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USDA Recognizes Dr. Orts for Scientific Leadership

USDA Recognizes Dr. Orts for Scientific Leadership


Bill Orts

(March 20, 2020) – Anyone familiar with the Almond Board of California’s (ABC) biomass program should be familiar with the name William (Bill) Orts. Since 2012, Orts has worked with the California almond industry on research around the concept of zero waste, finding higher value uses specifically for hulls and shells.

Research efforts driven by Orts include projects studying the potential for adding almond shells to post-consumer recycled plastics to make durable and sustainable plastics, as well as using sugars derived from hulls to support bee diets. Both projects support the California almond industry’s Almond Orchard 2025 Goal to achieve zero waste in almond orchards by putting everything grown to optimal use.

Dr. Karen Lapsley, who manages ABC’s biomass program, acknowledges Bill as one of the best speakers she has even known in his ability “to bring biomass to life with practical solutions” based on his broad knowledge, experience and passion for this emerging research area.

In recognizing Orts for his years of service to U.S. agriculture, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded Orts with the Research Leader & Center Directorship Award “for exemplary, sustained scientific leadership with outstanding global impact on agriculturally-derived bioproduct development and commercialization through strong partnerships.”

“I appreciate USDA’s recognition of our research impact, but this award, in particular, reflects the fact that I work with a team of talented and creative researchers. It’s fun to work every day on new and novel ideas that, we hope, add value to Western agriculture,” said Orts.

As Research Leader at Western Regional Research Center in the Bioproducts Research Unit, Orts leads a 41-member team (13 PhDs) of chemists, molecular biologists, plant physiologists, biologists and engineers, each “who have shown unusual creativity in developing strategies for ‘zero waste agriculture’ that is suitable in the Western States,” according to Center Director Tara McHugh.

“The Bioproducts Research Unit under the strong leadership of Dr. Orts has been consistently one of the most productive research units in the USDA in terms of technology transfer, collaborations with the private sector, stakeholder interaction and grants. Over the past 5 years, he and his team have leveraged over $15 million in extramural dollars through strong outreach. They have presented a wide range of commercially viable new bioproducts that add value to agriculturally derived coproducts, thus creating value for Western-based growers and producers,” McHugh said. “Individually, Dr. Orts has co-authored more than 180 peer-reviewed journal publications, along with 8 patents (2 licensed).”

Upcoming award ceremonies in California and Washington, D.C. – during which Orts would have been publically recognized – have been cancelled due to safety measures regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19).