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International Congress addresses global challenges of postharvest loss

URBANA, IL -- The best and the brightest minds from around the world came together this month at the First International Congress on Postharvest Loss Prevention in Rome, Italy. More than 260 people from 62 countries attended the congress, where experts from the fields of technology, research, education, and outreach met with representatives from government, private industry, and international and nongovernmental organizations to discuss postharvest loss (PHL) reduction. The Congress was co-organized by the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss (ADMI) at the University of Illinois, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

"This congress was our first-ever attempt to bring all the players who really care about postharvest loss reduction to the same table," said Prasanta Kalita, director of ADMI and a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Illinois. "It was a tremendous success. The keynote speakers, the formal presentations, and the informal discussions gave us a clear understanding of global postharvest loss issues and how we can address them to help mitigate global hunger. I think we also saw a new level of communication develop among scientists, governmental policy makers, industry, and philanthropic organizations."

Speakers from Illinois at the opening session included Kalita; President Emeritus Robert Easter; Pradeep Khanna, associate chancellor for corporate and international relations; and Robert Hauser, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson welcomed the audience with a video message.

More than 30 Illinois faculty and staff members attended the congress, along with eight students from the College of ACES. The students were funded by generous gifts from the Illinois Campus Honors Program, ADMI, the ACES Office of Academic Programs, and the ACES Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

Other distinguished speakers at the opening session included Joseph Taets, president of ADM Agricultural Services business unit and president, Europe; Daniel Gustafson, deputy director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations; Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation; and Ertharin Cousin, executive director of World Food Programme. Other noteworthy speakers included C.D. Glin from the Rockefeller Foundation, Mark von Pentz with Deere and Company, Charlene McKoin from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Michael Scuse, USDA. Sessions at the congress covered topics such as PHL status, assessment methods and metrics of PHL measurement, intervention strategies for PHL mitigation, and case studies in PHL prevention.

ACES Dean Robert Hauser said, "This congress established the university, the College of ACES, and ADMI as leaders in the area of postharvest loss prevention. I was proud to be associated with it."

Top-level sponsors included the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Deere and Company, the College of ACES at the University of Illinois, the SaveFood initiative, and USAID Feed the Future.