As part of Governor Deval Patrick's Massachusetts-Brazil Innovation Economy Mission 2011, the Commonwealth today launched a new era of collaboration in the area of agricultural research and development with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). The agreement will strengthen UMass' existing work on Brazilian crops, leading to economic development and job creation opportunities in agribusiness - a sector that boasts over 7,700 farms in Massachusetts for an economic impact of over $3 billion.
"The UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture is already a leader in researching and developing the production and marketing of food crops aimed at expanding economic opportunities for farmers and providing fresh produce to consumers," said Governor Patrick. "Today's agreement will build on that work to the benefit of researchers, farmers and consumers both here and in Brazil."
Through joint projects in the fields of agriculture and natural resources, the MOU will broaden cooperative programs in agricultural research and technology. Its lead negotiator for the Commonwealth, UMass' Stockbridge School of Agriculture Extension Associate Professor Frank Mangan, is actively researching sustainable production and marketing strategies for vegetable crops used by immigrant populations in Massachusetts and the region. Beginning in 2003, research activities at UMass have focused on crops popular with the state's Brazilian population. This program has introduced several new crops to commercial farms in the US, including taioba, jlio, abora japonesa and maxixe.
"As the largest nation in South America and given its outstanding network of universities, Brazil is a natural economic and research partner for us and Governor Patrick is playing a vital leadership role in bringing about this very important agreement," said University of Massachusetts president Robert L. Caret. "Because of our university's agricultural roots and continued expertise in this area, we are particularly excited about this agreement."
The MOU calls for UMass and Embrapa to cooperate on projects related to agricultural production, plant physiology and post-harvest technology, domestic and international distribution and logistics for fresh produce popular among Brazilian and other market segments in the US, Brazil and other countries in the Americas. The goal of these efforts is to develop and implement research-based technological innovations to benefit target farmers and markets.
"Research and development aimed at the cultivation and marketing of new crops helps Massachusetts farmers expand their businesses, while providing the Commonwealth's ethnic populations with nutritious food that is locally grown," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr., whose office includes the Department of Agricultural Resources. "I look forward to seeing the fruits of this strengthened collaboration between UMass and fellow researchers in Brazil."
"The development and expansion of innovative technologies is critical to support the growth of agribusiness throughout the Commonwealth and Brazil," said Pamela Goldberg, CEO of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. "By promoting research collaborations, we will strengthen the industry's competitiveness and potential for new growth."
The MOU signed in Brasília is effective for five years, with the opportunity for renewal for additional five-year periods.
From December 4-9, 2011, the Innovation Economy Mission will make stops in Brasília, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, visiting Brazilian companies, universities and government leaders to highlight all that Massachusetts has to offer to Brazil. The mission will focus on creating jobs in the life sciences, IT, clean energy, financial services and education sectors, while solidifying the already strong Massachusetts-Brazil connection. Prior to arriving in Brazil, Governor Patrick and a smaller delegation traveled to Chile December 1-2 at the request of President Sebastian Piñera and signed an agreement to grow jobs and opportunities in the areas of clean energy, biotechnology and education.