Dillion Grant - the aspiring geneticist

Career & Education

Dillion Grant - the aspiring geneticist

Sunday, July 21, 2019

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For as long as he can remember, Dillon Grant has wanted to do something major not just for himself, but something that will have national impact.

He found the answer in animal genetics — the analysis of the genetic makeup of animals in order discover which genes cause them to behave certain ways or to determine what causes them to be immune to specific diseases, or fail to thrive in certain environments, etc.

“I think animal genetics plays a major role in agriculture because this is the instruction to which quality is produced or developed. Moreover, if there is nobody to say, continue the good works and the development of certain breeds of cattle, then we are always going to have problems with quality foods and battling with diseases,” he explained in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

“Somebody has to fill that gap, and I have a passion for agriculture and I want to do something that is fulfilling for myself and my country,” Grant continued.

That's why he's pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Education at the College of Agriculture Science and Education - where he is in his third year - with a view to progressing to advanced study in future.

Professionally, Grant, 24, wants to continue the work of multi-award winning cattle farmer and respected animal geneticist/livestock development researcher Dr Karl Wellington who has contributed to nation building for over 60 years. Wellington is largely responsible for the development, maintenance and conservation of Jamaica's four cattle breeds - the Jamaica Red Poll, Jamaica Black Poll, Jamaica Brahman, and Jamaica Hope - and his expertise, knowledge and reputation as an academic, scientist and cattleman is well-known in places such as India, Australia, England, North America, Mauritius, South Africa, New Zealand and Panama, to name a few.

Grant recently got the chance to meet Dr Wellington at his YS Farms in St Elizabeth.

“I think it's an excellent thought and I hope he continues to think in that way and that others will join. He alone just cannot do it; you also need a group of interested parties. There is a lot more to being an animal geneticist. You have to be a part of [a] system,” Dr Wellington said of the visit and his advice to Grant.

For his part, Grant called the interaction enlightening.

“Interacting with Dr Wellington has been great. It was quite enlightening and very beneficial for me just seeing someone like Dr Wellington, and understanding his journey over the years and [realising that] where he came from is not much different from mine. I know that his contributions to the agriculture sector are huge shoes to fill, but it also gives me drive to know I am able to go above and beyond,” the aspiring geneticist told Career & Education.

Grant, who hails from south east St Mary, said he initially applied to Northern Caribbean University to study environmental science but changed his mind “because [his] heart is in agriculture”. He shared how that interest developed.

“Growing up, I lived with my grandmother and she's a substantial farmer. She took me to her fields and I would enjoy eating sugar cane in the afternoons after school. I remember planting my first piece of yam and I waited a couple of months for it to bear. And when it finally bore, I asked my mother to cook it for me. I developed this passion knowing that you are able to nurture something and watch it develop,” he told Career & Education.

He wished many more young people were seized with a similar passion.

“I think it is undermining the country when a lot of our young people tend to turn away from the foundation from which our country was built on, which is agriculture. I think the problem is, in the minds of many young people and some of my peers, agriculture is seen as slavery and this is a myth coming from way back. Agriculture is one of the most powerful forces in every economy,” he said.

Grant, though not featured on the 2019 Nutramix Youth in Agriculture calendar, is one of a select number of Nutramix Youth in Agriculture ambassadors.

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