2017 Doctoral Training Partnership Week

The fourth and final Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) Week took place from 13 to 15 December 2017 at the Crops For the Future (CFF) headquarters. The theme this year was 'Towards Secure Foods: Research Committed to Real-World Impact.'

The CFF – University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) DTP programme is an integrated 39 months programme that provides PhD/MRes students with training in the research and development of underutilised crops for future agriculture.

DTP Week serves as a platform for postgraduate students to share compelling research that spans diverse disciplines. This year’s event consisted of three main activities including: scientific sessions, coaching sessions and a pitching session, where students were required to design a sustainable approach for addressing the challenges of food and nutrition security in drylands. 
Day 1 focussed on sustainable systems and robust, nutritious foods. Our first guest speaker was Mark Wong, Head of Downstream Sustainability at Sime Darby Plantation Berhad. Mark highlighted diverse programmes that develop and support sustainable practices in agriculture, and contribute to positive environmental, social and economic impacts. 

Our second guest speaker of the day was Professor Satriyas Ilyas who is Head of the Division of Seed Science and Technology at Bogor Agricultural University. Prof. Satriyas emphasised the need for crop improvement of bambara groundnut through breeding, improving seed quality and cultivation practices. Prof. Satriyas also highlighted briefly on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture project, which CFF is leading, on the “Genetic and trait characterisation of farmer and genebank sources of bambara groundnut for the development of drought tolerant lines in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.”

This was followed by presentations on student research pertaining to the topic of sustainable systems and robust foods. 
Day 2 featured our DTP alumni sharing session with Dr Isah Yakub and Bhavya Dhanaraj, who shared their research during their time as a DTP student, and their experiences following it. The panel session continued with a core theme and aspect of food security, which is nutritional foods. This session explored student research on viability of crops, and different methods for improving nutritious food and food components that can sustain health and well-being. 

In the afternoon, CFF’s own Ayman Salama (CropBASE Senior Applications Architect) presented on big data in agriculture. He outlined the power of big data in research and development for sustainable agricultural systems. 

Day 3 involved a two-hour trip to Rawang, Selangor where the students had the opportunity to visit Selangor Fruit Valley to explore agripreneurial activities. They had the chance to taste ‘pandan coconut’ and also kelulut honey – made from the stingless bee. This also provided students with the opportunity to work on their pitch.
Professor Claire O'Malley receives a token of appreciation from Professor Sayed Azam-Ali
Day 4 marked the final day of DTP Week and kicked off with the pitching session. This followed with a presentation by Dr Tafadzwanashe Mabhaudi, who is a Senior Research Fellow based at the University of KawZulu-Natal’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences in South Africa, on mainstreaming underutilised crops. He emphasised the need of having champions for underutilised crops and agricultural diversification – and looked no further to the young and driven postgraduate students in the room to be the agents of change.

Professor Sayed Azam-Ali (Chief Executive Officer of CFF) delivered his closing remarks, followed by Professor Claire O’Malley (Vice Provost of Research and Knowledge Exchange at UNMC) who then proceeded with announcing the winner of the DTP Week pitching session. 
Winner: Group 3 (Isabelle Leong, Kumbirai Mateva and Wan Somarny Wan Md Zain)

Their pitch was on increasing the production of bambara groundnut through genetic improvement, and engaging with multiple stakeholders such as government, seed companies, banks, and extension staff for training farmers.