New website to MAKE agriculture research engaging

The faculty of agricultural and food sciences launched a new website to share research from faculty and their collaborators on Oct. 7.

The site, called the Manitoba Agriculture and Food Knowledge Exchange (MAKE), is a resource for people in the agricultural industry and general consumers to help explain some of the current research coming out of the U of M.

Annemieke Farenhorst, the faculty’s associate dean of research and a professor in soil science, said the idea for MAKE came up when she first took on the associate dean position.

“I suddenly was present in meetings much more,” she said.

“And so I would be in meetings with other professors and stakeholders and I started to learn about all the great research that we actually do in our faculty.

“I always had some sort of idea what people were working on, but […] a new world opened up. You start to realize how diverse we are in terms of our research topics, and then also we started to realize what kind of positive impact the research has or could have on society.”

Some of the research topics currently highlighted on the site include food safety and nutrition, crop breeding, animal care, environmental health and sustainability.

In addition to standard articles, the MAKE site also features podcasts to discuss advanced science with experts in a more accessible way for layman audiences than traditional academic outlets.

“When you are a professor, usually one of your activities is to publish, particularly with your students,” Farenhorst said.

“But really, what we publish is written for a very selective group of scientists that are in the field,” she added.

“I think we don’t talk to the general public well enough, and so that’s really also the intention of this MAKE site — we talk about things that are relevant for the general public, and also in a way that everyone can relate to.”

Upcoming plans for the site include downloadable recipes thematically linked to current research activities, a series of infographics to explain research visually and more podcasts and articles.

While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means the website will be particularly useful for helping spread knowledge of the faculty’s research, it was not a consideration in the site’s creation.

“This is something that we thought was necessary regardless of the time we are living in now, and it’s something that we have been thinking about before [COVID-19] emerged in our daily lives,” Farenhorst said.

She also mentioned the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre, a working farm located just south of Winnipeg at the U of M’s Glenlea Research Station, as another option for people interested in learning more about agriculture and food science. The centre has begun to feature virtual events and learning opportunities to compensate for limited opening hours. It reopened to the public in July and does educational outreach activities for the local community.

Though the MAKE site is new, the faculty is eager to share its work with the public.

“If people do check out the site, come back again, because we are planning to add more content on a regular basis,” Farenhorst said.

“This is just the start. We’re all very excited about this.”