2017

Figuring out how to feed the world

Figuring out how to feed the world

Conference will see the brightest in bioscience gather in Winnipeg

Martin CashBy: Martin Cash Winnipeg Free Press
 

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files</p><p>Tracey Maconachie, president of the Life Science Association of Manitoba, is on the organizing committee for the Agricultural Bioscience International Conference, in town Sept. 25-28.</p></p>

 

Tracey Maconachie, president of the Life Science Association of Manitoba, is on the organizing committee for the Agricultural Bioscience International Conference, in town Sept. 25-28.

 

Next month, bioscience, environmental and technology experts from around the world will be in Winnipeg exploring issues no less weighty than finding ways to feed the world.

That is the core rationale for ABIC (Agricultural Bioscience International Conference), whose 17th conference is being held at the RBC Convention Centre from Sept. 25 to 28.

The four-day event will include speakers like Catherine Bertini, a former CEO of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP); Rohit Shukla, an advocate in the venture capital arena of transforming ideas into enterprises that "feed the world, fuel the world and heal the world" and Carlos Saviani, vice-president of the World Wildlife Foundation.

It’s billed as the premier global meeting promoting innovation in bioscience. Industry leaders, policy-makers and researchers from around the world will gather to discuss the latest ideas and technologies in the global bioscience and technology sectors.

The conferences take place under the auspicious of the Saskatoon-based ABIC Foundation. In the past five years conference have been in Calgary and Saskatoon; Melbourne, Australia; Rotorua, New Zealand and Fargo, N.D. Next year Beijing, China will host the event.

Tracey Maconachie, president of the Life Science Association of Manitoba (LSAM) and a member of the conference organizing committee, said in addition to traditional agriscience technologies the Winnipeg event will try to incorporate ideas about how technologies like artificial intelligence are being deployed to enhance food security and food production.

"We wanted to expand the conversation a little," she said. "There has been lots of time spent on talking about crops. We wanted to make sure we represented the animal side of food production as well as sustainability and where big data fits in... They are all things that will be part of the solution of trying to feed the world. We wanted to make sure we had a strong representation from those types of folks."

Wade Barnes, CEO of Winnipeg precision farming company, Farmer’s Edge, will be speaking as well as Wally Trenholm, CEO of Sightline Innovation, an outspoken advocate for more Canadian education and development in machine learning.

Art Froehlich, a Calgary-based farmer and businessman, is vice-chair of the ABIC Foundation. He’s attended all 16 of the conferences, and said registrations range from about 300 to more than 1,000 and each conference organizing committee designs programs most appropriate to their regions.

The 2009 ABIC event in Bangkok was the first in Asia and attracted the largest number of attendees.

"Their focus was on aquaculture rice and fruits," he said. "There have been two ABIC events in Calgary one that focused on the science and one on the business" of promoting the application of agricultural biotechnology to solve global problems and find solutions that benefit everybody.

Maconachie said that among the solutions that are contributing to increasing success in being able to feed the world include how people consume nutrition and making our food more nutritionally dense.

"There always has to be a balance between food production and environmental challenges," she said. "When we get to 2050 (when experts believe global population will peak) we may be able to feed the world but what are the environmental challenges that we may face or what will be the impact on that much crop or animal production on the environment"

Those are the kind of issues that ABIC events seek to address.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

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