Student Innovation Grants

The deans of each of Purdue’s nine colleges contributed modest funds to PCGFS to stimulate undergraduate involvement in multidisciplinary research on food security. PCGFS invited undergraduates to form teams and, under the guidance of a faculty advisor, submit proposals that use innovation and technology to address food insecurity in developing countries or in Indiana.

The student teams partnered with other student organizations in host countries or locally. They focused on disruptive technologies that lead to lasting solutions in addressing a key bottleneck at any point in the food system value chain — production, transport, storage, processing, marketing, distribution, or utilization of nutritious foods in support of marginalized populations. PCGFS awarded three competitive grants, two international and one local.

Multi-grain Thresher Project, Cameroon, $8,479

Julia Feldman (student leader), John Lumkes (advisor)
Team: Allison Cargill, Colton Gann, Michaeleen Metzner

As the primary source of income for approximately 65 percent of Africa’s population, agriculture is critical to the economy. Threshing, the process that separates grains from the rest of the plant, needs improvement. Current methods for threshing crops such as maize and cowpeas are laborintensive and can damage or contaminate them.

This team proposed developing a thresher by working directly with local institutions and individuals to develop design criteria and constraints that reflect the needs of small-scale farmers. By traveling to West Africa, the students were able to meet with local farmers to observe their current threshing practices, crop-processing methods, and how local culture plays a role in agricultural processing.

The students obtained samples of dried maize from local farmers and measured the average diameter and length of a typical cob. They shelled a large quantity of dried ears to try the different techniques local farmers used, summarized the different methods, and logged the average time to thresh an ear of corn for each method.

Farmers are open to working with equipment, but cost is an issue. The prototype the students designed cost more than the farmers were willing to pay; they wanted individual threshers that were hand-powered and cost less than $25. More research is underway toward a more costeffective thresher.

Development of Design Criteria and Options for a Sand Dam and Water Filtration System in Collaboration with Rural Communities in Tanzania, $10,260

Marisa Henry (student leader) Venkatesh Merwade (advisor)
Team: Garrett Quathamer, Grace Baldwin, Jordan Ross, Shanygne Ashley Damayo

In the village of Endallah, sporadic, seasonal rainfall patterns, high rates of evaporation, and inadequate waterharvesting methods intensify water shortage concerns, threatening crop yields and livestock. Making more water available to the community could improve agricultural yields and crop diversity, and expand livestock production, increasing food security and decreasing water scarcity concerns for the future.

The grant funded students’ travel to Endallah to collect information to design and implement a water source and water filtration system to improve water quantity and quality. The students partnered with the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Technology and Innovation to conduct a survey on water use.

Twenty-five households (about 3 percent of Endallah’s population) were interviewed using a water-use survey with translation assistance. The students used GPS coordinates to analyze local watersheds and potential waterharvesting improvements.

Endallah’s current water resources include an earthen dam, shallow hand pump, local hydraulic ram pump, several streams and springs, and seasonal rivers that do not provide enough water during the dry season. The team located a newly completed sand dam in a nearby village and established connections between villagers to form partnerships. They found no ideal location for a sand dam in Endallah, but they researched bank-stabilization techniques and other simple, low-maintenance technologies to improve already available water sources.

ACE Student Food Pantry at Purdue University, $3,150

John Baier (student leader), Vanessa Pacheco (advisor)
Team: Kyle Turner, Joseph Sharaya, Nicole Baier, Jessica Peine, Lauren Hibbler

Rates of food insecurity are high and growing in college communities, especially among those living off campus, including graduate students and low-income faculty. A team of concerned Purdue undergraduates partnered with the Lafayette-based Food Finders to use a mobile food pantry to assess the need on our campus. The high number of graduate and undergraduate students who received food from the mobile pantry convinced the team that a permanent pantry was needed.

Their proposal helped establish Purdue’s first permanent, on-campus food pantry to give students a source of healthy and nutritious products to feed themselves and their families. The pantry helps create a lower-stress environment in which students can focus on their studies instead of worrying about their next meal.

The ACE Student Food Pantry receives in-kind food donations from local individuals and businesses in addition to cash contributions. The team also mobilizes undergraduates to canvass the campus and the greater Lafayette area to raise awareness of food insecurity among the student population.

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