University of Minnesota AgCultures Team Heads to South America on Adventure Learning Expedition Investigating the World’s Food Challenges

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How are we feeding the more than 7 billion people on Earth? It's important to know where our food comes from, the diversity and global reach of the agriculture industry and the enormous impacts climate and environment shifts are having on agriculture.

Expedition team leader Aaron Doering notes, “Our goal is to communicate the many stories of agriculture in ways that both raise awareness of the importance of issues like food security, climate change impacts, and technological innovation..."

How are we feeding the more than 7 billion people on Earth? As more and more of the U.S. population is removed from agriculture, it is important to understand where our food comes from, and the diversity and global reach of the agriculture industry. It’s also important to understand the enormous impacts climate and environment shifts are having on agriculture. In a report on global food security, the World Bank notes the world will need to produce 50% more food by 2050, but if climate change continues to worsen, it could potentially cut yields by as much as 25% or more. A University of Minnesota team is tackling these issues, combining inspirational physical adventures with shared educational ones as they investigate the latest technologies, innovations, and challenges in agriculture around the world.

The AgCultures team is headed next to Paraguay and Argentina, countries where some of the largest U.S. agriculture companies do business. Paraguay has the third largest barge and river system in the world. In its Chaco region, sometimes referred to as South America’s last agricultural frontier, it houses the highest ratio of cows to people found anywhere on the planet. Argentina also has a thriving cattle industry, along with being the third largest soybean producer in the world. The team will explore sites ranging from cattle ranches to sunflower plants, from the biggest dairy farm in South America to remote indigenous communities in Paraguay, and small family farms in the grasslands of Argentina. The family farms they’ll be visiting in Argentina are in a region greatly impacted by the death of the railroads, similar to what many rural agricultural communities in the U.S. faced when automobiles became king here.

Expedition team leader Aaron Doering notes, “Our goal is to communicate the many stories of agriculture in ways that both raise awareness of the importance of issues like food security, climate change impacts, and technological innovation, and that inspire young people to get involved helping solve the world’s challenges.”

This is the second AgCultures expedition. The first tackled the mighty Mississippi (https://agcultures.com/fieldstories), following the production and flow of major grains from the Upper Midwest down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Modern technologies, including drones and virtual reality, enable the team to capture the expedition, land, communities, and stories in extraordinary ways, and share their journey online in real time with students, teachers, and the general public. Schools around the world have access to the free online learning environment (https://agcultures.com/) with activities and resources focused on science, technology, geography, and culture. The site includes free collaboration and interaction tools for students, a learning zone for the general public, and a classroom management system for teachers.

Team leader Aaron Doering (see http://chasingseals.com) is an adventure learning pioneer, professor, andworldwide explorer who has dogsledded and pulked throughout the circumpolar Arctic, ranging fromChukotka, Russia, to Fennoscandia, and around the globe to Greenland, Canada, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. He holds a close connection to the land, having grown up on a farm in southern Minnesota, and has a passion for educating others about our planet. Doering is a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the Explorers Club, and the UMN Institute on the Environment. He has been honored with multiple awards and recognitions, including being a laureate of the Tech Awards (http://www.thetech.org/tech-awards-presented-applied-materials ), which pay tribute to individuals using technology to benefit humanity.

Doering will be accompanied on this journey by two fellow adventurers and education professionals, Jeni Henrickson and Matthew Whalen. Jeni Henrickson is the creative director at the LT Media Lab, passionate about education, global collaboration, and getting kids excited about learning and the outdoors. She has participated in three Arctic expeditions, has worked with schools and communities around the globe, and has extensive experience managing logistics, online learning, and relations for adventure learning expeditions worldwide. Matthew Whalen is an experienced videographer with a passion for the outdoors. He has worked with networks and companies such as the Outdoor Channel, Nissan, BMW, Bravo, and NBC Universal, in addition to filming five previous adventure learning expeditions with the LT Media Lab. His production work has taken him and his camera from the subzero temperatures of the Arctic Circle to the rain-drenched forests of the Himalayas and beyond.

“Our global population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050,” says Doering, “It’s important we all understand the stresses this exploding population is putting on our planet, particularly in combination with environmental challenges like climate change, water use, and energy generation. Agriculture is something that touches us all. We want people to understand the challenges facing the agriculture industry in the coming decades, and be part of the solution to those challenges, from making smart food choices to dreaming up innovations that could impact millions of lives.” Join in online at https://agcultures.com/ and follow on Twitter and Instagram (@agcultures) using #farmthefuture and #choose2care.

The AgCultures adventure learning series is a project of the University of Minnesota’s Learning Technologies Media Lab, with funding from the CHS Foundation. The CHS Foundation is funded by charitable gifts from CHS Inc., the nation's leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains, and foods company. As a part of the CHS stewardship focus, the CHS Foundation supports organizations that develop future leaders for agriculture through education and leadership programs. The University of Minnesota’s Learning Technologies Media Lab (LTML) is an innovative design and research center located in the College of Education and Human Development. LTML’s mission is to inspire and create opportunities for global collaboration in addressing humanity's most pressing educational, social, and environmental issues. It is a nonprofit focused on education, educational technology, and education research that has to date designed and developed more than two dozen free online and mobile tools and learning environments in use by over 15 million learners worldwide.

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