact of the collaborative Mars and UC Davis research, which includes breeding, genetics, global sustainability, and crop disease control. photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis
David Mackill, left, Cocoa Genetics and Breeding Director at Mars Wrigley, and an adjunct professor at UC Davis Plant Sciences, tells guests about the impact of the collaborative Mars and UC Davis research, which includes breeding, genetics, global sustainability, and crop disease control. (photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis)

 

Neil Willcocks, Vice President of Global Research and Development for Mars Wrigley, told the large crowd at the opening ceremony, “We thank UC Davis and the City of Davis for being such wonderful partners. We recognize the symbiosis of this partnership, and know that the work we’ll be doing at UC Davis on cacao and other crops is incredibly important research.”

Brett Lee, mayor of Davis, told the Mars employees who have recently moved from Miami, Florida to Davis, “We want to continue our ongoing strong relationship with you and to make sure you are happy living and working in Davis.”

Additional projects between Mars, Plant Sciences, and other cooperators include the African Orphan Crops Consortium and the African Plant Breeding Academy.

Office and kitchen working areas in the new Mars Wrigley research facility. photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis
Office and kitchen working areas in the new Mars Wrigley research facility. (photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis)

More on Mars' Partnerships with UC Davis

  • Envisioning a future for cacao amid a changing climate. May 2019.
  • Plant Breeding Academy addresses global food needs. March 2019.
  • New research facility for Mars, Inc. and UC Davis. March 2019.
  • Advanced greenhouses being constructed at UC Davis for Plant Research. January 2019.
  • Study finds indigenous Mexican variety of corn captures the nitrogen it needs from the air. August 2018.
  • African orphan crops: Genomics to enhance global food security. September 2017.
  • A focus on forgotten crops. September 2016.
  • Forgotten crops may hold the key to nutritional security. March 2016.

(Article by Ann Filmer, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis. January 31, 2020.)

Guests at the opening of the new Mars research facility were treated to chocolate cake, shaped like a giant cacao pod. From left, Mayor Brett Lee, UC Davis Dept. Chair Gail Taylor, David Mackill and Howard-Yana Shapiro (both with Mars Wrigley and adjuncts at UC Davis), and Joanna Hwu, Senior Director of Cacao R&D Operations. photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis
Guests at the opening of the new Mars research facility were treated to chocolate cake, shaped like a giant cacao pod. From left, Davis Mayor Brett Lee, UC Davis Dept. Chair Gail Taylor, David Mackill and Howard-Yana Shapiro (both with Mars Wrigley and adjuncts at UC Davis), and Joanna Hwu, Mars' Senior Director of Cacao R&D Operations. (photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis)

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Let the ribbon-cutting begin! From left, Neil Willcocks, Howard-Yana Shapiro, Brett Lee, and Gail Taylor. photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis
Let the ribbon-cutting begin! From left, Neil Willcocks, Howard-Yana Shapiro, Brett Lee, and Gail Taylor. (photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis)

 

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