World Coffee Research has appointed Dr George Kotch as Research Director. The position is the senior scientific leadership position at the collaborative research organisation.
Dr Kotch will be responsible for leading World Coffee Research’s global research portfolio and building partnerships. He is one of the world’s foremost experts in building effective plant breeding programmes and networks. In particular, he has focused on linking the needs of ‘customers’ (farmers, as well as those who eventually consume the food farmers grow) to the research process and strategic R&D investments.
Over the last three decades, Dr Kotch has managed some of the world’s largest global breeding programmes.
“George brings tremendous experience accelerating impact in breeding programs, bringing new varieties that respond to farmer needs and market demands for quality and consistency,” said Jennifer ‘Vern’ Long, CEO of WCR.
“Coffee faces serious challenges in the 21st century and George brings experience from a range of crops. He will leverage networks and techniques from across the globe to focus on coffee’s challenges. This is the right moment to bring him to our community as we face the combined threats of climate change and low prices.”
Dr Kotch formerly served in several senior positions leading breeding teams at H M Clause as Vice President of R&D (Americas & Pacific ) and Head of Global Vegetable Seed R&D at Syngenta. He directed of all aspects of Syngenta’s global vegetable research and development programme, covering 20 crops, from strategy development to global implementation and oversaw a team of over 800 employees.
Dr Kotch left the private sector to bring his skillset to enhance the capacity of Asian and African national breeding programs focused on agricultural innovation for food security. He was the head of breeding at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, part of the GCIAR international agricultural research centre.
Most recently, Dr Kotch led the product design and management effort of the global ‘Excellence in Breeding Platform,’ an ambitious programme to modernize and improve breeding outcomes for the global community of international agricultural research centres and national breeding programmes in low and medium-low income countries.
Under Dr Kotch’s leadership, the programme supported breeding programmes to change behaviour. Instead of approaching breeding from a tool-based or academic approach (what problem do I the researcher think needs to be solved?), the programmes pivoted to user-led design approaches (what problem does the user—a farmer or a consumer—need to have solved?).
Linking user needs to breeding strategies, supported by increasingly low-cost genotyping tools, has led to substantive behaviour change among national and international breeding programmes worldwide.
Dr Kotch holds a PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics from the University of Wisconsin.