Situated in South Australia, University of Adelaide students are well-positioned to engage directly with the agriculture industry. Waite PhD Candidates, Sreshtha Malik and Hitasha Singh, are passionate about making the most of this opportunity. As Sreshtha shared, “I think it is important to further and broaden your skillset, by communicating with people across different fields and backgrounds”.
Sreshtha and Hitasha recently collaborated with other graduate students (Conor Barry, Raja Mandava, and YiMing He) to refine and test their idea ‘Drop-Ripe’ at the AgTech Innovation Bootcamp in Renmark – a 2-day immersive workshop where they were able to get “real time feedback from an expert group of industry, AgTech experts, entrepreneurs, and researchers in a supportive and collaborative environment”.
The idea for Drop-Ripe related to a lack of biological approaches to harvesting. With a background in biology and biochemistry, Sreshtha developed a solution of “self-picking fruits using a hormonal formulation”. Working with Dr Tatiana Soares da Costa (Group leader, Antibiotic and Herbicide Discovery, Waite Research Institute), the idea was refined and pitched at the ThincAg Challenge earlier this year. The AgTech Innovation Bootcamp then provided the opportunity to work with a team and mentors to polish a pitch – “simple yet catchy”. At the culmination of the Bootcamp, Drop-Ripe was awarded the AusIndustry Picking Approaches Prize of $1,000. What’s next? The idea is at an early stage, and more research is required. But, if successful, Sreshtha shared that the product could “prove to be an efficient approach of harvesting fruits with the minimum damage possible”.
Their advice for other students interested in exploring ideas for AgTech?
Sreshtha found the ThincAg Challenge and AgTech Bootcamp a great opportunity to learn, with key takeaways including “the importance of constructive feedback in bridging the gap between [product] perception and performance”, as well as the value of listening to other teams presenting in order to understand new concepts and add to her knowledge.
“Such events could prove to be a useful asset in helping young minds to put-forth their ideas openly…the main purpose of such events is not to test your abilities but to polish them”
Sreshtha and Hitasha recommend giving these events a go, even if you don’t feel that you have the expertise. It is a “a good opportunity to meet new people and learn from them” shared Hitasha, with Sreshtha adding “such events could prove to be a useful asset in helping young minds to put-forth their ideas openly…the main purpose of such events is not to test your abilities but to polish them”.
Sreshtha Malik is a PhD Candidate in the Soares da Costa Lab. Her research focuses on the structural and functional characterisation of the proteins involved in biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids in plants.
Hitasha Singh is a PhD Candidate in the Tyerman Lab. Her research focuses on characterising the salt-stress response in grapevines.