UC Davis ‘DryCard’ invention wins competition to reduce food loss in Africa

A new invention from UC Davis researchers won a competition as the top emerging technology to reduce food loss and waste across the African continent.

The low-cost tool, called the DryCardTM, shows farmers whether their dried food products are dry enough to store safely, reducing food losses and risks of mold and associated toxins.

The DryCard beat out more than 200 entries to win the grand prize in the “All Africa Postharvest Technologies and Innovation Challenge.” Top technologies and innovations were invited to pitch to an audience of about 600 participants, including private investors and international organizations, at the first All-Africa Postharvest Congress and Exhibition, March 31 in Nairobi, Kenya.

group holding DryCards with prize check
From left, Bertha Mjawa and Elizabeth Mitcham wave DryCards in victory as they accept the grand prize from organizers during the All-Africa Postharvest Technologies and Innovations Challenge. (Horticulture Innovation Lab photo by Erin McGuire/UC Davis)

Elizabeth Mitcham, director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in postharvest biology for the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, represented the DryCard during the competition.

“I have never seen such strong interest in a technology like this,” Continue reading UC Davis ‘DryCard’ invention wins competition to reduce food loss in Africa

Building trust in food systems – here and in Cambodia

A version of this article originally appeared in the UC ANR Food Blog.

What is the role of trust in our food system? In the United States, our trust in food is often implicit. We can generally trust that the fruits and vegetables we buy at a grocery store or farmers market are safe to eat — and we are often free to shop without even thinking about that trust.

Between farmers and agricultural scientists too, trust often plays an important role. If you’re a farmer, you need to be able to trust that investing your time or money in a new technique or in attending a workshop will indeed improve your business.

But it can be easy to forget that trust is a critical first step in many of these agricultural relationships.

In a vegetable field, Thort holds open the net door of a net house, with someone standing inside among the vegetable rows
Thort Chuong (now a Fulbright scholar and UC Davis grad student) welcomes us into a nethouse in Cambodia, owned by a farmer who tried it after joining a savings group and hearing about this new way he could grow vegetables without spraying pesticides. Karen LeGrand of UC Davis stands inside, among the leafy green seedlings in the nethouse. 

Establishing trust between actors in a food system has been critical for a Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Cambodia, focused on Continue reading Building trust in food systems – here and in Cambodia

Students selected for projects in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Nepal, Cambodia

Editor’s note: After this original announcement, two changes were made to student assignments and are reflected below. 

The Horticulture Innovation Lab team has selected nine graduate students to support Trellis Fund projects in Africa and Asia in 2017.

Through their work on the Trellis Fund projects, the graduate students will apply their agricultural expertise to support local organizations as they work together to help smallholder farmers better grow fruits and vegetables.

The selected students are studying agricultural sciences in master’s and doctoral programs at the University of California, Davis; University of Florida; University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; and North Carolina State University. Continue reading Students selected for projects in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Nepal, Cambodia

Video: Irrigation solutions in Uganda require social science and farmer-led innovation

Post-conference update: You can find the video of Kate Scow’s talk in the online conference video, beginning at about 52:00.

Kate Scow, UC Davis soil science professor, is one of the featured speakers for the “United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Conference: Research to Action on the African Continent” on Jan. 23 at UC Davis.

She will give a 15-minute, TED-style talk on participatory research and other aspects of her agriculture work in Uganda on the Horticulture Innovation Lab project, “Developing farmer-led irrigation solutions.”

In 2016, Scow gave a 5-minute lightning talk on the same project, which you can find here as a preview for her upcoming talk: https://youtu.be/VqRV1RsnN3g

A public livestream of the conference’s main sessions will be provided, beginning at 8:30 a.m. PST, Jan. 23. Registration to attend Continue reading Video: Irrigation solutions in Uganda require social science and farmer-led innovation

TakePart photo essay explores climate resilience with farmers in Guatemala

Photojournalist Martin do Nascimento recently traveled to Guatemala’s Western Highlands to explore the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s new project helping farmers use climate-smart agricultural practices for growing vegetables.

His photo essay was published in the digital magazine TakePart, called “See the Simple Way These Farmers Are Outsmarting Climate Change.”

The essay shows us this story in beautiful, sweeping photos. Here is how Nascimento introduces his story:

“For many, the term ‘climate change’ brings to mind the image of a polar bear on a shrinking sheet of ice somewhere far off in the Arctic.

“Consider another image: A tired farmer looks out fearfully over a craggy field and wonders how he’ll grow the crops to keep his family fed.

“Pedro Esteban is that farmer, and to him, climate change is no abstraction. Continue reading TakePart photo essay explores climate resilience with farmers in Guatemala