Directors of regional horticulture centers gather in Thailand

Three men, smiling, outdoors
Directors of the Horticulture Innovation Lab Regional Centers gathered in Thailand for a planning meeting. From left: Emil VanWyk from AgriSmart Zambia, Poon Kasemsap from Kasetsart University in Thailand, and Julio Lopez from the Panamerican Agricultural School, Zamorano, in Honduras. (Horticulture Innovation Lab photos by Britta Hansen/UC Davis)

Before the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s annual meeting in Cambodia, the directors of our regional centers met up at Kasetsart University, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Our host Poon Kasemsap of Kasetsart University welcomed Julio Lopez from the Panamerican Agricultural School, Zamorano, in Honduras and Emil VanWyk from AgriSmart Zambia (our newest director, of a future center) for two days of site visits and project updates.

Since this was the first chance that our directors have had to visit Kasetsart University and the Horticulture Innovation Lab Regional Center there, we spent the first day touring the lab and field facilities.

Four people stand in a lab looking at produce, talking
Julio Lopez of Zamorano (left) discusses edible wax coating with Apita Bunsiri (right) in the postharvest lab at Kasetsart University.

The postharvest lab at Kasetsart University is designing novel packaging and coatings for fresh-cut and whole fruits and vegetables.

Semi-transparent and transparent small bags sit on a tray with produce inside
These bags are made in part from cassava flour.

We saw bags that help keep produce fresh, made primarily from cassava flour. Apita Bunsiri, a research partner and Kasetsart University faculty member, explained how natural fruit coatings can be made to improve the shelf life of many fruits and vegetables, especially fresh-cut.

Our second stop of the day was to visit with Kasetsart University’s very own D-Lab. Kurt Kornbluth of UC Davis is leading an initiative to extend the UC Davis D-Lab model that teaches students the design process and connects them to real-world design challenges related to energy and agriculture.

The Kastetsart University D-Lab team has modified the UC Davis chimney dryer to make the structure more stable in windy conditions and to help regulate the often high temperatures the dryer can reach.

In front of a sign that reads "D-Lab", man uses machine to open a coconut, other man looks on
Prof. Siwalak Pathaveerat shows us the coconut opener in D-Lab at Kasetsart University.

D-Lab students also created a coconut opener for fresh green coconut water, commonly sold on streets in much of Southeast Asia. The electric opener spins the coconut around while the operator presses the blade into the top revealing the white flesh and cool water.

Following the tour, our center directors met to discuss their current projects and share new ideas that each director has to increase impact. Each center is looking at approaches that will improve their long-term sustainability. We all came away with exciting ideas to bring back to our home institutions.

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