Center for Food Security launches and awards innovation grants for Purdue student projects in Africa, U.S.

August 27, 2014  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue Center for Global Food Security is awarding more than $21,000 for student-led projects focused on seeking solutions to a range of food security problems locally and abroad.

Winners of the Discovery Park center's Student Innovation Grants initiative will receive the grants to put into action their contributions to the fight against world hunger:

* $10,000 for a project that will provide an adequate supply of water to the people in Endallah, Tanzania.

* $8,479 for an effort to design a multigrain thresher that can be easily manufactured in Africa.

* $3,150 for a Purdue campus food pantry project designed to address food security issues felt by the Purdue community.

The money will be used for costs associated with the design and development of the project, including travel by team members to the project sites. Each project will run for six months, with the goal to use the innovations generated by these initiatives to develop follow-up activities. 

"The Purdue Center for Global Food Security was created with acknowledgment of the growing urgency of the global food security agenda and the capacity and legacy of faculty and students at our university to discover and deliver technologies in agriculture, engineering, and food systems globally," said Gary Burniske, managing director of the Purdue Center for Global Food Security. "Through these student-led projects, the goal is to advance innovative technologies that will lead to lasting solutions addressing food security problems."

The initiative brings together undergraduate students to work in teams for developing technologies or programs aimed at addressing food security problems for communities in developing countries or a technology or program supporting the needy within Indiana.

The technologies can range from design of devices and development of products, mobile technologies, or data management systems, to improved communication systems for communities.

Marisa Henry, who is studying environmental and ecological engineering, and five other students spearheaded the project, which will use the $10,000 grant to focus on providing an adequate supply of water for drinking, developing agriculture and raising livestock in Endallah, Tanzania. The team is working in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology.

Purdue civil engineering professor Venkatesh Merwade served as the adviser for the multidisciplinary effort, which involved students in anthropology, agricultural and biological engineering, environmental and ecological engineering, industrial engineering, engineering education and civil engineering.

Mechanical engineering student Julia Feldman and three other students are leading the initiative that received $8,479 for developing a multigrain thresher, which has the potential to reduce losses, increase profits and lower labor requirements for African farmers.

The team, involving mechanical engineering, entomology, and agricultural and biological engineering students, will visit West Africa to collect information from African farmers that will be critical to the development of the technology. John Lumkes, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue, served as the project adviser.

Winning the $3,150 local grant, health and human sciences student John Baier and his team are looking to establish the Purdue University Food Pantry, which will address food insecurity felt by Purdue students, particularly those living off campus, as well as needy faculty and staff members.

"We are basically using that as a needs assessment to see where we really rank," Baier said. "Is there a problem with poverty at Purdue? We want to do this to find out."

The proposed food pantry will provide healthy and nutritious food for up to 200 people or more biweekly. Modeled after programs in Indiana and Oregon, the Purdue Food Pantry will affiliate with Lafayette Food Finders. Students who worked on the project represent engineering and health and human sciences. Melissa Gruver, assistant dean of students, is the adviser.

Led by distinguished Purdue professor Gebisa Ejeta, the Center for Global Food Security was launched in the university's Discovery Park in 2010 to take up one of the world's most pressing challenges: getting enough food to people who need it the most today and producing enough to meet even greater future demands. 

Writers: Anna Schultz, 812-447-5229,

Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,     

Source: Gary Burniske, 765-494-0941,

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