2 weeks ago, MSTM was privileged to welcome Steve Sonka, director of ADM Institute for the Prevention of Post-Harvest Loss. For MSTM family, he was a familiar figure as a Professor of Technology Practicum several years ago. Amidst his busy schedule (he has to fly back to China later in the afternoon), he still provides time to give us insight about world scarcity and its impact on the global economy.
As a seasoned speaker, Dr. Sonka quickly grabbed our attention and engaged us in interesting discussion. He initially challenged us as to why resources especially food scarcity is an important issue to look at. Our comment involves in the idea of exponential growth of population, development of cities and deforestation. Although these topics are related to his questions, he provided us with different perspective of these topics.
Before jumping into the topic of Post-Harvest Loss (PHL), Dr. Sonka gave us an overall picture on how the scarcity issue came about. He argued that there is a close relationship between prices of commodities, rising middle class and little attention given to the issue of post harvest loss as key factors that drives the importance of food scarcity. One striking figure he mentioned is that by 2030, the food demand will require about 200 million more acres. This is coupled with the rising of global food demand by 70% in 2050. During his speech, he provided us with several graphs that address his points. This ultimately helps us as listeners to relate to the topic.
Arriving at his points of PHL, he passionately points out to us the difficulty in addressing this problem. PHL can be varied according to geography, commodity sector and also growing conditions. Presently, there is no strong correlation that can pinpoint one factor to prioritize on. Thus, a solution to address PHL requires joint effort from several players in the industry.
From this point, he stated that around 1/3 of our food production has been lost in PHL. However, the investment on the solution could be modest. Major players in the food industry should be able to identify, prioritize and communicate the food management process so that waste can be reduced. This is something closely related to the utilization of right technology in assisting this purpose. He argued that MSTM students have the advantage of the area of technology utilization and project management to take on global project such as this.
Last but not least, he talked about ADM Institute for the Prevention of Post-Harvest Loss. The vision of this institute is to be a hub of information and technology intended to encompass technologies, practices and systems and to focus on staple crops in agricultural domains. With this vision in mind, Dr. Sonka focused on the innovation of measurement that will help setting clear goal and picking the right approach for food processes. These measures resound true in technology utilization that is the core principle of MSTM.