African universities urged to focus on farming technology

  • 18th August 2018
  • by secretary
5 – 7 August 2018. Washington Over 1,600 participants attended the 2018 AAEA Annual Meeting
The Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is a not-for-profit association serving the professional interests of members working in agricultural and broadly related fields of applied economics. AAEA members are primarily employed by academic departments and government agencies in the field of agricultural and applied economics. Their work focuses on a combination of teaching, research, and cooperative extension programs. Their research covers a broad range of topics, including commercial agriculture, natural resource and environmental economics, and economic and rural development.

The Keynote Address was made by Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina of the African Development Bank. According to the bank’s president, Akinwumi Adesina, the rapid pace of growth in the use of drones, automated tractors, artificial intelligence, robotics and blockchain technology, will transform agriculture. He said technology transfer was needed immediately and evidence from countries such as Nigeria had demonstrated that technology coupled with strong government backing was already yielding positive results.

“Technologies to achieve Africa’s green revolution exist, but are mostly just sitting on the shelves. The challenge is a lack of supportive policies to ensure that they are scaled up to reach millions of farmers. It is more likely that the future farmers will be sitting in their homes with computer applications using drones to determine the size of their farms, monitor and guide the applications of farm inputs, and with driverless combine harvesters bringing in the harvest.”

Extracts of the programme:
Food Fraud, Food Safety, and Public Policy
In the Track – Lightning Session “Food Fraud, Food Safety, and Public Policy,” organized by the AAEA Food Safety and Nutrition Section and the AAEA Senior Section, six researchers looked at the impacts of food fraud, the value of trust in the safety of food traded internationally, the impacts of foodborne illness on the U.S. population, and the global impact of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Presenters in this session said that “Rulemaking in general is under greater scrutiny, and stakeholders, both public and private, care about food safety. You don’t have to look further than recent headlines on foodborne outbreaks in things like romaine lettuce, cut vegetables and melons, and dry cereal to understand that these things are having an impact, and regulations designed to prevent them from occurring can have a substantial impact on human health.”

Is Agriculture and Food Becoming CRISPR?In an Invited Paper Session “Gene Editing: Economic Issues for CRISPR in Food and Agriculture”, three presentations will explain the economic value of gene editing, explore implications of intellectual property control, and review the regulatory situation in Europe.

  • Justus Wesseler from Wageningen University, and author of “Gene Editing Technologies: What to Expect from the Institutional and Legal Battles in the EU” said, “on average about one unit of additional costs in research, approval, and ex-post liability requires between 7 and 14 more units of benefit. The possibility to substitute approval costs with ex-post liability exist. Ex-post liability has much lower effect on the incentives to invest without necessarily reducing the safety of the product being developed.”
  • According to Gregory Graff from Colorado State University “Even through CRISPR technology is heavily patented, efforts are underway to provide broad access to the technology for commercial use in agriculture through a collaborative licensing platform. Success in these efforts could preempt serious controversies within industry and make CRISPR edits a fairly routine matter in crops and livestock. This in turn could have major implications for consumer familiarity and acceptance.”

According to a recent report “The future of the Western Cape agricultural sector in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution” (Synthesis report, 56 pages) by the University of Stellenbosch Business School, which was commissioned by the Western Cape provincial government, agriculture could benefit from digital technology, such as blockchain, to provide product traceability, which is increasingly important for consumers.

  • The report recommends that producers turn to blockchain technology to provide verifiable information to track food origins.
  • Blockchain, or the distributed ledger system, has given rise to cryptocurrencies. The system uses independent computers to synchronise transactions online without the need for validation.
  • The report says tertiary institutions will need to strengthen their courses with the theory, skills and knowledge related to the fourth industrial revolution, which will in turn attract new students to the sector.