A Chocolate Assist

July 11, 2008
IBM helps sequence the cocoa genome.

Chocolate and IBM make an unusual pair. Nonetheless, Big Blue will be putting its supercomputing powers to use in research that may one day help create better cocoa crops.

The U.S. Department of Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), confectionary maker Mars Inc. and IBM are pooling their resources to sequence and analyze the entire cocoa genome.

"Sequencing the genomes of agriculture crops is a critical step if we want to better understand and improve a crop," says Judy St. John, a USDA-ARS deputy administrator. Cocoa farming is an important economic driver in Africa.

While scientists from the Department of Agriculture and Mars are expected to conduct various aspects of project at the USDA-ARS facility in Miami, IBM researchers will contribute their expertise at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Cocoa beans in a cacao pod."This collaboration is an opportunity for us to apply our computational biology and supercomputing expertise to help improve an economically important agricultural crop," says Mark Dean, vice president, Technical Strategy and Global Operations, IBM Research.

The group says the project is expected to take five years to complete.

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