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The Agriculture Ministry’s Agricultural Research Organization- Volcani Center is to sign a memorandum of understanding with the international World Food Preservation Center LLC on Thursday, with a goal of reducing post-harvest food losses in developing countries.
Based in the United States since 2014, the WFPC is a coalition of 10 research universities on six continents that are working together to build sustainable techniques to combat food loss, particularly in emerging economies. Participating institutions recruit graduate students from such economies, providing them with opportunities to engage in post-harvest research, the partners said.
The institutions are to sign the memorandum of understanding in Tel Aviv at the Agritech International Agricultural Exhibition and Conference, which has been taking place this week.
“We see the partnership of the WFPC with ARO in Israel as a major step forward in our mission of educating young scientists from developing countries in the latest technologies for the post-harvest preservation of food,” said Dr. Charles Wilson, WFPC founder, chairman and CEO.
The WFPC was the brainchild of Wilson, who has been conducting post-harvest food preservation research for the past 35 years at universities and at the US Department of Agriculture.
As part of the agreement, the ARO will work with the WFPC’s sister universities to help pioneer low-cost, sustainable and regionally adapted techniques to preserve food, the partners explained. Some such innovation might include tools like solar refrigeration, biological pest control and intelligent packaging, they added.
Also critical will be the recruitment of qualified students from developing countries interested in studying post-harvest food preservation at the participating institutions, the partners said. For these students, scholarships will be available from the World Food Preservation Education Foundation, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, of which Wilson is president as well.
As far as the Israeli institution is concerned, its associate director for academic affairs and international cooperation, Ada Rafaeli, said that the ARO will be “a worthy contributor” to the WFPC programs.
“ARO hosts over 300 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows through collaborations with most of the universities in Israel,” she said.
As the research arm of the Agriculture Ministry, the ARO covers 70 percent of the agricultural research endeavors taking place in the country, Rafaeli explained.
Wilson stressed the importance of gaining the ARO as a partner, saying the institutions must “attack one of the most intractable problems of our time – world hunger.”
“Current projections suggest that even with improved crop yields, we will not be able to meet the world’s demand for food by 2050,” he said. “The post-harvest expertise and educational capability of the ARO-Volcani Center will be invaluable as we work to confront this challenge.”