All posts by sammoran

Dave Mayonado Guest Lecture

An expert in his field, Dave Mayonado came to visit our class to talk about biotechnology and the industry he works in. He provided the class with a general background and history of biotechnology, particularly the importance of R&D, and role of universities. Even though I’ve learned previously about various technologies, like RNAi and CRISPR, it’s interesting to think about how these scientific methods actually relate to tangible things in the industry, and how they’ve directly impacted products available on the market today. It truly is amazing the advances we’ve made in agriculture because of technology.  Something I’d like to learn more about specifically is the technology using proteins.

I think it’s interesting how my knowledge of the industry has changed the way I think about it. Growing up, I lived in an environment that portrayed conventional agriculture as this huge commercial operation whose consequences included nutrition and ethics. Companies like Monsanto were always presented to me in a negative light. Now I am more educated and think very differently, so thank you to those of you who presented the facts and science to bring clarity to the common misconceptions I used to know.

University of Delaware Farm

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make this final field trip, however I absolutely love our farm. As a food science major, I’ve had more limited experience on the farm compared to those in animal science or Pre-Vet degrees, but my favorite class to this day was the ANFS111 lab, which took place on the farm. This class was mandatory my freshman year for all food science majors, and really introduced me to our amazing farm. I learned so much about the different livestock we have here on the farm, as well as the research we do.

As an Ag Ambassador, I’ve had several trainings on the farm. I also have given almost all of the food science prospective tours in the past four years. Something I learned throughout this is the fact that we are so lucky to have a full working farm right on campus for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Many other colleges don’t have this luxury, and it’s one of UD’s most important features for students considering coming to UD. I like to emphasize just how many opportunities there are to get involved on the farm, because many students still have no idea that we even have a farm. I hope that we can all work more towards agvocating for all of the amazing things we do on our farm and I’m so excited to see how the new pilot plant and processing facility in Worrilow will help us advance in the industry,

Horse Racing Industry in Delaware

I’ve been around horses my entire life and never knew that we had such a big harness racing industry in Delaware. I don’t know much about the horse racing industry in general, aside from going to Delaware Park a few times and watching the Kentucky Derby. However, I’ve owned horses my entire life and dabbled in many disciplines like dressage, jumpers, and eventing. So my experience in the equine industry is extensive, although only in a few specific areas.

Mark Davis taught me how prominent the harness racing industry in this area is. I think it’s a really cool opportunity for people to get involved with the equine industry that don’t want to be involved in the traditional equestrian lifestyle. I had no idea that historically, they crossed Arabians with Warmbloods to get race horses. When I think about horse racing, I only think about thoroughbreds, so Mark Davis was definitely informative about the history too.

I thought it was very interesting that he shared that about a third of horse owners are not very wealthy. I think this is one of the most common misconceptions about equestrians out there. We’re often labeled as the “rich kids” who own horses, but in fact many of us are working hard to make ends meet to pay for our horses!


Dan Severson on Livestock

Dan Severson spoke to the class about the livestock industry in Delaware. He touched on something I found very important, the business part of the industry and how family farms will often create an LLC or corporation to protect their personal assets. He also went over the main historical events that contributed to agriculture today.

In terms of meat consumption, beef, pork, and poultry are the top three consumed. These are followed by lamb, veal, and goat. Something surprising to me is the consumption of goat meat in the US. I would have expected it to be a lot lower.  I thought it was interesting how diverse the beef farmers are in Delaware. Many people raise beef for more local markets, and they are small producers. We have a lot of direct market beef. Feed lots are typically more out west in the US.

Comparing how much we spend on food in the US to other countries is also surprising for many people. He gave the example of Russia spending about 30% of their income on food versus the US spending 11% total. Also, he made the point about how fortunate we are to have such diverse options year round.

Hoober Field Trip

I’m very sad to have missed this field trip, because I really wanted to drive a tractor! The only experience I have driving equipment that Hoober sells is our zero turn lawn mower we own at home, and smaller tractor I use to do the barn chores. From the album online, I was able to see just how big those tractors are. From the video we watched in class, I got a taste for what precision Ag is, and I think it’s fascinating that this technology is available to us. I also think the use of drones for surveying is a great application of the technology. The only thing that scares me is just how reliant we’re becoming on technology. When I think of driving a vehicle, it’s hard to imagine the functions being almost entirely automatic. Knowing your precise location, speed, efficiency, etc. is very impressive for a computer to do, but what if something goes wrong?

An important takeaway for me is advocacy and education about this type of technology. There are immense opportunities for experts in the tech field to grasp onto and be the people who take this technology into the future. It’s extremely important that people start to become educated about where this industry is heading, and we need those innovative thinkers to help guide us in the right direction.

