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The Wageningen ACT

A few weeks ago we let you know that we had embarked on several student projects. Two of these were with the University of Wageningen as part of the plant science masters students’ Academic Consultancy Training (ACT) “Society Based Education” programme. The ACT is a mandatory course at Wageningen (NL) and provides students with the opportunity to work on real world problems and to work with external institutions, usually in the private sector.

 

We asked the «tomato » group to undertake an economic analysis of the adoption of smart farm technologies by tomato growers in The Netherlands. This required the students to move out of their comfort zone (the lab) and into the realm of survey questionnaire design.

 

Our “potato” group also had to design a survey to find out about the economic impact of potato late blight in The Netherlands. The results were interesting, but far more interesting was the experience that the students gained from the process. None of the 13 students had ever designed a survey before or had felt the disappointment of having a low response rate.

 

Failing forwards

We were not discouraged by this, but rather sought to understand with the students why there was a low response. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we discovered that growers are reluctant to discuss how much pesticide they apply to their crops. The questionnaires had also been sent out in the spring, which of course is the busy season for any grower.

 

Our experience working with the students was on the whole very positive. Thanks to their work we gained useful insight into farmers’ experiences of potato blight and confirmed what we thought we knew about the tomato horticulture business. What we really learned is how to work with student groups, how to manage our time and theirs to be effective. Also, how we need to be on the one hand precise in what we ask for, but on the other hand flexible enough to work within the limits of time and practicability. We wish them all the very best going forwards.

 

Student testimonials

‘It was a great opportunity to work with kind people and to know more about plant electrophysiology’.

 

“Attending the ACT project regarding modern early stress detection from Vivent SA helped me to update myknowledge about tomato production. Additionally, this chance also greatly inspired me to apply what I have learnt from WUR in the real world to not only assist the agricultural market, but also how to earn a living”.

 

“Great opportunity to experience science put into practice”

 

“I found that working on this project provided me with many useful skills for my future career!”

 

“I enjoyed working on this project and it has been the most educational course I have had so far. This is because you actually get to learn what it is like to work in the real world and not (just) study behind your books in the library”.

 

Related article: https://www.phytlsigns.com/vivents-research-community-grows-even-during-the-pandemic/

And our interview with Sifted on working with students and finding talent https://sifted.eu/articles/sustainability-startups-talent/

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