JTI Partners with N.C. PSI to Advance Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

JTI Leaf Services is no stranger to NC. The two organizations have been close partners in research, training and expansion for over 10 years.

But last summer, when JTI Agronomy Manager John Radcliffe and Corporate Affairs and Communications Manager John Holshauser visited the NC State University Plant Sciences Building, the new headquarters of the NC Plant Sciences Initiative, they knew they had the opportunity to connect to something special .

JTI’s mission is to become the most innovative and sustainable tobacco company in the world. NC PSI addresses some of the biggest challenges in agricultural and environmental sustainability facing the world today, through interdisciplinary, team plant science.

This close alignment of innovation and sustainability has made NC PSI support a natural choice. So when the opportunity arose to build on their close working relationship with North Carolina, JTI named the lab space in the Plant Sciences building.

We interviewed Radcliffe and Holshauser to learn more about JTI’s commitment to sustainability and innovation, how their organization closely matches NC PSI and why they support these efforts, bringing together some of the brightest minds in science circles, governments and industry to raise agricultural sciences.

When did you first learn about the NC Plant Sciences initiative, and why did you decide to support it?

Holshauser: Initially, we learned about the initiative in August and immediately became interested. We could appreciate what the NC Plant Sciences initiative is and what it is working on: collaboration and innovation in agricultural science. At JTI we understand the importance of collaboration and innovation and strive to cultivate them in our organization and in our manufacturers. JTI is committed to building a more sustainable future. This is very important to our industry and we promote it throughout the company culture. Although we have been tackling sustainability around the world for years, we recognize that we still have a long way to go. In this way, the work and research that will emerge from the Plant Science Initiative will help us – and indeed all those involved in agriculture – to move towards these goals. It really drew us to this and what we want to see in the future.

You aim to make JTI the most innovative and sustainably managed tobacco company in the world. How does your support for NC PSI coincide with this commitment?

Radcliffe: Sustainable tobacco production can only come with improvement at every level, but especially on the farm; and improving yields, quality, and environmental sustainability affect areas where we believe the NC Plant Sciences initiative can impact real change.

Holshauser: Correct. Ultimately, this sustainability must be part of our thinking and our daily decisions. Year after year, we see a growing number of creative and innovative initiatives from our JTI colleagues around the world with a focus on becoming more sustainable. We are truly proud of this collaborative effort, and it is this collaborative effort that brings us together with the initiative you are doing in NC. The work resulting from this initiative will help our producers in North Carolina and across the country. And we, as an international company, share these skills with growers and farms through JTI around the world. It will be an effort worldwide.

Why did you decide to name the lab lab NC State University Plant Sciences Building after your organization?

HolshauserA: We were lucky enough to take a tour of the building last year and we left knowing we wanted to take part. We returned the information to JTI and we had an immediate buy-in from the company. In the end, we supported the laboratory space for several reasons. First, we wanted to continue to associate with the results, and we know it will come out of lab facilities. Second, it really goes back to sustainability. The world we live in requires innovation in agriculture, and we want JTI to be part of that innovation. So we are proud to have a space named after JTI Leaf Services where important discoveries will be made that benefit our manufacturers.

One component of JTI’s mission is to lead in the field of low-risk tobacco products and new ways of doing business. How can NC State and NC PSI play a role in this mission?

RadcliffeA: In our world, consumers and businesses are constantly evolving, and we are very closely monitoring research into different varieties and cultural practices that may affect the chemical composition of our products.

HolshauserA: Yes, JTI’s long-term success will be determined by our ability to embrace the products and technologies of the future while remaining true to the qualities that have defined our products for decades. In many cases, this means a better quality letter or letter with very specific characteristics that meet the needs of customers around the world; and advances in agricultural technology and best practices emerging from programs such as NC PSI will help us meet these needs.

JTI has a longstanding relationship with the State of North Carolina as a sponsor of tobacco research projects and a supporter of learning and expansion. Why is NC State a longtime partner?

RadcliffeA: The NC state has the largest tobacco distribution and distribution program anywhere. NC staff provides the science and data our manufacturers – and JTI – need to make informed decisions to improve tobacco production. As I mentioned earlier, these improvements are very important for our business and agriculture across the country.

Leading scientists, government agencies and industry will work in the plant building of the State University of the Northern Kingdom. Will you and your staff be involved in the activities of the building?

Radcliffe: Ultimately, thanks to the continued financial support of tobacco research projects and cooperation with faculty in solving problems, we hope that this is just the beginning of several opportunities to contribute to the future of agriculture and innovation. I would love to see some of our people practically working with the NC Plant Sciences initiative.

HolshauserA: Yes, we are very lucky that JTI has a lot of smart people. For me, I learned that there is a benefit to just being in the room, listening and learning from these people. And this is what the initiative is aimed at: to unite the highest minds to improve and solve the problems facing our agricultural system here, in the country and in the world as a whole. John and his team of agronomists along with our teams of agronomists around the world are working on activities and programs located here in Raleigh. And finally, when work is underway to improve our producer communities, JTI will be there to help support that.

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