A new, free online course aimed at 16-19 year olds across Europe aims to inspire young people to study science so they can help to create food of the future.
Food of the Future: free online course launched to inspire the next generation of scientists
We know the world’s population is growing, and that we need to produce more crops to feed everybody while also protecting our environment. How can ground-breaking scientific research and innovative technology such as genetics, robots and artificial intelligence make food production more sustainable? And how we can attract the next generation of scientists to the field to help make these breakthroughs?
The new, free online course has been funded by EIT Food and developed by the Gatsby Plant Science Education Programme (GPSEP) at the University of Cambridge alongside international partners.
Dan Jenkins, Head of GPSEP, said: “The course we’ve made will engage and inform our scientists of tomorrow about the exciting technologies and science to help feed the future population. By showcasing a number of next-generation solutions to real-world challenges we want to enthuse young people with ideas for future studies and career possibilities, to help keep science and technology feeding the world.”
Improving Food Production with Agricultural Technology and Plant Biotechnology features real-life examples of how science and technology are revolutionising every stage of the food production process, from growing crops to harvesting and processing them. It covers three main topics:
- Plant biotechnology: How can genetics protect crops from pests and diseases? What about the alternatives, like using other insects to kill pests? This section features Cristobal Uauy, a wheat geneticist at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, who has discovered how to remove the genetic ‘brakes’ that stop wheat grains from growing.
- Agricultural technology: What high-tech machines are currently being used in fields, and what will future farms look like? This section features a weeding machine that uses AI to recognise weeds, and cutting-edge research into autonomous farm robots. Dr Thomas Engel from agricultural manufacturing company John Deere gives his view on how long it will be before we see robots working in our fields.
- Food science: What processes do crops go through before they reach the supermarket? Is processing always bad, or can it make food more nutritious and safer? Around one third of food produced for human consumption is wasted – how can science help us to re-use this waste? This section includes a case study of how useful compounds such as antioxidants can be extracted from food waste.
Hosted on social learning website FutureLearn, and featuring videos, quizzes, discussion boards and an interactive timeline, the course presents an exciting and collaborative new way for young people to learn about the latest cutting-edge science.
Improving Food Production with Agricultural Technology and Plant Biotechnology is funded by EIT Food, Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, which works to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted. The development of the course is led by the Gatsby Plant Science Education Programme (GPSEP) based at the University of Cambridge, which promotes plant science education among students of all ages across the UK.
The course goes live 30 September 2019 and mentors will be online to interact with learners and answer questions for the first three weeks. The course will be available to join until 11 November 2019. Future runs are planned for 2020.
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The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.