Greens Industry Guest Lecture

I enjoyed this guest lecture by Tracy and Valann introducing us to the greens industry. First off, I don’t have much background knowledge of this industry at all, aside from my personal experience tagging along on trips to nurseries or flower shops with my parents. I thought that Tracy and Valann both were super charismatic, and I loved how they both emphasized that you never know where your life and career will take you. I also thought it was a great perspective to have someone who’s background was in the business world, who just sort of fell into an Ag industry.  An introduction to many facets of the industry was provided by these two women, so I learned a little bit about everything. I never realized how vast of an industry it is. I also thought that there’s so much business involved in this sector of the Ag industry. This lecture made me think about the food industry, and how the business side of the industry always desperately wants scientists who also understand the business side. It highlights to me the importance of business knowledge, no matter what field you go into.

Which GM crops are commercially available?

According to Monsanto’s website, there are 10 commercially available crops in US grocery stores today.

  • Squash/Zucchini
  • Cotton
  • Soybean
  • Corn
  • Papaya
  • Alfalfa
  • Sugar Beets
  • Canola
  • Potato
  • Apples

I liked how Monsanto provides info on a few other crops that may be commonly misconceived to be GM. Seedless watermelon, grape tomatoes, and baby carrots are a few examples that have evolved by traditional selective breeding.

Also, GM Salmon has been on the shelves in Canada for a while now, but is still being debated for use in the US.


Biotechnology and GMOs


Mark Lynas spoke about GMOs and how his stance on the controversial topic has changed completely as he actually educated himself. Instead of just summarizing what he shared, I’d like to talk a little bit about the history of GMOs. Many people support the anti-GMO campaign or trash talk this technology without even realizing that they make food choices including GM products.

In 1973 the first genetically modified bacteria were successfully achieved. Since then GMO development has been refined, advanced, and developed to the point where the products they produced are commercially available to the consumer.

In 1994, the Flavr Savr Tomato was approved by the FDA for human consumption and remained on the market for three years. Although it was taken off shelves in 1997 because of its bland taste, it was still a huge step in biotech history. This was just the beginning for commercialized GM products, and the fact that it was on the market and consumers bought it, helps establish a reputation for GM foods in the controversial market we have today.

Personally, I think genetic modification of plants is necessary to increase production enough to meet the world’s growing needs. The only part about genetic engineering that I would like to learn more about before feeling more comfortable is what we’re doing with genetically modified animals for production. From the research I’ve read, I’m not necessarily convinced on the idea ethically, and from a nutritional standpoint. For example, I choose wild caught salmon over farmed salmon because I don’t want the salmon I eat to have been fed pigmented corn-based feed. Also, aquaculture as a whole is very damaging to the marine environment.

Fifer Orchards Field Trip

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the class field trip to Fifer Orchard, but after reading a few of my classmates thoughts on the trip and looking through their website, a few things have caught my eye. First, I am in awe of their CSA program. Growing up, my family has always been part of various CSA programs around our area, some being great, and some being not so great in terms of variety of products or options. Fifer Orchards offers three options, depending on how much you want or need. They not only include fresh produce, but also eggs, baked goods, honey, and dairy. The Delmarva box seems like an amazing convenient resource to feed the whole family, and also support local agriculture. Secondly, I wish I could learn more about how they run their business, because of how successful they’ve become. I know a few small farms that tried to have CSA programs, but ultimately failed because no one knew they were there. Fifer Orchards even has a deli market in Rehoboth, which now that I know of, will definitely stop by next time I’m down by the beaches. It makes me hopeful that we’ll continue to be able to have options like Fifer Orchards, and that more people will understand the value of support local agriculture.

James Adkins Guest Lecture

I was unable to attend the guest lecture on irrigation, but just be going through the powerpoint I feel like I’ve learned something. What surprised me the most was how important and integral statistical analysis and calculations were to regulating Crop ET. I also am interested to learn more about the new irrigation technology he shows pictures of.  It’s interesting to think abut irrigation becoming automated within the next 50 years. I can imagine that irrigation is one of the most important factors in successful farming, and it occurred to me that I’m sure these newer technologies, or even those we would deem “older” aren’t even used in some of the more developing countries. It’s amazing to think about how agriculture used to be when farmers relied on natural irrigation, and not so much technology. My hope is that we can evolve even further but with a greater focus on finding more sustainable practices, and preserve the water we have.


The CRISPR-Cas system acts as the immune system for bacteria. This system includes CRISPR loci and  cas  genes. There are repeats in the CRISPR locus, which are separated by short stretches of non-repetitive DNA called spacers. The spacers come from invading plasmids or phage DNA. First adaptation or immunization happens with acquiring the spacers from degraded phage or plasmid DNA. Second is biogenesis, when the CRISPR locus is transcribed into a long mRNA. This mRNA consists of the array of transcribed different spacers acquired by the cell separated by repeat sequences. Following transcription, the mRNA is cleaved at the 3′ end of the repeat sequence and RNAs consisting of one spacer and one repeat sequence are released. These RNAs bind to Cas proteins, forming a complex. The complexes circulate within the cell and bind to any foreign DNA that carries a sequence identical to that of a spacer and cleave the DNA at the site the complex is bound to the DNA (interference). If the spacer sequence of the RNA/Cas complex was identical to that within the DNA of a phage, the phage DNA will cut and the bacterium has survived entry of a deadly foe. This system can be utilized for genetic engineering by combining synthetic spacers with a sequence identical to a region of a targeted gene with a repeat sequence combined with Cas protein.

