In 1669, Hennig Brand accidently discovered phosphorus (P) while trying to create the “philosopher’s stone” in a sample of human urine. Three and half centuries later, scientists and researchers across the globe study the effects, impacts, and recoveries of P derived from human (and animal) wastes in terrestrial, aquatic, and interplanetary systems.
Still the temperature is fresh but a bright morning light would already let you assume that the day is going to be sunny and warm. A gravelled path going up in serpentines leads the way through spruce forest. Even some snacks weren't missing on the way as nature provided fresh wild raspberries and strawberries for refreshments. Just on time we reached the alp (this is what homesteads in the Alps are called in Switzerland) in order to participate, at least partly, in the cheese-making process. A daily task which requires skills, knowledge and passion, teaching one what alpine pastures, milk-producing cows and a passionate cheese maker can achieve.
Our food system has always been in transition, developing as we introduce new knowledge and policies into our food production practices. This growth has accelerated at a pace that challenges our survival and that of other species with which we share our one and only home, planet Earth.
After I had finished all my university courses and also the Master’s thesis, I was – similar to many other students – a bit lost in the many visible or also seemingly hidden possibilities, which were now ready to be discovered. After a few talks with my master's thesis supervisor a great opportunity opened to continue my thesis project. I received a grant from the World Food System Center (WFSC) to collaborate with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to further work on my project of assessing and measuring farm system resilience – and this time, on a global scale.
Can Dynamic Agroforestry reverse the negative impacts on soils of long-time pineapple production and simultaneously create beneficial growth conditions for the delicate cocoa trees? A Swiss pioneer wanted to find out and four years ago installed a 50-ha plantation in Côte d’Ivoire. There, everything is managed according to the principles of Dynamic Agroforestry – a perfect playground for two motivated master students!
When I arrived in Sapporo in November 2018, I wanted to learn a scientific technique that the laboratory of flow control at Hokkaido University is specialized in. I had prepared a list of questions. I came back with lots of answers as well as other questions to reflect upon.
When the paved road gave way to red-brown dirt and our Toyota started to bounce around more, Daniele and I knew we had almost made it to meet with a farmers’ cooperative in Kiambu county, Kenya. We were extremely excited but also somewhat worried what farmers would think about the smartphone application we had worked on for the past four months. The moment of truth had arrived.
Climate change is a major challenge for smallholder farmers in developing countries and resilience is one of the key approaches to tackle climate change’s negative effects. Funding and interest for measuring and building climate change resilience have recently increased within the development sector. However, measuring resilience as a step towards improving livelihoods is still difficult and it is only a first step. We wanted to go one step further and bring together resilience measurements with existing solutions and local knowledge to empower farmers. Using a 5-day Google Venture “Design Sprint” methodology, we created a theory of change, digital mock-up of a mobile app and tested it with development practitioners. The feedback we received was positive, so much so, that we are now working on a prototype and plan to test it with farmers in a developing country in the next few months.
A major challenge for humanity in this century is the increased demand for nutritious food in consideration of the growing world population, consumption levels, dietary shifts and the consequent environmental degradation. Photoautotrophically grown microalgae are a possible solution to tackle these problems. These microalgae can be grown on non-arable land and fix CO2.
This summer, I had the opportunity to present the first results of my research project DIVERSGRASS at the 30th International Conference of Agricultural Economists in Vancouver, Canada. I used the opportunity to gather knowledge within my research area but also to get insights into new topics and methods.