Over 150 students from Cornell, the U.S. and the world came together at the Cornell Vet School for 36 hours from Friday to Sunday afternoon to modernize one of the world’s oldest industries — agriculture.
By invoking technologies like AI, and innovations in computer science the organizers hope to address the shortages in agriculture predicted to manifest in the next decade.
Although mention of the word “vegan” can bring up disturbing images of proselytizing protestors armed with signs and graphic visuals of animal cruelty, people often overlook the environmental impacts of reducing their consumption of animal products. Prof. David Wolfe, plant science, revealed his insight on the crippling carbon footprint of the meat industry, and what a plant-based diet would entail for the environment. “A lot of the major meat producers in this country are coming from fairly large operations and corporate farms [where] the carbon footprint is quite a bit higher,” Wolfe said. “The animals are all confined in one place — it could be very far away from where the crops are grown and are then transported to feed the animals.”
According to Wolfe, the excessive amounts of fossil fuels utilized in the production and transport of these crops alone have a significant environmental impact. Ruminant animals, like cattle, have the added detriment of methanogens — microbes required for digestion that release methane, a notorious greenhouse gas.
In one instance, new members — who were made to spend the night at the house — were woken up at 5 a.m and made to listen to the same song for four hours. They were required to play “air instruments” and make “repeated hand gestures” to the song, according to the report, which classified these behaviors as hazing.
“Whether Cornell’s agricultural programs contribute research, species hybridization, or innovative sustainable practices, there are endless opportunities for people of all experience levels to get involved.”
Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and its Center for Regional Economic Advancement, in partnership with the New York State government, are launching a food and agriculture business competition — Grow-NY — with the goal of bringing innovative startups to upstate New York food and agricultural industries.
Similar conversations are happening at café tables across New York. The lucrative potential of hemp is bringing people together: “Investors and businesspeople together with the farmers out there getting their hands dirty. [Hemp is] the best opportunity farmers have had in their lifetime. I don’t know of another crop as lucrative.”
On Monday afternoon, Prof. Frank Mitloehner, animal science at the University of California, Davis, discussed the latest research surrounding animal agriculture and its “surprisingly modest” contribution to global greenhouse emissions. Mitloehner pointed at food waste as the largest contributor to environmental damage.
Humanity is facing a difficult challenge: to “feed an estimated global population of 10 billion people by 2050,” states the website for the Cornell Initiative for Digital Agriculture, an initiative that hopes to tackle this challenge through sustainability and digital innovation.