Adapting traditional agriculture to an uncertain future

May 2020

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

Lecturer in Agriculture and Applied Entomology, Dr. Christos D. Gerofotis, explains how pest science must meet food security to ensure our planet's survival.

In the TV series 'The Walking Dead', characters have survived years after the zombie apocalypse began and are now living in communities that demand a stable food supply. Farming is a major part of that, but with limited space, resources, and many more challenges, the settlers have to figure out how to make the most of their efforts.

Unfortunately, this demand for food and agricultural products is part of today's reality and it has to be achieved as the global population continues to grow, increasing to a projected nine billion people by 2050. This demand must be met under a rapidly changing setting; climate change with extreme weather events, environmental (e.g. biodiversity loss) and policy conditions (e.g. quarantine regulations) are some of the challenges that have to be faced. To do so, there is widespread consensus, that farmers must change and cannot continue producing in the same way. Addressing these immense challenges will require the invention and implementation of world-changing innovations in every field of the food supply chain.

Recent events (like the Covid-19 pandemic) have further underscored the importance and fragility of our food systems. Food production, supply and accessibility, all pillars of a country's food security, can be negatively impacted by unpredicted disruptions. When the food system is facing pressures, a significant part of the solution comes from professionals with the skills to develop workable solutions. Both the technical and the workforce challenges facing food and agriculture can be addressed by educating a new generation in these specialist subjects.

Preparing for the future

Through my expertise in insects and management of crop losses from various infestations, I provide students with a variety of courses and training to meet agricultural-workforce needs in the public and private sectors. Students will not only learn the classical methods and approaches of pest management, but will gain knowledge and practical experience on novel and environmentally-friendly tools for agricultural crops, ornamental plants and fruit trees. Additional lectures and trainings on management of crop losses beyond harvest will be held. Students will be offered diverse lectures on insects of stored products, while my colleague, Dr. Anya Perera, will complement these courses with expertise on post-harvest diseases.

Students will acquire a holistic view of the food production and supply chain. This set of knowledge and skills will tremendously foster students' employability, giving them access to multiple roles in pest control industry (e.g. pest control expert in food industry, quality assurance of agricultural products, agrochemical companies).

Highly specified lectures on various aspects 'Insect-farming' as an alternative source of human food and animal feed will be an option for those interested in innovative business orientated opportunities. In addition to lectures, communication with industrial food chain suppliers to identify new opportunities and barriers for 'insect farming', as well as visits to operating insect farming facilities will be included as much as possible.

In collaboration with Professor Peter Hobson with specialism in Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainability, I will deliver lectures related to insect conservation, aiming to educate and prepare next generation policy advisors and environmentalists.

Learn how you could make a difference by studying agriculture at Writtle University College: