On Saturday we welcomed some 770 guests to the Biovision Symposium in Zurich. Visitors listened to “Stories from the Laboratory” and were entertained by Stefan Heuss with his fantastical inventions.
In opening the Symposium, Biovision President Hans Rudolf Herren talked about the UN Sustainable Development Goals. He emphasised that although not be easy it was possible to implement Agenda 2030. In conversation with Biovision CEO Andreas Schriber, reference was made not only to Hans Herren’s greatest success – the fight against the cassava mealybug but also the failures. For example, Hans Rudolf Herren expressed his frustration that the ecological method of controlling migratory locusts with a fungus and pheromone had still not been introduced years after it was developed.
However, if we are to tackle urgent problems, we also need new approaches and methods. Someone with that inventive spirit and talent is Stefan Heuss, who wowed the audience with his “gadgets” –See for yourself:
This was followed by a presentation from Dr Segenet Kelemu, Director General of the Biovision partner icipe, the international insect research centre in Kenya. She stressed the importance of the institute given that “1 million of the 1.4 million species in the world are insects”. One such insect currently being researched by icipe is the tsetse fly that transmits the deadly sleeping sickness. icipe has discovered that the smell from wild animals, particularly the waterbuck, deters the tsetse fly. Scientists have now isolated the relevant aromas and packed them into a mobile dispenser that cows simply wear around their neck. Icipe is currently working on an affordable prototype of the dispenser and is looking for investors so that it can spread the method more widely.
Next on stage was, Su Kahumbu, the developer of iCow, an app that uses SMS to provide information to farmers. In her work as an adviser on the Biovision Farmer Communication Programme, she is increasingly using mobile technology to make information available to farmers at any time of the day or night. In 2010, she developed the extremely successful iCow app. Farmers whose cows had previously yielded 6 litres of milk are now achieving 9 litres thanks to the tips on iCow. They have increased their monthly income by 6000 Shillings (about 60 Swiss Francs).
During the break, the more adventurous visitors tasted some of the insects. Many used the opportunity to talk in person to members of the Biovision Team at the information and project stands.
The topic for the second part of the Symposium was: “How can we achieve a world without hunger?” Moderated by Nathalie Christen (SRF) the panel consisting of Dr Segenet Kelemu, Professor Dr Achim Walter (ETH agricultural scientist), Su Kahumbu und Dr Hans R. Herren talked about possible solutions. The main highlights of the podium discussion can be viewed on our video.