Exploring the unknown territory of big data in the food and agricultural landscape

25 November 2019 by Melissa van der Merwe

The 2nd African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) conference was held in Nairobi from 18-20 November. This biennial event brings together the brightest minds from across Africa to foster dialogue on key development issues and how it can be addressed - in Africa for Africa.  This years’ theme explored the role of African universities in the fourth industrial revolution.

During the conference participants were exposed to the future challenges of teaching, learning and research in the fourth industrial revolution and had the opportunity to rub shoulders with a number of influential colleagues at other local, regional and international universities. The multifaceted and multidisciplinary nature of the conference made for interesting discussions from different vantage points that allowed critically exploring innovative solutions to address the big developmental challenges facing the globe.

In terms of food security challenges specifically, Prof Hettie Schönfeldt (Director of the ARUA Centre of Excellence for Food Security) hosted a workshop on digitalization and food security. Dr Marlene Louw, Dr Melissa van der Merwe (lecturers in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development) and Mrs Marion Delport (data scientist at BFAP) highlighted their views on Big Data and Food Security and shared exciting initiatives that they are working on in this regard.

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to Prof Hettie Schönfeldt for the invitation to participate in the ARUA conference, and for the financial support she provided through the National Research Foundation. We return to UP with new teaching ideas and we are excited to explore new frontiers in food security research as a result of possibilities in the digital space

                                                                           ~Marlene Louw, Melissa vd Merwe and Marion Delport

Dr Louw, Prof Schonfeldt, Mrs Delport and Dr van der Merwe