Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Free online course on Improving Food Production with Agricultural Technology and Plant Biotechnology

The course looks at how wheat can
be improved to increase quality and yield,
helping to feed more people
Image: Polina Rytova on Unsplash
Last month we featured a guest blogpost introducing the work of the Gatsby Plant Science Education Programme (GPSEP) and their annual Summer School. Now Emma is back to tell us about another initiative from GPSEP: a free online course aimed at young plant scientists. 

Over to Emma:

"Another exciting project GPSEP are working on is a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) hosted on FutureLearn – a free, interactive learning platform which features short courses on hundreds of different topics for learners around the world.

The course, called Improving Food Production with Agricultural Technology and Plant Biotechnology, is designed for 16 to 19 year olds but open to anyone interested in food production. It aims to educate and inspire young people about how science and technology are being used to revolutionise plant-based food. The course will cover three main topics: plant biotechnology, agricultural technology and applied food science.

A John Deere tractor featuring
wireless technology, one example
of innovative technology
featured  in the course
Image: John Deere
GPSEP received funding from EIT Food to lead the development of the course, and are working alongside the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and the Spanish National Research Council (experts in food science), John Deere (manufacturers of agricultural technology), Koppert Biological Systems (specialists in biological control) and Herbsteith & Fox (producers of pectin). Each partner has provided case studies that show learners how these areas of science and technology present exciting possibilities for further study and careers.

So, what will be covered on the course?  

Learners will be taken on a journey from growing plants to harvesting them to processing them, discovering the innovative technologies used along the way.

The first week introduces the challenges faced by crop farmers and possible solutions offered by plant biotechnology, including a fascinating case study on how genetics could be used to improve wheat yields. Learners will discover alternatives to plant biotechnology, such as biological control, with an example of bumblebees used to pollinate tomato plants.

What processes do crops go through
before they end up in the supermarket?
Students will find out on the course.
Image: Marco Antonio Victorino
on Unsplash


 
The second week moves from growing plants to harvesting them, with a focus on agricultural technology. Learners will experience the history of agriculture through an interactive game. They’ll learn about current technologies, including a machine that uses artificial intelligence for weed control, and technologies of the future: how long before we see robots working in fields?

Week three explores what happens to plant-based food before it appears on supermarket shelves. What processes do crops undergo to improve their nutritional value and make them safer to eat? Learners will also discover how by-products of the food industry can be transformed into new products, such as citrus peel being used to make pectin.

Featuring videos, interviews with experts, quizzes and opportunities to discuss and debate topics with other learners, the course presents an exciting new way to learn science.

The course begins on 30th September and will run for three weeks, but learners can enroll any time until the end of November and follow the course in their own time.

Interested in signing up, or recommending the course to a young aspiring scientist? You can find more information and enroll on the course here". 

Many thanks to Emma for telling us about this free course - please do forward the link to anyone you think might be interested! 

Emma will be back again next month to tell us about yet another aspect of GPSEP's work - watch this space! 

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