HannahJoy Pheasant, Dolores Landeck 2017-02-22 23:35:31
Last year, when I first heard about ASABE’s “Engineering and Technology Innovation for Global Food Security” conference in Stellenbosch, South Africa, I was thrilled at the prospect of attending a conference focused on my area of interest. As a Purdue University graduate and member of ASABE, I was already working as an engineer, and I doubted that I would be able to take time off to attend. However, in the fall of 2016, I enrolled to pursue a master’s degree in post-harvest technology for international agricultural development, and I applied for an ASABE travel grant just weeks before the conference. I’m grateful that my application was accepted. The conference highlighted ASABE’s 2016 global initiative on food security. ASABE collaborated with Stellenbosch University to host the conference at the Spier Wine Estate. Representatives from 21 countries attended. Stellenbosch is in the cape region of South Africa, near Cape Town. In addition to the conference, I took a few days to explore the area. The coastline and the vista from Table Mountain were breathtaking. The area is also home to the world’s smallest floral kingdom— the Cape Floral Region—which has the highest concentration of plant species in the world, even more than the Amazon rain forest. While at the conference, I appreciated the opportunities to network with other professionals in my field. I reconnected with several former professors and met many interesting people from across the globe. It was fascinating to talk with such a culturally, geographically, and technically diverse group of people. Coming from a non-engineering graduate program, I was excited to meet with so many people who are engaged in the same area as I am. The faculty members from African universities were especially interesting to talk with. Among the U.S. attendees, Dr. Manny Reyes from North Carolina A&T State University is working on sustainable intensification of commercial vegetable home gardens for developing countries. A “commercial vegetable home garden” is a home garden that is large enough to grow vegetables to sell, in addition to food for domestic consumption. Sustainable intensification is done by minimizing soil impact (no tillage), using mulch for weed control, and intercropping. Dr. Reyes is currently working with female gardeners in Cambodia to increase the productivity of their home gardens, and he has infectious enthusiasm for sustainable agriculture. The last evening of the conference, the Nuwe Graskoue Trappers dance troupe (www.rieldancing.com) performed for us. From their humble beginnings in the remote village of Wupperthal, the Trappers have taken the Riel dance scene by storm, winning award after award. Representing South Africa, they won a gold medal at the 2015 World Championship of Performing Arts in Los Angeles. At the formal dinner that followed, Dr. Linus Opara of Stellenbosch University gave an inspiring address, highlighting the need for agriculture in Africa to go beyond putting food on the table. Agriculture, he said, must create jobs, nutritional security, and strong value propositions. Increasing trade among African nations and increasing agricultural mechanization are two areas where the largest gains will be made. As an academic, he also believes that research at African universities will be a significant driver of progress. While I enjoyed the conference, took copious notes, and met many interesting people in suits, the highlight of my trip was meeting other creatures in suits: the colony of tuxedoed African penguins at Boulders Beach. As the only penguin endemic to Africa, these charming, endangered creatures exemplify the fragile biodiversity of the region. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to visit such a wonderful country and meet such gracious people, and I am thankful for the generosity of ASABE members for the grant that made my trip possible. Next year’s Water Security Conference will be held in another fascinating country— India. I hope the conversations, presentations, and relationships formed there will be just as valuable to ASABE and the world as the 2016 conference in South Africa. ASABE member HannahJoy Pheasant, Graduate Student, International Agricultural Development, University of California, Davis, USA, email@example.com. Photos by ASABE member John H. Lumkes, Jr., P.E., Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Associate Director, Global Engineering Programs, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., USA, firstname.lastname@example.org. Conference overview: ASABE leads global food security efforts For global food security, engineering and technology are more important than ever, and they have a critical role to play in a number of areas. That is the consensus of more than 150 international experts who gathered in Stellenbosch, South Africa, to share their research and perspectives on the engineering and technology innovations that are needed to meet looming food security needs worldwide. Drawing participants from six continents, the aim was to identify ways in which engineering and technology can be leveraged toward advancements in global food security. Patrick Gaspard, the U.S. ambassador to South Africa, emphasized the importance of innovation in addressing global food security, and he outlined the objectives of President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative for reducing global hunger, poverty, and undernutrition. Engineers, researchers, educators, and executives from a variety of international organizations attended research presentations, panel discussions, and groupthinks. The attendees learned about food security challenges, examined current successes, and collaborated to identify key opportunities for advancing food security and mitigating threats. Some of the areas with great potential benefits include: • “Smart farming” that’s attuned to regional environmental regulations and climate change. • Technology and innovations specifically focused at the nexus of food, energy, and water security. • Improved decision-making and communication between developed and developing countries. • Agricultural and food production systems that are specific to their ecosystems. • Stronger agribusiness practices that advance economic prosperity. • Enhanced food safety in addition to availability, accessibility, and affordability across commodities. A summary paper on the Global Initiative Conference that outlines the path forward and presents the next steps toward global food security is currently in development and will be released in the spring of 2018. “Engineering and Technology Innovation for Global Food Security” was sponsored by ASABE and the University of Stellenbosch. Major financial support was provided by John Deere, with additional assistance from the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss and the University of Illinois. Other sponsors included AGCO, the University of Arkansas, and the National Engineering Research Center for Information Technology in Agriculture (NERCITA). Dolores Landeck, Public Affairs Director, ASABE, St. Joseph, Mich., USA, email@example.com.
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