GAINESVILLE, Fla. – It doesn’t take long to figure out that James Anderson is not prone to easy platitudes.
The new University of Florida faculty member sees the large, systemic picture with its endless combinations of factors, each with the ability to make a food system succeed or collapse.
He sees the world as a complex and dynamic web of international trade, markets, regulatory institutions, diverse cultures and values, technology, environmental and biophysical interactions.
As the former leader of the global program on fisheries and aquaculture at the World Bank with expertise in food and resource economics, he sees connections everywhere: “When you eat farmed tilapia in Miami it impacts peoples’ lives and habitat in China; when the U.S. uses corn to produce ethanol to run our cars, the price of tacos in Mexico goes up; and when fisheries are depleted in Somalia and their food distribution systems fails, we end up with pirates in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.”
That kind of shades-of-gray thinking made Anderson the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ choice to lead its new food systems research hub.
Additional faculty members hired for the effort are Arie Havelaar, a globally-known expert in the spread of microbial food-borne illness; and Kansas State University professor Karen Garrett, an expert in epidemiology and modeling technology impact on agricultural systems.
The research unit is expected to expand with additional hires who will work alongside existing UF faculty members already engaged in projects that mesh with the group’s goals.
UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources Jack Payne said he’s eager for the team to come together.
“Every member of the UF/IFAS faculty is well aware that our challenge is to find ways to feed the world, sustainably, amid all kinds of tough obstacles,” Payne said. “These new faculty members will help us find new, innovative ways to get there.”
The new hires are a key element of UF Preeminence, the University of Florida’s vision to become an international leader in more than two-dozen focus areas including agriculture, health, computing and education. Anderson, Havelaar and Garrett are joining more than 120 nationally recognized faculty members with expertise in those focus areas who will work to improve lives around the world.
The infusion of high-profile researchers into IFAS’ already-strong research program will better enable UF to tackle world challenges, including a growing population struggling with both starvation and obesity, fewer agricultural producers, the need to produce food using less water, fertilizer, pesticides and antibiotics, and adapt to global climate change.
Anderson, who literally wrote the book on the international seafood trade, began his new assignment Dec. 1. Havelaar began work Nov. 1. Garrett will join the team by spring.
Sources: James Anderson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Arie Havelaar, 352-273-5921, email@example.com
Karen Garrett, 785-532-1370, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Payne, 352-392-1971, email@example.com