Scientists have used this tool to make modifications to an organism’s genome by either “turning off” a gene or deleting it. Once the genome is cut, you can either insert or delete genes. As explained above, the CRISPR system naturally occurring in bacteria took in the foreign DNA from the virus to remember it, and then later use it to infect the virus’ DNA if the bacteria was re-exposed to the virus. Scientists now have the choice to delete the DNA altogether, introduce new DNA, or just inactivate the targeted genes.

CRISPR/CAS9 can be used in various scientific fields, which makes this gene editing tool such a revolutionary technological advancement. It has applications in food products, human health, and can be used in bacteria and animals (including people). This technology helps us understand the genomes of organisms better and more easily than practices used previously. It’s also important to note that this gene editing tool is exactly that, it doesn’t necessarily introduce foreign DNA into an organism, in which case the final product can not be labelled as a GMO.

California and Iowa Agriculture by Ed Kee

I found Ed Kee’s second lecture to be very informative. I had no idea the magnitude of exports that Iowa and California produce annually. I thought this lecture provided a great overview of each state’s individual Ag industry and helped put into perspective the local industry here in Delaware. It reminded me how interconnected we are in the world, not just across the country. Something surprising I learned was how the tragic event of 9/11 influenced corn production for ethanol. I was just a toddler then, and seeing how quickly the agriculture industry responded to a sudden problem is very interesting. Also, I found it interesting to learn about Stine seeds and the work with soybeans. Soy is one of the main sources of protein that I consume as a vegetarian, so knowing more about the history of the seeds was something I enjoyed. I think the biggest takeaway message from both of Ed Kee’s lectures is just how important the Ag sector is to our country, and the world. It’s somehow connected to everything.

Georgie’s Poultry Farm

Class Field Trip 9/22/18
My visit to Georgie Cartanza’s farm was certainly an educational experience. I value the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to hear Georgie lecture to my sorority last year, as well as coming into our class for a guest lecture. Having the background knowledge of the poultry industry before the field trip was really worthwhile. I love that Georgie is so passionate about educating and agvocating, especially to students. I also love how Georgie describes her career as a journey. It’s comforting to see someone who is driven by their passion for their industry, and who has become very successful in doing so.

Being a food science student, I always look at the industry through a food safety lens. I thought it was incredible that it’s standard to suit up before entering the chicken houses in order to keep the birds safe. Something that also stuck out to me is how expensive a chicken house is to put up. It seems daunting especially for young farmers to make the choice to take the risk of getting into the industry. I also commend Georgie for always striving to better herself and her farm. I can’t say that this trip has changed my mind about exploring a career in the poultry industry, but I certainly learned a lot and understand why people like Georgie love what they do.

Delaware as a Food Shed by Ed Kee

Ed Kee gave a great lecture about a wide variety of aspects of Delaware Agriculture. I liked that he provided the history of each topic he talked about. One of the main topics that stuck in my head was the section about canning. As a Food Science major, I’m familiar with the process at a commercial level. The most important part of canning we look at today is safety. The fact that they used to use lead in processing is just scary. That is so dangerous! Also, it’s so important to process the can for the correct amount of time at the correct temperature to ensure complete enzyme deactivation and destruction of microorganisms, particularly clostridium botulinum. We have come so far in our technology, and I’m very thankful that we don’t often have cans exploding on the shelves today.

In addition, I thought it was fascinating that Woodside Creamery is implementing a “robot milker” into their dairy farm. Woodside is a place I’ve grown up going to with my family. They supply the ice cream to the restaurants I’ve worked in. I had no idea the history of this great family farm. I’m excited to see how the transition of milking with this new technology goes. I would think that the cows may not take to this “robot” right away.

Michelle Walfred on Social Media and Agriculture

I found Miss Michele’s lecture to be eye-opening in one of her main points about how you must create a brand for yourself. This is the one takeaway that I found most important, partly because of where I am in my undergraduate career. Because I joined Sigma Alpha my freshman year, I’ve been lucky enough to have been mentored and guided by my peers and faculty with a focus on professional and career development. I know what not to post on social media and I’ve been lectured on how to be an Agvocate through various organizations I’m part of. I have been very mindful of my online presence, because I’ve had to be while representing a professional sorority. I have had a LinkedIn profile since my freshman year, and participate on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, but most of my posts and profiles are completely private to my friends. Because of Miss Michele, I actually created a Twitter profile to help stay in the news of Agriculture, especially in the food industry, as I’m a food science major. I have to say, I’m very surprised to see how active the Ag sector as a whole is on Twitter. I think it’s great and will continue to use it as a professional development tool. Thank you Michele!