Seed World

Why Mentoring the Young Stars of Plant Science is About More Than Just Plant Breeding

Forward-thinking organizations help bring young researchers together each year to network with a who’s who of the industry. Your organization can be one of them.

If you’ve worked at all in intellectual property (IP), the name James Weatherly has probably come across your desk at some point in time. An attorney at law specializing in IP, he founded Weatherly IP Solutions in 2020. He’s seen two big needs in the industry: a need for better IP understanding and a need for people to procure and defend IP.

It’s a big reason why Weatherly IP Solutions sponsors the Borlaug Scholarship, founded by legendary corn breeder Donn Cummings. The program strengthens the plant breeding profession by helping support attendance of future leaders at the National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) annual meeting.

The NAPB annual meeting is a large annual conference that brings together a who’s who of the plant breeding world. Each year, a variety of sponsors help bring a contingent of young Borlaug Scholars to the conference where they present their work and get a better idea of what the plant breeding profession is all about.

“With intellectual property, you’re dealing with new innovations. In agriculture, new innovations are coming at us all the time. Having good people around you that understand those technologies is always something we’re looking for,” Weatherly says.

He notes that while the scholarship is often associated with up-and-coming young plant breeders, he says the bright young people who are found within the program’s orbit have a variety of interests with many possible uses within the industry.

“Not everybody wants to be a plant breeder, and as a sponsor I’m able to interact with students who may want to take that experience they’ve gained in plant breeding and maybe go into the field of law. I’ve actually met a few students at various NAPB meetings who are interested in IP. So it’s a great opportunity for us to possibly connect with somebody who may be interested in working in our field.”

Weatherly was introduced to the scholarship in the summer of 2018 through Andy LaVigne, president of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). That was the first year ASTA sponsored the scholarship, and Weatherly was executive director of the Seed Innovation Protection Alliance (SIPA) at the time. SIPA was founded by ASTA to create a unified and consistent voice for education and best practices around IP protection and its value to our society.

When Weatherly founded Weatherly IP Solutions in 2020, he saw big value in continuing to sponsor the scholarship under the Weatherly IP Solutions banner.

“It’s a great opportunity to network and meet people who may want to work with me in my field. It’s also an opportunity to get my name out there, get my firm’s name out there, to raise awareness about what my firm does. It’s not just about plant breeding; there’s a lot of opportunities here to interact with people who you may want to work with in the future in a variety of areas,” he adds.

There have been 48 Borlaug Scholars since 2018, and the scholarship is made possible through a roster of forward-thinking sponsors like Weatherly. Scholarship chair Allen Van Deynze of the University of California says the scholarship committee is actively looking for more to strengthen the program and further provide the industry with new talent.

“It’s a great way for organizations to recruit new people. We get so many applications each year, and it really becomes like splitting hairs when it comes to selecting who receives a scholarship. This scholarship attracts the brightest of the young talent out there,” Van Deynze says.

For info on the Borlaug Scholarship visit the NAPB website.

—with files from Alex Martin

For more info visit:

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NAPB Grows to Meet the Future

Robin Groose Wants to Make a Better World for Future Generations