Plant Science Hub Serving Global Mission
Peter Panda

It’s not well known outside of St. Louis, and that’s a discussion for another day, but there is a facility based in St. Louis called the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. If the name Danforth sounds familiar — it should. It was founded Dr. Bill Danforth, brother of former Senator John Danforth, in honor of their father.

The Danforth Center has become one of the world’s foremost plant science research facilities, working through bio-research to answer questions such as:

  • How will we produce enough food to feed the world?
  • How can we bring health and better nutrition to all people?
  • How can we meet our increasing energy needs?
  • How do we improve the production and sustainability of agriculture around the world?

I have been associated with the Center since Enterprise Rent-A-Car, my former client, gave it a generous $25 million donation as part of the company’s environmental platform. And then a little over a year ago, I was asked to serve on a Danforth Center leadership council.

To this day, the Center’s work continues to amaze me. For example, a staple food source for more than a half billion people — primarily in Africa — is the “cassava root” (also known as “yucca”). Cassava, however, has very little nutrition. It’s a starch. And the scientists at Danforth are working to genetically modify cassava’s nutritional content to fight malnutrition.

Other work at the Danforth Center includes making plants like soy need less fertilizer and water to grow at maximum efficiency (thus preserving the environment), increasing the oil content plants (for food and also for industrial use like plastics, lubricants, etc.), creating, biofuels from algae, camelina and soy (biodiesel, not ethanol), and more.

I was reminded of the Danforth Center’s good work when I received a holiday greeting video today, and thought I would share my thoughts and the video to remind my friends and colleagues about some of the immensely important work that is being done there.

Peter Panda

Pioneering social media panda bear Tagawa “Peter” Panda was born on a Chinese game reserve in 1969. He emigrated to the United States in 1987 speaking no English, with only the fur on his back and $97 stored in a Jansport fanny-pack wrapped around his waist.

In 2003 while searching for food on the campus of Washington University, he discovered a computer lab where he would ultimately teach himself web development, graphic design, and immerse himself into the growing digital media evolution that was erupting at the time.

With his trademark surly demeanor developed during beatings on his boat ride from China to the U.S., as well as having a penchant for eating vast quantities of bamboo, and enjoying Scotch and cigars, Peter is broadly recognized for coining the phrase “social media” in 2004. He joined Elasticity in late 2009 as the agency’s director of social media strategy and wildlife relations. Friend him on Facebook here.

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