Sustainability and Food Security; PhD Student Joshua Joyce is off to the Youth Ag Summit

PhD student Joshua Joyce is off to Brasilia for the Youth Ag Summit this week, we caught up with him before he boarded his flight to find out what it was all about.

“The Youth Ag Summit brings together the next generation of people who will make a difference to the future of agriculture.

This will be the fourth summit (they take place biannually) which will bring people together to establish connections, provide training and act as an idea incubator. In doing so, the summit will promote and support ideas that will help continue to tackle one of humanity’s most pressing problems; how to feed a hungry planet.

The Youth Ag Summit is tightly aligned with the UNs sustainable development goals that aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Heavily featuring in these goals is the need to achieve ‘Zero Hunger’ and end malnutrition, culminating in everyone at the summit pledging to do ‘three little things’ that will play a part in improving food security.

To that end, in order to attend the summit, you have to submit an idea for a project which addresses food security.

I have always been passionate about the sustainability and wellbeing of the planet and people, especially how we can promote food security. This led me to plant science along with the Gatsby Plant Science Summer School 2016 and helped to open my eyes to the potential of the plant sciences in tackling many of the global challenges we currently face. Naturally then, when I found out about the Youth Ag Summit, I was really keen to apply.

The idea I submitted was based on an education programme with a scientific take on food production including everything from plant science research and agriculture to food consumption and disposal with elements of a circular economy. I have already begun trialling such a programme with talks on plant science in a couple of local schools.

I remember getting the email to say that my idea and application had been selected. I saw it pop up one Friday evening in the pub after a long week in the lab. Reading that email was a great start to the weekend and obviously a delightful bit of news to receive on a Friday evening in the bar.

At the John Innes Centre, I explore the molecular events that take place at the interface of aphid pests and plants. Here, a battle plays out which sees plants try to launch an effective defence response to fend off the aphids whilst aphids try to inhibit this process and colonise the plant. In particular, I use microscopy, molecular biology and investigate aphid colonisation ability to see how this interaction is playing out. As aphids are an increasing threat to agriculture, understanding how they interact with plants is a research area growing in importance.

I love my research and enjoy exploring these intricate aphid-plant interactions. However, I really look forward to the much more applied opportunities that come with attending the Youth Ag Summit which will contributes to food security in more direct ways – i.e. the formation of projects/businesses.

This summit will also help give new perspectives on global challenges by providing a forum to voice opinions and experiences gained from diverse backgrounds (industry professionals, entrepreneurs, scientists, government officials, small hold farmers). I think without this, it’s difficult to fully appreciate the challenges that face communities across the world and the global community. I hope that by experiencing this, my research and ideas will be better informed.

In addition, I do get to go to Brazil which is very exciting and a great chance to explore a new part of the world…

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