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Vonnie Estes named PMA vice president of technology

Newark, Del. – To better help the global fresh produce and floral industry to harness the increasing role of technology, the global industry’s leading trade association is expanding its technology expertise. Vonnie Estes will join Produce Marketing Association (PMA) as vice president of technology, bringing her extensive experience – and passion for agriculture and sustainability – starting Oct. 1.

Estes will engage with PMA’s members and industry, coalitions and other stakeholders to provide the supply chain with science- and technology-specific connections, information and solutions they need to sustain and grow their businesses. Specifically, she will help PMA members to gain greater awareness and understanding of emerging science and technologies – particularly science and tech related to labor, food safety and sustainability.

She joins PMA’s Science & Technology team, which is led by Chief Science & Technology Officer Bob Whitaker, Ph.D., and includes Vice President of Supply Chain Efficiencies Ed Treacy, Director of Food Safety & Technology Johnna Hepner, Manager of Content Development Cyndi Neal and Manager of Produce Coding Christina D’Allacco. Trevor Suslow, Ph.D., will also join the PMA staff Oct. 1 as vice president of produce safety.

PMA’s Science & Technology team is led by Chief Science & Technology Officer Bob Whitaker.

Estes’ career has been devoted to developing the supply chain connections necessary to bring biotechnology innovations from R&D to real-world commercialization and use. Sustainability is a particular area of interest for Estes, who has helped develop and commercialize products that are good for people and the planet alike. Her capabilities range from agricultural biotechnology including CRISPR Cas9 plant breeding, to artificial intelligence, Big Data, indoor agriculture, precision ag, biofuels, and bio-based chemicals and products. She has broad business expertise including business strategy, government and public affairs, marketing, business development and finance.

Since 2015 Estes has been an independent business consultant, guiding global clients to develop and implement strategies to commercialize and realize value from new technologies and other innovations. Estes previously held technology leadership roles at prominent companies including DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta, as well as for small start-ups and venture funds. Most recently, she was vice president of business development for Caribou Biosciences, a biotechnology company specializing in CRISPR Cas9 genome engineering. A recognized leader in her field, she is frequently sought out as a speaker and is extensively published.

“As technology continues to influence all aspects of the produce and floral supply chains, it made sense to add an expert of Vonnie’s caliber to our team to provide deeper value to PMA members and industry,” said PMA CEO Cathy Burns. “Her expertise and insights will help our global community better understand how to leverage current and emerging technologies to grow their businesses, and ultimately grow a healthier world.”

“I look forward to bringing the expertise and skills I’ve developed working for individual companies in the technology space to bear to help PMA’s members across the supply chain and around the world. Together, we can help capitalize on the opportunities and minimize the challenges of adopting tech,” said Estes. “My personal passions for agriculture and sustainability mesh perfectly with PMA’s mission to connect, inform and deliver industry solutions to enhance members’ prosperity – in a way that sustains both people and the planet.”

Throughout her career, Estes has built a reputation for getting things done, notes PMA Chief Science & Technology Officer Bob Whitaker, Ph.D., who has known Estes since they worked together at DNA Plant Technologies early in her career; she was marketing manager, and he led research and development.

“This is an exciting time for our industry,” said Whitaker. “Technology development is exploding across our industry, and we have a unique opportunity to help our members become aware of these opportunities and evaluate the value emerging technologies can have for their businesses.”

Estes earned a bachelor of science degree in horticulture from New Mexico State University and a master of science degree in plant pathology from University of California, Davis. The Biotechnology Innovation Organization awarded her with the fourth annual Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology in 2017. That award recognizes women who make lasting contributions in the field of biotechnology; while overlooked at the time, the landmark work of the award’s namesake Rosalind Park allowed the biotechnology industry to become what it is today.

Estes will be based in Menlo Park, California, USA.

Note to editors:

Digital photo(s) of Estes and Whitaker are available to accompany your coverage of this news; contact PMA’s Cassidy Taylor to request art files.

About Produce Marketing Association (PMA)
Produce Marketing Association is the leading trade association representing companies from every segment of the global produce and floral supply chain. PMA helps members grow by providing connections that expand business opportunities and increase sales and consumption. For more information, visit www.pma.com.



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