MEET OUR LATEST INNOVATOR FELLOWS
The UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH) is delighted to announce Tawny Scanlan and Antoine Abrieux as the Graduate Innovator Fellows for Fall 2019. Each year, entrepreneurially minded PhD or postdoctoral students are invited to join venture capital partners onsite to gain first-hand experience on what it takes to have a successful startup, then apply that knowledge to develop and de-risk their own potential technology, product or process at UC Davis.
This fall, IIFH is pleased to partner with Food for Thought Worldwide (FTW) Ventures and The Production Board so that candidates can appreciate the innovation potential in food and agriculture, and understand what kind of companies and technologies are investable. Applications for Spring 2020 opportunities are currently under review, with Fall 2020 applications opening in the New Year: https://foodaghealth.solutions
Enhancing Production Efficiency and Sustainability in Aquaculture
As a PhD candidate in animal biology, Tawny Scanlan is concerned for the nutrition and food security challenges facing the international community. The global human population is projected to reach approximately 9.7B by 2050, and she proposes that aquaculture – the production and harvesting of plants and animals in water environments for food – could present an efficient solution for protein production and relieve wild harvesting pressures.
Food for Thought Worldwide (FTW) Ventures is an early-stage venture fund that invests in breakthrough hardware, software and biotech solutions for the massive, worldwide food system. Together with Scanlan, the innovator fellowship will enable FTW to continue exploring ways to feed people better by leveraging responsible science and technology to improve the quality, access and enjoyment of food.
Collaborating with key players in salmonid aquaculture, Scanlan aims to develop a highly effective method for reducing the negative impacts of aquaculture on the environment. Avoiding time-consuming techniques that lead to wasted resources, she will employ reproductive tools that optimize the costs of production, in particular allowing producers to maintain broader genetic diversity with a smaller number of breeding fish and without the use of hormones. Says her supervising professor in veterinary medicine at UC Davis, Dr. Stuart Meyers:
“The potential implications for this technology are massive and would be beneficial to producers, consumers, scientists, IIFH, and the University of California.”
Scanlan gained extensive experience in research, teaching and mentorship leading up to graduate studies in aquaculture, including recent awards for UC Davis business plan and pitch competitions. She was inspired to make a difference through conservation biology, and has pivoted to reproductive biotechnology in order to safeguard salmon and trout for California. She plans to adapt and optimize the technology for application to Atlantic salmon production, the largest salmonid market.
“I’m looking to apply this research to California endangered species and agriculturally important species,” says Scanlan of her conservation efforts. In the long term, she hopes to work in a business environment, applying her research to solve agricultural challenges. She concedes:
“It is clear that a strong foundation in science and an understanding of business is a critical component of that journey.”
Improving Integrated Pest Management Practices with Biotechnology
Antoine Abrieux is an international postdoctoral scholar from France. He strongly believes in the potential of biotechnology to enhance food security and make the world a better place. Dr. Abrieux aims to use his fellowship with The Production Board (TPB) and apply his expertise in integrative biology to develop biopesticides for sustainable crop production in place of conventional insecticides.
Through TPB as a technology incubator and investor aiming to improve the efficiency and economics of global food and agriculture markets, Dr. Abrieux will leverage his extensive knowledge and skills in insect biology, genomics, molecular biology and biotechnology to develop sustainable and environmentally friendly insect management strategies.
“Understanding insects helps us recognize how their presence influences the greater ecosystem and agriculture,” states Dr. Abrieux. The worldwide impact of agricultural pests is estimated at almost one quarter of annual losses (more than $100B market value), amounting to $40B per year in the US alone. Improving integrated pest management practices by translating basic research into applied solutions could result in a competitive biopesticide alternative for growers to reduce economic losses without changing crop varieties or relying on more harmful insecticides.
Dr. Abrieux is interested to address important safety and quality challenges in the food, beverage, biofuel, and pharmaceutical industries. Through collaboration he sees that diversification of biotechnologies has great potential to produce biopesticides that influence insect behavior and physiology instead of controlling through insecticides. Says Dr. Abrieux:
“I am convinced that biotechnologies can have an important and beneficial impact on society, and the likelihood to facilitate progress is considerably increased through collaborative efforts between actors from diverse domains of expertise.”
His fellowship host TPB conducts deep research into fundamental problems in the food and agriculture value chain and identifies opportunities where technology may enable new operating models or improved end products.
“The Production Board Fellowship represents a perfect opportunity for Antoine to advance his understanding of the food security market and current needs, and to develop entrepreneurship ideas that he can take with him to the next stage of his career,” says Professor Joanna Chiu, Dr. Abrieux’s entomology and nematology supervisor at UC Davis.
Growing up in France, Dr. Abrieux lived in rural areas with a wide variety of insect life that he found intriguing. Antoine turned his childfood fascination with insects into a passionate research and photography career, in order to show the world that insects are beautiful in their own unique ways. Check out more of Antoine’s photography and portfolio here.
Interested to explore our graduate innovator fellowship opportunities? Click here for more information.