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Mars, Incorporated builds new collaboration effort with UC Davis

DAVIS, CA, U.S. — Downtown Davis will soon be home to the newest research facility for Mars, Incorporated. Improvements are underway at 430 G Street in the building that is also home to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is scheduled to be ready to open this summer.

The team that will be based in Davis is part of Mars Wrigley Confectionery Cocoa Research and will eventually include up to 15 Mars plant scientists and contractors, including the genetics team working on developing new cacao cultivars. The scientists will be working in collaboration with UC Davis faculty and students on research projects of mutual interest.

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“The City of Davis was very supportive of our effort to move our team to the city, and enabled us to get the building permit and begin construction of our office and laboratory space in downtown Davis” said David Mackill, Director of Cocoa Genetics and Breeding at Mars.

“The project builds on the relationship we have developed with UC Davis over the last 35 years. The University, with Mars support, is constructing a large state of the art greenhouse complex on campus that will allow university and Mars scientists to maintain a collection of cacao clones that reflect the diversity of the species and to use the collection to breed new clones with higher productivity, resistance to diseases and pests, and good quality chocolate. We are excited to have the City and the university as partners.”

“We’re pleased to welcome this project growing out of the long-standing collaboration between scientists at Mars and UC Davis,” said Prasant Mohapatra, vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. “Working together we can expand our plant science research while boosting the productivity and quality of cacao and improving the lives of cacao farmers around the world – as well as creating jobs here in Davis.”

“What we have seen recently is an uptick in university and corporate collaborations. This demonstrates the elite status and the academic prowess that is in the Greater Sacramento region,” states Barry Broome, CEO & President of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council. “UC Davis continues to matriculate top-notch students who want to remain in the region and corporations are finding this alluring when looking for a well-educated talent base.”

Mars launched its Cocoa for Generations strategy in 2018. The strategy consists of two main pillars: Responsible Cocoa Today and Sustainable Cocoa Tomorrow. Mars plant science research supports the goal of more productive, resilient and profitable cocoa that improves the livelihoods of the farmers and reduces negative impacts on the environment.

Cacao farmers produce less than 20% of the output they could achieve under perfect conditions with best practices. Typically funded by governments, agricultural agencies or universities, research into cacao cultivation has long been under-resourced, receiving far too little funding support. Mars believes its research efforts can help boost the productivity of the farmers we depend on by further encouraging greater funding into cacao research and making the research available unrestricted in the public domain.

The Davis City Council has a focus on the intersection of food and economic development. “The Mars Cocoa for Generations strategy is a good example of a private enterprise partnering with UC Davis, a leading research institution, to establish more sustainable practices in agriculture. This is a perfect fit for the City of Davis and we’re proud to welcome them here” said Mayor Brett Lee. Council member Lucas Frerichs adds, “The addition of these new research jobs located in the city of Davis are both beneficial to our community, but also beneficial to communities around the world in the form of increased sustainable agricultural practices.”