Editor’s note: Nick Reitz is a doctoral student in the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology, who participated in a Trellis Fund project led by the Methodist University College Ghana. Here Nick shares some details about his trip to Ghana for this project, which focused on food processing for mango farmers. Though Nick did not have previous experience with mangoes, he had a lot of knowledge to share about postharvest practices. Updated Nov. 6: The Horticulture Innovation Lab has extended the deadline for graduate students to apply for 5 new Trellis Fund projects focused on postharvest handling, small-scale processing and food preservation in Africa.
Question: How does your work on this Trellis Fund project fit into your studies and career, as a Food Science grad student?
Nick Reitz: Prior to this project, I knew almost nothing about mangos. However, my background knowledge of postharvest biology and food processing technology mixed with a fair amount of research helped overcome this lack of knowledge. The basic science behind food preservation is the same regardless of what technology is available. If you know the basics, you can find a method and predict what will happen. Adapting my knowledge to the conditions and resources available in Ghana has been one of the most interesting parts of this project so far.
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.”
In a classroom in Ghana, graduate student Dev Paudel from the University of Florida bent over computers with students and research assistants as they learned the basics of R, a free, open-source programming language for statistical analysis that he had installed on the computers earlier that week. As participants in this Kayaba Management Foundation training, the class members would next analyze the results of a needs survey of more than 300 farmers and vegetable vendors from nearby communities. Their goal?
“If we can use state-of-the-art statistical tools (including R) in Ghana, we can generate research findings that would be accepted by both policy makers and the international investor community,” said Hussein Yunus Alhassan, CEO of the Kayaba Management Foundation and chief instructor at Tamale Polytechnic. His new foundation is laying the groundwork for locally led research that supports the horticulture sector in northern Ghana, markets for horticulture value chains, and women’s empowerment.