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Purdue Driving Conversation about How Ag Technologies can be Scaled Up to Save Lives

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Expanding technologies that can improve and save millions of lives will be the focus of Purdue University’s Scale Up Conference on Sept. 25-27, the first of its kind in North America.

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels will make opening remarks and Akinwumi Adesina, World Food Prize laureate, president of the African Development Bank and Purdue alumnus, will deliver the public keynote address, which is 4 p.m. on Sept. 25 at Stewart Center’s Loeb Playhouse. The event will be livestreamed.

“Purdue is proud to host the Scale Up Conference as one of our premier 150th anniversary events,” Daniels said. “This conference will showcase efforts from around the world, including those led by our College of Agriculture, that ensure that discoveries and innovations gained from research can quickly benefit the maximum number of people living in developing countries.”

This event is part of Purdue's Giant Leaps Sesquicentennial Campaign and is part of the Ideas Festival theme “Giant Leaps Toward a Sustainable Economy and Planet: Innovate Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow.” The Ideas Festival is the centerpiece of the campaign and connects world-renowned speakers and Purdue expertise in a conversation on the most critical problems and opportunities facing the world.

The Scale Up Conference will focus on how sustainable agriculture technologies can be scaled up to feed the world’s growing population. Dozens of speakers from Purdue and across the globe will present at the conference. Dieudonné Baributsa, a Purdue entomology researcher and professor who manages the Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) project, will present one of the conference’s case studies.

PICS, launched in 2007, works with local entrepreneurs to produce and deliver triple-layered, airtight bags to farmers in developing countries to store grains and legumes. These bags allow farmers to store their crops for a sustained period without using chemicals to kill insects. With this technology, farmers can now sell their harvest under optimal market conditions. Using the bags, subsistence farmers can safely store food that will feed their family for sustained periods of time.

Education and outreach are crucial to the PICS scale up process, from Extension posters in 20 different languages detailing proper usage of the bags to specialists visiting thousands of villages to perform demonstrations. PICS has now reached over 5 million farmers, primarily in Africa, in 57,000 villages. Recently, PICS launched efforts in South America and Asia.

Even as PICS grows, engagement with local farmers and agricultural experts remain key components of expanding the project and ensuring continued success, Baributsa said.

“Education is an essential piece to scaling up technologies,” he added. “It’s building awareness. It’s helping people to understand that this technology will benefit them.”

Other speakers addressing the conference will include:
* Simon Heck, program leader of the International Potato Center, will discuss the widespread adoption of biofortified orange fleshed sweet potatoes, which help combat vitamin A deficiencies in Africa.

* Pepijn Schreinemachers, program leader with the World Vegetable Center, oversaw the introduction of a new tomato variety in Tanzania, which has a longer shelf life than other varieties. He will speak about how to encourage adoption of superior seed varieties in developing countries.

* Bob Rabatsky, director of Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, and Andrew Bracken, partnership manager for Feed the Future, will present a case study about how seed technology in East Africa was enhanced to combat Striga, a devastating parasitic weed.

The conference objectives are to enhance understanding of scale up techniques, establish a network among agricultural experts working in developing counties and, ultimately, aid in development of technologies that will feed our growing global population.


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