Matthew Gummans: Producing fruit leather

BlueSkiesJuiceBarMore than a billion tons of food are wasted every year around the globe, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization.

Nutritious fresh fruit is prone to being wasted. In Africa, once fruit goes bad it often is fed to goats and cows. In countries where millions of people are hungry and malnourished, this is a waste of precious nutrients and vitamins.

It can be challenging to make a fruit product that has great taste and texture AND can sit on a shelf outside the fridge for a long time.

While working on his masters degree, Matt Gummans obtained a student innovation grant from the Global Center for Food Systems Innovations at Michigan State University to work on making fruit products in Ghana that have a long shelf life.

Listen to what he has to say about that project here.


Mark Devisser: Tsetse Fly Habitats

Tsetse_Fly_Close_UpKenya is home to a pest called the tsetse fly. They can carry and transmit a disease called “sleeping sickness” through their bite. Figuring out where they live is crucial, especially for farmers who spend a lot of time outside.

But tsetse flies cannot swarm a new habitat like other insects do. When they find a suitable place to live, that population of flies is constrained to that area.

Mark Devisser is a doctoral student in the Department of Geography at Michigan State University. His research focuses on the livestock version of the disease, which impacts East Africa’s beef production.

Listen to the podcast here.

Rachel Sparks: Hydroponics


The world population has exceeded 7 billion. How can we find enough space to grow food for that many people? One possible solution is hydroponics. Hydroponics uses water with nutrients to grow plants, instead of soil.

Rachel Sparks wants to figure out how to produce enough crops to support a growing population when there’s not enough fertile land. She thinks hydroponics systems might be part of the answer.

Listen to the podcast here.

Practical Utility Platform Vehicles


Transporting a crop to market can be incredibly challenging in Sub-Saharan Africa. Roads are poorly maintained. Access to a bike, cart, or motorcycle or truck is limited. That leaves the good old-fashioned option of carrying it. Not fun or easy.

Jeremy Robison is a master’s student in the school of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University. He and a fellow student David Wilson are working in Cameroon on a project called the Practical Utility Platform Vehicle, or PUP, seen in this photo. They are also trying to understand how farmers will actually respond to this innovation once it is launched in the community.

Listen to the podcast here.