Day Six of the Dean’s Tour: Research Triangle Park

When: November 8, 2012

Where: Research Triangle Park

New College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Richard Linton has been criss-crossing North Carolina on a whirlwind tour of the state since Oct. 23. But on Nov. 8 he was back in the heart of the Triangle, as he toured sites at the Research Triangle Park. He capped off the event, as well as his statewide tour, with remarks he delivered at an evening alumni reception at the N.C. Biotechnology Center.

Centered near Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, RTP is a 7,000-acre research park. It was founded to promote university, industry and government collaborations leading to the establishment of research, scientific and technology-based facilities, and creating quality jobs and opportunities. RTP is home to more than 170 global companies.

Dr. Geoff Kneen (center) and Amy McCaskell of Bayer CropScience took Linton on a tour of the company’s greenhouses.

On Nov. 8, Linton visited the agricultural biotechnolgy companies BASF Crop Protection and Bayer CropScience, as well as the N.C. Biotechnology Center. All three have close ties to N.C. State University and CALS. And one thing the companies had expressed, Linton said, was their desire to hire as many as possible N.C. State students well-trained for jobs in agricultural biotechnology.

“We need to train students for places where there are jobs,” said Linton. “I was told today (at the RTP sites), ‘You can’t give us enough students.’ We were talking about innovative ways to help students have the skill sets needed for those jobs.”

BASF is the world’s largest chemical company. At RTP, Linton visited the home of the BASF Agricultural Products Center, which includes BASF Agricultural Products North American Division, BASF Plant Science LLC, BASF Global Insecticide Research, and BASF Global Agricultural Research & Development. BASF Crop Protection at RTP is a leading producer of agricultural solutions, including herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and seed treatment technologies that help maximize crop yields.

Linton greets College alumni and stakeholders at the evening reception.

Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, agriculture and high-tech materials. Bayer CropScience, headquartered at Research Triangle Park, is the heart of the organization’s North American operation and one of the world’s leading innovative crop science companies in the areas of seeds, crop protection and non-agricultural pest control. The company offers an outstanding range of products including high-value seeds and innovative crop-protection solutions based on chemical and biological modes of action, as well as an extensive service backup for modern, sustainable agriculture.

Longtime 4-H supporters Juanita and Mack Hudson drove from Benson to meet the new dean.

The N.C Biotechnology Center is a private, non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to biotechnology development. Headquartered in RTP, its mission is to provide long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina through support of biotechnology research, business, education and policy statewide. Established in 1984, it is the oldest new-tech organization of its kind in the world.

Between visits to BASF and Bayer, Linton attended lunch at the N.C. Biotechnology Center with Norris Tolson, CALS alumnus and the president and CEO of the center. Linton returned there for the evening reception, where he met with CALS alumni, friends, faculty and clientele.

The dean’s tour had taken him to such sites as the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center near Asheville and the Center for Marine Aquatic Science and Technology in Morehead City, along with the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis, the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro and the Eastern 4-H Environmental Education Conference Center in Tyrrell County—and many other stops in between and nearby.

CALS’ Celeste Brogdon (left) welcomes reception guests.

Reflecting on the tour, Linton said, “I’ve been in major learning mode and listening mode to find out about the capabilities we have in CALS and how we can meet the needs of the state. And I’ve learned on these trips what makes N.C. State different: It’s the passion of the people in agriculture and life sciences.”

He said he’d been particularly impressed with the commodity groups, with the local foods movement and the success of niche markets in North Carolina. “I think there are great opportunities in this state for the full farm-to-fork movement – from production to packaging to marketing – to create value and build the economy.”

He also talked about his vision for the future of CALS.

Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the N.C. Biotechnology Center, introduces Dean Linton.

“There are a lot of great things ahead of us. With the diversity of agriculture in this state, we’ve got a lot of opportunities to address the challenges of the future,” Linton said. “We’re working on a strategic plan, and stakeholders like you will be important to the process. The plan will outline what we should be doing in research, outreach and teaching in the future.

“Out of this strategic plan I hope we come up with interdisciplinary activities that support thematic areas, such as water quality, the environment, biofuels, sustainability and food security. Through strategic planning we’ll be better off than we are today.”

Linton shares some thoughts with Larry Wooten (left) of the N.C. Farm Bureau.

And he was optimistic about attracting future students to agriculture curricula and careers, particularly in biotechnology. “We’ve got more opportunities to work with 4-H, FFA and in the high schools to teach students what agriculture is and what agricultural biotechnology is — to get students engaged early in the agriculture jobs of the future.”

Finally, he was asked by Larry Wooten, CALS grad and president of the N.C. Farm Bureau, what surprises he’d encountered on the statewide tour.

“I’ve been surprised by the knowledge, passion and involvement people have with agriculture,” Linton replied. “And the connection between Extension and the people in local communities. That’s something I’ve not seen in other states — Extension programs with such connections as those here.” – Terri Leith

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