At Illumination, Kevin Folta says that when the sequencing wave hit his lab at the University of Florida, he and his colleagues hoped to use the school's newly acquired 454 machine to characterize the "tiny strawberry genome." Funding for the project, however, was in short supply. In 2006, when the University of New Hampshire's Tom Davis announced his intent to acquire Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute funds to sequence the strawberry, the broader Rosaceae community — which had expressed interest in sequencing the apple and peach – did not receive the news well, Folta says. Apple and peach, which have larger genomes, had "substantial Sanger sequencing support," he adds.
In 2008, though, Virginia Tech's Vladimir Shulaev and Richard Veilleux provided the "seed that was needed" for strawberry sequencing — they'd announced both financial and technical support for the project. Over time, Folta, Shulaev, Veilleux, and their colleagues obtained piecemeal funding from several organizations. They also acquired collaborators across the country. Still, Folta says, "there were skeptics." Many genomics researchers had said "there was no way that a draft sequence could be obtained without a physical map, and especially with a purely short-read based approach," he adds, though "time would prove them incorrect." It was a strenuous effort overall, Folta says, but the strawberry sequence was worth it. "It was quite a journey," he says, but "now the real fun begins."