A collaboration between the University of Missouri and University of Bologna in Italy led to the first COMPARE: A Symposium to Explore Synergies in Food & Agricultural Systems Studies at the MU College of Engineering in May.
MU and UNIBO signed a memorandum of understanding several years ago and have had an exchange program along with ongoing collaborative discussions in the research realm, while College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources emeritus faculty William Meyers and Tom Johnson have been working with and teaching at UNIBO for several years.
With that in mind, Christine Costello — an assistant professor in MU’s Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department who has done extensive research in this area — and other researchers from Engineering and the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (CAFNR) thought a symposium would be a worthwhile endeavor. The event was scheduled to coincide with a UNIBO faculty visit.
“They’re coming all the way from Italy, so we want to have productive time while we’re here, so the organizing committee decided to host talks from different disciplines and researchers on campus, because we have so much going on with food and ag here,” Costello recalled. “We put together a call for abstracts in February and got a lot of great proposals from a variety of departments.”
The goal of COMPARE was to shine a light on all the ways research in food, agriculture, sustainability and more intertwine in the hopes of sparking new ideas and collaborative avenues. The event kicked off with opening remarks from the organizers, followed by brief presentations by exchange program students Edoardo Desiderio (UNIBO), Stefano Preti (UNIBO), Houston Sudekum (MU) and Hai Nguyen (MU). Faculty and students from MU and UNIBO gave presentations and lightning talks about their current work, followed by breakout sessions and discussion opportunities for researchers.
“I wanted to showcase the huge variety of things that we do, and I’m personally interested in helping people see that these things are connected,” Costello explained.
Areas covered in the presentations included:
- Innovations for Managing the Food-Energy-Water Nexus
- Agricultural and Rural Development: Food and Bioenergy
- Agricultural, Food and Bioenergy Policy
- International Food Systems and Policy Development
- Developments in Managing Food Loss and Waste
- Environmental Impacts of Agriculture: Defining problems, finding solutions
- Identifying and Adapting to Challenges of Climate Change in Agriculture
- Agricultural and Food Systems Education
“It was really interesting to see how everything is linked,” Preti said. “Everything is about everything. We were talking about community gardens, the impact of culture, optimization models.”