Where’s The Next Breakthrough In Agriculture Coming From?

by | Oct 30, 2023

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Where is the next breakthrough in agriculture coming from? The answer could be from the students who participated in the 2023 Wilbur-Ellis Innovation Award.

This video from the Innovation Award celebration features the winners of a $25,000 grand prize and four $5,000 honorable mention awards, along with the judges who evaluated the teams’ ideas for feeding a growing world, which were featured on Farm Journal’s AgWeb site. In the video, the students talk about how the Innovation Award helped them explore creative solutions to a major global challenge – feeding a population that is expected to grow by 2 billion people over the next 30 years.

“The Innovation Award was launched as part of the company’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2021. In the two years since the program began, 230 students have participated on 60 teams, bringing forward creative ideas to enhance agriculture and food production,” said Wilbur-Ellis President and Chief Executive Officer John Buckley. “Choosing the most innovative ideas from such a great collection is difficult. But this year, one idea was particularly impressive – and that idea came from the Grain Science Team at Kansas State University, which received the Innovation Award’s top prize of $25,000.”

Grand Prize Winner

Grain Science Team at Kansas State University: Increasing Production of Perennial Crops

Headshots of the Grain Science Team at Kansas State University

(L-R) Tucker Graff, Brianna Iorga, Conrad Kabus, Julia Rivera, Jenna Flory

The KSU team made the case that perennial crops require less soil-intensive practices than annual varieties, and outlined how increasing production of perennials could promote soil health, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, water quality, and agricultural systems that can adapt better to climate change.

Four teams received $5,000 Honorable Mention Awards

Retriever Essentials Team

Headshots of the Retriever Essentials Team from the University of Maryland.

(L-R) Ben Bhattarai , Nhi Nguyen, Ariel Barbosa

Tapping the potential of halophytic algae to desalinate salt water.

The Retriever Essentials Team from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, outlined how this innovative approach could increase water supplies for agricultural production in coastal regions facing water scarcity.

Helios Team

Headshots of the Helios Team from University of California, Davis

(L-R) Pranav Ghate, Ismael Mayanja

Using 3D biophysical crop models and Virtual Reality technology to help growers make better informed crop management decisions.

The Helios Team from the University of California, Davis, outlined how greater use of this technology could improve crop productivity, resource efficiency and sustainability. 

Controlled Environtments Club Team

Headshots of the Controlled Environtments Club Team from Iowa State University

(L-R) Meadow Edwards, Sam Burns, Max Smitten, Noah Mack, McKenna Murphy

Expanding production of mushrooms as a high-quality, economical source of protein, fiber and other nutrients.

This idea was explored by the Controlled Environments Club at Iowa State University, which proposed growing mushrooms in highly controlled environments (like container farms), which could be especially beneficial in urban areas where land is limited. 

Entomology Team

Headshots of Entomology Team from Kansas State University

(L-R) Tanner Liba, Rupinder Singh, Sabita Ranabhat, Festus Ajibefun, Hazel Scribner 

Increasing the diversity of pollinators, as well as expanding habitats and resources to help them flourish.

The Kansas State University Entomology Team focused not only on honey bees – which are essential food pollinators, supporting more than 80 crops – but also on other pollinators, including birds, bats and butterflies.  

To learn more about the Innovation Award and keep up with plans for the 2024 program, visit this website at https://www.wilburellis.com/innovation-award/.  
 
Congratulations to all the 2023 Innovation Award winners … your creativity is an inspiration for everyone who cares about the future of agriculture!  

About the Wilbur-Ellis Companies

Wilbur-Ellis logo

Founded in 1921, the Wilbur-Ellis companies are leading marketers, distributors and manufacturers of agricultural products and animal nutrients. By developing strong relationships, making strategic market investments, and capitalizing on new opportunities, the Wilbur-Ellis companies have continued to grow the business with sales of over $3.5 billion. For more information, please visit www.wilburellis.com

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