The grant will be used by the division's Center for Agriculture and Rural Sustainability to create a competitive national grants program to fund research on various aspects of strawberry farming, including expanding the range where the fruit can be grown and reducing the amount of energy used in and environmental impacts associated with strawberry farming.
According to Curt Rom, a horticulture professor for the Division of Agriculture, between the time the berries are picked and when they reach the consumer, farmers can experience losses of up to 36 percent, leading to an estimated $1.14 billion in losses annually. "Strawberries are a highly perishable fruit with a short shelf life in the supply chain," said Rom. "Strawberries travel an average distance up to or exceeding three thousand miles from farm to market."
"We are excited this grant will enhance sustainable production of strawberries," said Walmart Foundation senior director Michelle Gilliard. "That means better access for shoppers to quality strawberries and better profitability for the farmers growing the crops. Through partnership with institutions like the University of Arkansas, the Walmart Foundation leverages the company's commitment to locally grown fresh produce in America by funding programs that make agricultural products better for people and the environment."