Breeding program borrows page from iPhone

01/27/2012 08:09:00 AM
By The Grower Staff

A University of Florida professor is bringing in a new collaborator into his research—the consumer.

David Clark, a professor of floriculture biotechnology, calls his method "consumer-assisted selection," and it involves thinking of the consumer first, according to a news release.

He explained the consumer-centric program to members attending the recent American Seed Trade Association Vegetable & Flower Seed Conference in Tampa.

This concept is similar to what Apple did with the iPhone, he says. The company made products that people wanted before they knew they wanted them.

When developing produce, Clark says breeders need to consider women, since they influence 50 percent of purchases in a household.

But there's a disconnect, since most plant breeders are men, he says.

"Men have one switch—on and off, while women have multiple switches, dials and levers," he said in the release. "Men are very simple and women are very complex."

Most new crops are developed with yield and other agronomic characteristics in mind. But these are not the same traits that consumers use when making purchasing decisions.

To help develop varieties that women want, Clark uses a cross-disciplinary team of researchers that include specialists in consumer science, plant science and psychophysics.

Psychophysics quantifies the relationship between physical stimuli and behaviors and emotions.

The team uses students, since they're the next generation of consumers and breeders, as well as external consumers.

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