On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we want you to meet some of the inspiring young women of our community who are working in STEM fields in the food and agriculture industries. Women are the primary faces behind our food production, but still too often, they are facing inherent gender bias. So these seven TFFers, are contributing to the advancement of tech-driven progress with their collaborative spirit, (com)passion, and dedication towards more resilient and inclusive food systems.

Lisanne Meulendijks (Vertical Farming, Netherlands)

As a researcher specialized in Vertical Farming I use science to develop and optimize cultivation knowledge for Vertical Farms. Given the strong interaction between the engineering aspects and the plant production in a Vertical Farm, my playing ground is really at the frontier of engineering—and plant science. I love that in my job I’m continuously looking at the interactions between physics and plant biology and this with a very direct application: how can we produce better (healthier) and more food. I’m very excited about how in Vertical Farming, technology and nature come so beautifully together. All this very innovative technology is purely used to get most out of this tiny seed we put into the farm… incredible if you think about that!

Brittany Dahl (GIS, Australia)

Imagine being able to see pictures of the whole world’s surface everyday. What would you look at? What secrets would you uncover? In my job I use programming to capture and investigate data, including tasking satellites to take images of the earth, and to build tools and websites that visualise what was found. This kind of geospatial analysis allows us to study natural disasters and climate change, design cities, model ecological communities, and countless other activities in our world that involve a location. A job in the geospatial industry is a perfect intersection between science, math, art and design, and can apply directly to the food and agricultural industry. I’m excited for the future and democratisation of data because it will enable more disadvantaged and small-scale farmers to start using these tools in their decision making, and will allow for climate-friendly changes in how food and soil are managed from a global scale. 

Brittany is our Oceania TFF Regional Coordinator. Learn more about the team.

Lakshita Aliva Zein (Aquaculture, Indonesia)

I’m working in an industry that is dominated by men. In my job, I connect all the dots across the aquaculture value chain with the help of technology. I also research about and connect with the communities to understand their problems and answer the questions fish-farmers might have. There are a lot of existential challenges in the fisheries world, yet it’s fun to overcome them—this is how I fell in love with my job. The most exciting part of working in STEM for me is finding a technology that can disrupt one of the traditional sectors like agriculture or aquaculture. The first time I heard about the microbubble generator (MBG) applied to aquaculture, I knew that this would be a game changer. The MBG technology we use at Banoo improves the water quality and increases fisheries’ productivity and sustainability. We believe that this kind of technology has the power to create sustainable domino effects for the food system.

Lethícia Magno (Ecophysiology and Modeling, France)

I am currently working on the impact of climate change on agriculture, with experimental (in planta) and modeling (mathematical/ statistical) approaches. My work basically consists of studying the impacts of heat stress on the yield and product quality, as well as the adaptation strategies set up by plants exposed to abiotic stresses. The aim of this work is to develop original modelling concepts to take into account more realistic responses to stress in crop models. What I love most about my work is that it is so multidisciplinary. At the moment I am working with crop models focused on agronomic applications, but the same modeling methodologies can also be used in several different fields, such as in marketing to find out consumers trends or in finance to predict the futures market for a product. It is a job that leaves the doors open to many applications!

Lethicia is our Europe TFF Regional Coordinator. Learn more about the team.

Heather Makufa (Data Analysis, Zimbabwe) 

As an operations specialist, I research and help understand the various challenges that small scale farmers are facing. In order to boost yields, farmers use chemical inputs quite heavily which, if we’re thinking about the chemical residue that will remain on the produce, is a reason for concern. In my job, I am looking for healthier alternatives to what’s already on the market with an aim to increase safety for the farmer, avoid depletion of the farmland, and not forgetting the consumer on whose table the final product ends up on. I’ve realized that the solutions to the problems we are facing in different industries and countries are always multidisciplinary, and so are the factors that cause these problems. In a quest to find solutions for one industry I often find myself face to face with problems in another industry and at times the solutions can be applied elsewhere This interconnectivity and opportunity to 10X your impact is what excites me the most about my job in technology.

Tecila Ferracino (Plant Science, Brazil)

Throughout my career, I had the opportunity to research more sustainable production systems by reusing sugar and ethanol residues of the bioengineering production. I also worked at designing and developing technologies that can increase the productivity of plant production with limited space available. I believe that working in STEM is extremely exciting because we can help make sustainable use of existing resources and provide quality food for anyone in the world. Johanna Dõbereiner is one of the women in science I most admire. Her research program on biological nitrogen fixation in tropical legumes started a revolution in the Brazilian agriculture space. Johanna contributed in big ways and, thanks to her, practically all supply of nitrogen in soybean crop in Brazil today occurs through biological fixation and not through chemical fertilizers.

Marie Brueser (Plant Genetics, Belgium)

I thought a job meant working in an office, at a computer, going to meetings and talking to others on the phone. So when I realised that there is so much more that you can do, I decided to pursue my passion for food security in the lab. I did a PhD in plant genetics and suddenly my day-to-day involved being in the lab, in the greenhouse, in the field and at a computer. At work, I wore lab coats, boots, hairnets and waterproof trousers and not just suits. That flexibility and change of scenery was great. Plus, scientists are at the cutting edge of what’s happening. Anything we work on is brand new and I love that! I have now left the lab and am indeed sitting at my computer all day, but as the Community and Entrepreneurship Lead at TFF I get to combine all the positive things from both worlds. I work with scientists, get to be part of cutting-edge conversations and, instead of just reading science articles, I am also working with brand new startups, that are developing groundbreaking solutions and tackling topics that no-one has before them. I am constantly inspired by our entrepreneurs, their vision and passion to create a better food system and am glad that I now get to help them turn their research into viable businesses!

Feeling inspired to innovate in STEM?

Develop an idea for the global TFF Challenge 2021! Sign-ups open on April 12th.