“The research community and academia realize it must focus their research efforts to projects which offer more direct customer or end- user benefit,” Goldsmith points out. “Partnering more closely with private industry and cultivating new relationships with the international community is vital to bringing new innovations and opportunities to market.”
Monitor, measure and market
While Goldsmith’s words may cause some dyed-in-the-wool academic researchers to want to leap from their Ivory Towers in horror, the approach makes perfect sense in today’s challenging economic times.
Ever-dwindling funds from state and federal sources are pressuring universities to find new funding sources, and private industries — who feel pressures of their own to gain and maintain their edge in a highly competitive business environment — represent a willing, financially supporting and highly motivated partner to bring innovation to the market. Grower groups, producer checkoff organizations and government agencies also represent a substantial co-operator base.
When listening to the oral presentations and reading the various technical posters adorning the outskirts of the exhibit/break area, one could tell that many of the research efforts on display engaged a “three M” approach — monitor, measure and market — to bringing value-added, end-user oriented outcomes.
For example, Dr. Leland McKinney of the Department of Grain Science and Industry at Kansas State University presented a new grain quality marketing tool for the U.S. hard red winter wheat market, which essentially monitors and reports the progress and quality of the hard red winter wheat harvest as it progresses northward, all in “near” real time.
The benefits are obvious as customers looking to source wheat containing specific protein and test weight attributes, can locate and spec that wheat well in advance of traditional buying intervals.
Another presentation addressed one of the major concerns facing our industry — traceability. Iowa Iowa State University is working on designing a traceability systems database model to track not only inbound and outbound grain movements but, unlike many systems, the model would also track grain bin histories and record internal grain movements at the elevator.
The goal of this research is to answer food safety-related questions often asked by domestic and international food processing/manufacturing customers such as origin of specific load to elevator, number of loads from different origins present in a bin at a given time, chemical/pesticide histories and origination information for outbound loads to specific customers.
Again, here are two examples of research designed to benefit end users and take into consideration how grain quality is monitored, measured and potentially marketed. And there were countless other examples presented at the Congress, many of which will soon be available by visiting the Congress’ website at www.grainqualitytechnology.org. These projects — like many presented at the Congress — are noteworthy, too, as they included a long list of cooperators representing a variety of industry stakeholder groups, including private industry, producer groups, academia and USDA.
“Quite frankly, the survival of academic research depends largely on our ability to secure funding support from key stakeholder groups,” notes Kansas State’s Maier. “Meeting the global demand for food, feed, fiber and biofuel products depends on the research community’s ability to work in a global laboratory.”
Why it matters
The pressure is on agriculture to meet the needs of a rapidly growing consumer public both in terms of population and prosperity. India and China continue to grow on both of these fronts, and despite efforts to be more self-sufficient, their hunger for grains-based products continues to explode.
During her keynote presentation, Karol Aure-Flynn, executive director, Food & Agribusiness Research Advisor for Rabobank, discussed how global competition is keen not only for raw grain products, but for energy, financing, arable land and key inputs like fertilizer (see chart on page 10). Aure-Flynn’s presentation reinforced the notion that the search for innovative solutions to critical global issues will keep agriculture strong and worthy of investment.