Auburn Speaks
Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development

The Future of the Food System

Written by Bill Batchelor

The emergence of the modern food system around the turn of the 20th century was critical in the massive urbanization of people and the tremendous expansion of economic activity that would soon follow. Prior to that time, most people lived in rural areas and worked in food production. A large proportion of the U.S. population was required to produce the food we consumed. But as scientific and engineering advancements in agriculture led to more efficient food production, labor was freed up to develop and work in companies producing a vast array of goods and services around the world. As a result, in developed countries today, less than 7 percent of the population is needed to produce food for the remaining 93 percent – an amazing tribute to our modern food system.

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Tracing Food History

Written by Bill Hardgrave

Auto-Identification Technology Could Revolutionize Food Safety

Imagine pointing your smart phone at a head of lettuce in the grocery store and having the phone tell you what farm the lettuce came from and that the produce arrived in the grocery store three days ago. What if your phone could even tell you what temperatures the lettuce was exposed to in transit?

Would you pay extra for that lettuce? You bet I would.

This scenario might sound like science fiction, but the technology already exists. It’s called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), the technology already used by some retailers for inventory control. One employee is able to wave a handheld device, reading the RFID tags on thousands of items and updating the inventory in a few minutes. Or fixed readers located on either side of a dock door can do the same job without human intervention.

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From School Food to Food Business:

Written by Karen Hunley

Food Science Researcher Has a Lot on Her Plate

Dr. Jean Weese says she never thought she would have three college degrees and a plethora of highly regarded research and outreach experience under her belt. In fact, as a teenager, she might have laughed if someone said she would someday have a Ph.D. in food science.

Growing up on a Kentucky farm, Weese says she had always been interested in food, but she was also from a low-literacy community, and neither of her parents graduated from high school. She says she didn’t think college was an option, but her father valued education a great deal and was adamant that she reach her full potential.

“I knew about food. Everything we ate, we grew, and we learned about slaughtering,” Weese says. “It was all very interesting to me even at that time, not realizing that it would be my career.”

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Profile in Success: The Underwood Family

Auburn University’s Positive Impact on the Pecan Industry

One measure of a land-grant university’s success is the impact it has on people throughout its state. The Underwoods, from Baldwin County, Alabama, are leaders in the pecan industry and credit Auburn for significant contributions to their success.

Gary Underwood grew up in a pecan orchard near Foley, helping his parents, Vaughn and Marcline, take care of the family pecan orchard, a task he continues today. Later he gained experience in the pecan nursery business while working with his uncle, Bill Underwood. Today, Gary and his wife, Billie Jo, are a farm family living in Summerdale and are extensively involved with the pecan industry. They have their own pecan orchard and a pecan and fruit nursery business. They assist with the family retail marketing of pecans. Billie Jo, a certified public accountant, helps with the business management. Sister-in-law Amanda Underwood runs the retail side of the business. Gary Underwood is a national leader in the industry.

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Outdoor Classroom

Written by Sean Forbes

Outdoor Classroom Project Offers Agriculture Education and Service Learning

Building upon the history of Alabama agriculture to sustain its citizens, the Outdoor Classroom Project establishes infrastructure and instructional support to simultaneously address local needs for school improvement via service-learning efforts in public schools gardens.

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