The winners of the 2018 Grand Innovation Challenge, Team LiveResilient, will travel to Rio de Janeiro to attend the Thought for Food (TFF) Academy and Global Summit, which begins on July 23.

The TFF Academy and Summit is a week-long event which will bring academics, industry leaders and entrepreneurs from across the globe together to learn about the latest technologies in agriculture and work together to solve major problems concerning world hunger. The academy and summit will feature 36 keynote speakers, master classes and a capstone project.

Team LiveResilient member and Ph.D. student Zahra Mohammed said she is eager to attend the academy and summit because it gives the team a chance to put their project into action.

“It allows our team to share our project with experts around the world and go forward to the next step,” Mohammed said.

Team LiveResilient won the Grand Innovation Challenge in February with the idea they developed to solve world hunger — seeds inoculated with beneficial bacteria that will improve plant tolerance to drought and other diseases. The Grand Innovation Challenge is a team event hosted by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in which graduate and undergraduate students from departments across the university create solutions to challenges created by the college.

According to the Team LiveResilient TFF web page, there are natural microbes in soil which can form symbiotic relationships with plants. LiveResilient has created a “team” of these rhizosphere bacteria to will grow with the plant to increase resilience.

“The microbes support the plant by increasing nutrient acquisition, enhancing water uptake from the soil and attacking pathogens,” the web page said. “Our specially formulated group of microbes can provide farmers with higher yields, even in the face of drought conditions or pathogenic organisms.”

Although Team LiveResilient’s inoculated seeds have the potential to be used by farmers across the globe, they are aiming to begin the project with women farmers in Africa.

In a video pitch for TFF, the team said, “We are focusing on Africa, since it has the highest hunger rates. Africa also has the largest percentage of women in agriculture … The FAO estimates that if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.”

Team member Tessa Ries, Class of 2017, said her inspiration for the project came from personal experiences.

“Growing up on a farm gave me a heart for helping farmers, and drought is a challenge that many farmers around the world face,” Ries said. “When I was in Burkina Faso I met many strong women farmers who were doing their best to feed their families. I will never forget them and this project is something that I know can make a difference in their lives and make a better life for their daughters.”

Ries said she wants people to understand the importance of TFF and projects like theirs.

“It’s more than a competition. It’s a movement all about helping others,” Ries said.

When implemented, Team LiveResilient’s project could play a role in feeding the growing population.

“[I] would like for people to know that our project is unique and is a totally new, innovative project [that] will help to contribute to feeding the world,” Mohammed said.

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