The founder of Westfalia, Dr Hans Merensky (HM), expressed the wish that international exchange in research should be promoted through Westfalia and the Hans Merensky Foundation. Therefore, WTS has the opportunity to invite a renowned researcher to Westfalia to enable interaction and sharing of international knowledge and experience. In the past, WTS had among others Prof John Menge and Dr Mary Lu Arpaia (both from the University of California Riverside), Prof. Dov Prusky (University of Jerusalem in Israel) and Dr. Richard Campbell (Fairtrade institute in Florida) visiting Westfalia as invited HM Fellows.
For the 2013 Fellow, WTS invited Dr. Iňaki Hormaza from Spain. Professor Hormaza is head of the Institute of Subtropical Fruit research at the University of Malaga with key interests in molecular tools for fingerprinting, breeding and germplasm conservation in temperate and subtropical fruit tree species; as well as the reproductive biology of temperate and subtropical fruit tree species with special interest in the effects of climate change on reproductive biology and pollen-pistil interactions. His avocado-specific research focuses on pollination of flowers; specifically the effect of starch content of avocado styles and its’ effect on pollen tube growth and pollination.
Dr. Hormaza visited Westfalia Fruit Estates from the 6th of May 2013. To facilitate and encourage international cross-pollination of research ideas, WTS also invited a few selected guests to contribute to a week-long technical session. These guests included Dr. Mary Lu Arpaia (University of California Riverside), Dr Elizabeth Dann (Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation, Australia), Dr. Monica Castro (Catholic University of Valparaiso, Chile) and Dr. Noelani van den Berg (University of Pretoria, Forestry and Biotechnology Institute). Also attending was a team from the Californian avocado nursery (Brokaw Nursery), which included Rob Brokaw and Dr. Octaviano Lemus.
The team of international visitors, in conjunction with the WTS research team, spent five days in various Westfalia Fruit Estate orchards and related facilities discussing a wide range of topics relevant to the management of the avocado supply/production chain. The visit by the 2013 HM fellow and his accompanying guests ensured that not only was the newest knowledge on avocados was exchanged, but it also strengthened the important collaborative bonds that WTS had developed with key institutions throughout the past few decades.