All Postharvest Roads ….. Learning # 1
At the beginning of October, I went to Rome – the place where you and I both know that all roads converge. The postharvest team at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign had organised a three day meeting there that brought together postharvesters from all over the globe to discuss the topic of preventing postharvest losses. The professionally run event, full of great content, led to a number of interesting ideas that I’d love to get your thoughts on.
In this, the first of a short series of posts, I will quickly sketch one of my valued learnings from the meeting.
Billed as the first international meeting to address this critical issue for the future of world food security, I was sure that it was an issue that any concerned postharvester would surely not want to miss. That led to:
Surprise # 1: Of all the postharvesters that I have met over the decades, there were just TWO among the 262 people in attendance at this conference – Beth Mitcham from UC Davis (and it was great to see her after all this time!) and Prasanta Kalita (conference organiser, who I met just last year when he visited New Zealand).
And this discovery led me to wondering if there was going to be such a different paradigm operating in this community that I wouldn’t have much to contribute or even to participate in. I needn’t have worried – the governing paradigm was highly complementary to that I have operated in for most of my career and I can see real value in bringing these mindsets together: in bringing together the neat community of this conference with that of the wider global postharvest science and technology community. The synergy that would likely arise from this interaction could add real energy to the rate of discovering solutions to the postharvest challenges that loom large in the global food supply system. Pairing the capability of those involved in this largely grain-focused conference with those who attend other conferences in fresh produce systems, such as those run under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science (e.g. the Postharvest Unlimited series, or those with a focus on particular crop types), could ignite interactions that could lead to major innovation. This would seem likely to:
Deliver a global / development frame of reference that could add real meaning for many postharvest researchers, technologists and trainers who currently operate largely in isolation from this perspective
Integrate the process / technology focus of the wider postharvest community into the development arena – something that could accelerate development and delivery of solutions: there is a wealth of knowledge in this large community that could make a big difference.
Learning #1: Marketing the issue of food security / postharvest food loss to the wider postharvest community is a significant opportunity for leaders distributed throughout the world food supply system to make lasting impact.
Do you agree? As you experience it, has my imagination exaggerated this level of isolation? And if it is real to some level, is it an accident of history or is there some rational basis for these communities not being more integrated? What benefits might be delivered by better integrating these communities?