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World Coffee Research has launched an executive search for a new Chief Executive Officer.

Dr Tim Schilling, founder and Chief Executive Officer at World Coffee Research (WCR), confirmed to C&CI that he is stepping down as CEO, but said the move was not a sudden decision and had been planned “over a few years.”

Speaking exclusively to C&CI, Dr Schilling said, “I think we have done well to establish WCR and take it from the fringes with a US$1 million/year budget and a couple staff to a US$5 million/year organization with 30 employees working in 25 countries. And we’re still growing.

“It’s that ‘and growing’ part that makes me feel like this is the right time to have someone who’s more of an ‘institution builder’ come in with the appropriate skillset and navigate us through the US$5 million to US$10 million/year growth period over the next four years,” Dr Schilling said.

“That’s really not my core strength. I intend to stay onboard in a support capacity, helping with the transition and maybe staying in some capacity at the subsidiary we set up in Marseille as the European branch of WCR.”

A scientist and development expert, Dr Schilling was the first to bring widespread attention in the coffee industry to the fact that coffee is an ‘orphan crop,’ grown in poor countries, consumed in rich countries, and researched in neither.

Dr Schilling galvanized the world coffee industry, worth US$174 billion dollars per year, to recognize the potentially disastrous vulnerabilities it faced due to the lack of functional, global, open-source research and development programs that create new knowledge and technologies for the benefit of farmers.

World Coffee Research was born in 2012. The same year, when the first reports of a massive epidemic of a fungal disease called coffee leaf rust were circulating in Central America, Dr Schilling sounded alarms and organized the first Coffee Leaf Rust Summit in Guatemala. That summit resulted in concrete actions including development bank support loans to national governments for fungicides and access to credit for farmers through guarantees from USAID.

The most sustainable result, however, was the launch of World Coffee Research’s global coffee breeding programme for rust resistance and climate resilience, and the establishment of a global network of trial sites to advance knowledge on coffee variety performance.

In the few short years since WCR was founded, Dr Schilling and his team have delivered tangible, pragmatic results to shore up the coffee industry’s goal to secure long-term sustainable supplies of high quality coffee. He has grown the non-profit organization to encompass offices in France, the US,  and El Salvador, where WCR has also established a research farm. The organization has formed dozens of collaborative partnerships with coffee organizations, NGOs, and governments to execute applied R&D for genetic improvement and agronomic advancements for coffee.

Prior to founding WCR, Dr Schilling led two programmes to rebuild the Rwandan coffee sector after the country’s genocide, the USAID PEARL and SPREAD projects, which were crucial to the successful entry of Rwanda into the American and European Specialty Coffee markets.

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