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Rob Blakey has left his Washington State University endowed position as the tree fruit extension specialist in postharvest information and technology transfer.

Blakey, who started in August 2016, now works for Stemilt Growers as research and development manager in Wenatchee, Washington.

Rob Blakey in a Pasco, Washington orchard on October 13, 2016. Blakey, the second extension specialist hired through Washington State University endowment funding. He specializes in postharvest issues. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Rob Blakey, shown here in a Pasco, Washington, orchard, specializes in postharvest issues. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Blakey’s spot was one of several related to the university’s $32 million tree fruit endowment, a gift from the state’s tree fruit growers to boost the WSU’s research pedigree in the industry. In his short time, he has worked on recommendations to improve pear ripening, a new cherry color and size chart with Oregon State University colleagues and an apple defect guide, he told the Good Fruit Grower today. He has been based at the WSU Irrigated Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Prosser.

“It is unfortunate that WSU is losing a great employee this early into the post harvest work that Rob started, but his departure will create an opportunity for WSU and the extension team to hire another person to continue on our journey,” said Sam Godwin, a Tonasket grower and member of the university’s Endowment Advisory Committee. “The best news is that through the utilization of the endowed dollars the WSU extension activities are in the best shape we have seen in the past 10 years.”

Prior to coming to WSU, as a research horticulturist for a leading multinational supplier of fresh subtropical fruits in South Africa, specializing in avocado physiology.

Blakey and his family are in the process of moving from Kennewick to Wenatchee for the new post, he said.