As part of James Hutton Limited’s growing team, we were delighted to welcome Amanda Moura last October as a Soft Fruit Breeder and Trials Manager. Having moved all the way from Brazil to take up her post, we wanted to catch up with Amanda to learn more about what brought her to Scotland and her life so far at JHL.
Hello Amanda! So, what attracted you to JHL?
In Brazil, opportunities in plant breeding were a little bit scarce so I started to look abroad and JHL just jumped out at me - it was kind of a lucky find!
What have you enjoyed most about the role since you started?
I love what I do and I love plant breeding so to be able to do what I love is a great pleasure.
Aside from that, the people here are amazing. To be able to work next door to a very distinguished researcher and to be able to chat with them is great. People here are so friendly and approachable which I really like.
You are now a part of the soft fruit team here at JHL, did you focus on soft fruit in your previous role in Brazil?
No - I am new to soft fruits. Before I was doing research in upland rice. Rice is an important crop in Brazil and upland rice is a more sustainable rice cultivation that requires less water once we do not flood it. I spent 6 years working with rice breeding.
Did you always know that you wanted to follow a career in plant breeding?
Yes, I did my bachelor’s degree in Agronomy and in my final year I discover my passion in plant breeding and decided to do my postgraduate studies in this area.
I completed my MSc and PhD in Crop Science & Plant Breeding at the Federal University of Lavras, in Brazil. During my PhD I also did a 9-month placement in the United States that focussed on characterisation of a gene with potential drought tolerance in rice. I chose to do this because all my background was in conventional breeding so I wanted to understand a bit more of biotechnology, molecular and physiological techniques.
With such an extensive background in the rice industry, what was it that attracted you to the soft fruit industry?
Of course, my background is within rice, but my main focus has always been plant breeding. I saw this opportunity of plant breeding within JHL and well I took a shot!
So far what are the main differences you have noticed between working with rice and soft fruit?
Rice is an annual crop. You sow and harvest and it is all within a maximum of 6 months.
But when you are working with a perennial crop, such as blackcurrants or redcurrants, it can take you 2-3 years to start to see any fruit! This means that it takes longer to see our first results, however I am enjoying working with a different crop with different challenges.
What are you hoping to bring to JHL?
I’m hoping to bring all the experience that I got in rice and other projects that I was involved with and to make sure we can improve as much as we can in our breeding programmes. My main goal is to continue the great work that has been done, such as the blackcurrant breeding. This is one of the oldest breeding programmes in the Institute and I want to make sure that we keep being the standard in blackcurrants, not only for UK but internationally too.
Scotland and Brazil are very different, what would you say you miss the most about Brazil?
Definitely it's been a big move! I miss my family and my friends, but I have settled well here. I miss things like Brazilian food but I have been able to find most things here. I miss not being able to speak my own language and I miss the most not being around my friends. One thing I have not been able to find easily here is Açaí (purple berries found on Acai trees in South America).
Oh and perhaps I miss the Brazilian cheese too!
But I think it has helped that the people here are very friendly and happy which makes it a very welcoming place to live.
Have you tried Irn Bru?
Yes! I love it!
Yes! When my mum was over visiting, we had it for breakfast - and it was great!
You asked me about Irn Bru, you asked about haggis, but you didn’t ask about whisky! My favourite drink in Scotland is whisky! My fun has been trying different whisky’s!
Do you have a favourite so far?
Yes! There is one, it is an 18-year Glenfiddich! It is the one that I like the most!
What advice would you give to someone else looking to join from overseas?
Just come! Dundee is a great city, and very safe. It is a lovely place with lovely people and great opportunities, so why not?