Development of a range of late-blight resistant tomatoes – optimised for N European climate (The Business Perspective)

Student: James Stroud
Company: Sárvári Research Trust (SRT)
Academic Supervisor: Dr Katherine Steele

David Shaw, Sarvari Research Trust:

Sarvari ResearchTrust is a small organisation, so one of the things that attracted us to the KESS programme was the ability to have a substantial piece of research done for a relatively low price. It was also about finding the areas of interest that academic staff had at the University and realising that we shared common interests which we could use to train a student researcher – while producing results that were of use to all three in the collaboration.

Our KESS project is with a student named James Stroud. The project looks at tomato breeding for high resistance to blight fungus. James is one of those rare people who can plan a project; work with his hands to set it up; know what the right questions to ask are and how to ask them; look after the project as it runs and undertake very good analysis. James is a very well qualified student who has many of the qualities that make a good researcher, and in all honesty in the 40-year career of supervising PhD students, James is the best student that I have had. He is a very good communicator.

I would say as a Trust this project has enabled us to explore certain research ideas that we would never have been able to explore if it were not for the support provided by KESS. With the addition of James, we’ve been able to entrust the experiments and recording of results to him knowing that there was additional supervision from the University in the form of Katherine Steele. We knew that with this type of system the results will be written up and that they will be very useful to the company in the future.

Katherine Steele, the academic on the project, has provided access to a lot of up to date methods and a lot of advice on how we might complete the project. Katherine has knowledge specific to tomato breeding that I do not have, which has been paramount to the success of the project to date.

In all honesty, if in the future James was looking for a job and I had a job to give, I would certainly be keen to give him a position in the company. James currently has the basic skills required for research – it’s just a case of Katherine and I polishing these skills, which should push him to become a very valuable researcher in this area. I’ve worked with James especially in pathogens, which is something that neither the University nor Katherine has experience of. James is now well trained in these methods and I think he would acknowledge that it is, and in the future will be, of huge benefit to him.

“You’ve got to invest in research and development for a company to continue to function”

There has been no direct monetary gain by the company from this project, but you’ve got to invest in research and development for a company to continue to function. In terms of this project with James and Katherine, I would have to be completely honest and say that the results so far have been very interesting, useful and promising – and there’s a lot of potential to develop them in the fields of both agriculture and horticulture. The results from this project will lead to larger projects and further involvement in collaborative projects with the university, which I think will most definitely lead to long term benefits for the Sarvari Trust.

James Stroud and Sarvari Trust’s Bangor University project were also winners of the Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics Products Ltd sponsored Award for Best Business Innovation at Bangor University’s third annual Impact and Innovation Awards on the 3rd December, 2015. You can read the full article here: