Strategic Research Focus: What We Fund and Why

In 2019, HRI leaders, with comprehensive input from industry professionals, developed a strategic vision for the future of horticultural research investment. HRI uses this vision and to direct research funding and to inform leveraging and outreach efforts with partnering organizations and agencies.


How we came to our vision

In December 2018, HRI gathered delegates representing all segments of the industry and regions of the country for a face-to-face summit, known as the Research Roundtable, to listen and learn. What resulted was the Research Roadmap, a targeted and documented understanding of how HRI can invest to best serve and grow the horticultural industry.

Over two days of professionally moderated face-to-face sessions, preceded by several weeks of pre-conference preparation, industry advisors shared their collective understanding of industry challenges, trends, and opportunities. As a result, HRI has a strategic vision and research priorities to tackle the challenges and capitalize on the trends and opportunities.

We began our work by describing what a thriving horticultural industry looks like. Industry advisors described a healthy and robust industry as one with:

  • Compelling Value Propositions: the ability to communicate the value of products and services in such a way that attracts customers and employees and increases
  • Leading Edge Technology and Systems: access to production and distribution systems that increase efficiencies throughout the supply chain and that are consistent with progress in other industries
  • Enhanced Customer Insights: knowledge and understanding of the psychology, motivations, and behavior of horticulture customers that increases sales and business loyalty
  • Connected Leaders and Advocates: horticultural representation in influential leadership positions in academia, regulatory and legislative agencies, and policy-making circles that elevate industry needs. Ample and diverse leaders from all industry segments who are connected to one another.


Investing in Four Key Areas

By analyzing industry-defined attributes of success along with the strengths and challenges of the current state of the industry, Research Roundtable Advisors identified four areas of research focus that will best assist industry profitability. Over the next 5 - 7 years, HRI will prioritize research funding in the following areas to achieve the stated desired outcomes. Progress will be measured and evaluated by industry benchmarking surveys, impacts surveys, and outreach metrics.

Quantifying Plant Benefits

Research that quantifies and validates the benefits of plants on ecosystems, on human health, and on society creates value propositions that boost sales of horticultural products and services and increases interest in horticultural careers which can be measured by industry surveys.

Creating Innovative Solutions

Research that creates or adapts biological, mechanical, and technological systems making practices and processes more efficient and productive assists horticultural businesses of all segments and sizes to increase profits which can be evaluated by research impact surveys.

Gathering Consumer Insights

Research that evaluates consumer behavior, consumer preferences, and consumer trends empowers horticultural businesses to optimize products and services and leads to industry-wide profitability and growth which is measured by the National Green Industry Survey.

Producing Practical & Actionable Solutions

Research that tackles ongoing and emergent industry challenges in production, resource management, or pest and disease management provides practical and actionable advice for horticultural businesses to improve sustainability and profitability which can be measured by outreach metrics and impact surveys.

Download the Research Roadmap Executive Summary or visit Journal of Environmental Horticulture to view a report of the full proceedings at the Research Roundtable.