New project combines vegetables and livestock in Cambodian farming

A version of this article first appeared on the UC Davis One Health blog

New research supported by the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC Davis aims to help farmers in Cambodia better integrate growing vegetables, raising livestock and maintaining healthy soil — all in the same place.

“By understanding the interactions between horticulture and livestock systems, we can help farmers make better use of agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and labor, which will help improve a farmer’s bottom line,” says Erin McGuire, associate director of the program, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“Systems thinking” is critical to making a real-world impact in global food security, according to Jessie Vipham, project leader for the new $750,000 project and assistant professor at Kansas State University’s Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab.

“Too often overlooked is that systems piece, the very fact that these things — crops and livestock, soil health and human health — play together. Continue reading New project combines vegetables and livestock in Cambodian farming

5 ways relationships promote innovation – and can improve food safety

Editor’s note: This blog post by Karen LeGrand was originally a presentation given at the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2017 annual meeting.

LeGrand is a UC Davis researcher who helps manage a Horticulture Innovation Lab project focused on building safe vegetable value chains in Cambodia along with an international team from the Royal University of Agriculture, the University of Battambang and iDE Cambodia. Their team builds on lessons learned from a previous project in Cambodia.

Karen LeGrand, UC Davis
Karen LeGrand, UC Davis researcher working on a Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Cambodia

What do relationships have to do with innovation and food safety? Our project is built on the idea that when we focus our work around the shared interests of a community, it can bring people together in participatory ways that result in innovation and sustainable change.

One example from the first phase of our project was a situation where a marketer wanted to purchase vegetables that were considered “safe” (free of microbiological and chemical hazards). Farmers participated with our research team to conduct trials aimed at identifying appropriate ways to change farming and postharvest practices Continue reading 5 ways relationships promote innovation – and can improve food safety

Cambodian farmers reach new buyers with a fresh approach

A version of this article originally appeared in the Feed the Future newsletter

Leaning into her tuktuk in Siem Reap, Eang Chakriya opens a cooler and takes out fresh wax gourds and other vegetables that have been carefully packed and chilled, showing them to a group of neighbors. Emblazoned on the tuktuk (a kind of motorized rickshaw) are images of farmers and the marketing motto, “Grown Right, Handled Right, Community Right.”

Chakriya sells nutritious vegetables directly to consumers in Cambodia as part of a farmers’ cooperative working with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture, led by the University of California, Davis.

The project’s research team is examining incentives that help farmers improve their agriculture practices. The researchers’ hunch is that farmers will adopt conservation agriculture practices (or “Grown Right” practices) if the team also helps them to adopt two other types of profitable practices that will increase their success: improved postharvest handling techniques and novel marketing practices.

So far, the idea seems to be working.

As a partner in this Feed the Future Innovation Lab, researchers from Continue reading Cambodian farmers reach new buyers with a fresh approach

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

Nine new Trellis Fund projects awarded

The Horticulture Innovation Lab has announced nine new projects in Africa and Asia as part of its Trellis Fund program.

Each of these six-month projects is funded with a $2,000 grant, with work scheduled to begin in 2017. A U.S. graduate student with related expertise will be matched to each project, to provide additional agricultural knowledge and support for local goals.

“We are pleased to build new relationships with local organizations, with support from our innovative Trellis Fund program,” said Elizabeth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab at the University of California, Davis. “We believe this model, which links knowledgeable U.S. university students with local, on-the-ground practitioners, can help further extend horticultural expertise to farmers nearby.”

Six of the newly awarded Trellis Fund projects are Continue reading Nine new Trellis Fund projects awarded