The regional and global impact of the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) can be measured in several ways. One of which is by the success of their partnership with the Federal University of Viscosa (UFV), Brazil. For years, the relationship has produced research collaborations, student exchanges, and has enriched the educational and cultural experiences of students from Iowa and Brazil. In May, a team of six ABE faculty and staff traveled to Brazil to renew and strengthen the umbrella agreement with UFV, as well as visit another partner university, Federal University of Campina Grande.
During the trip, the ABE faculty and staff visited university facilities, met with key UFV faculty members, and toured sites in the region. One of these included a coffee farm, which opened talks to identify areas of common collaboration and research.
“We mechanized the harvest of corn and soybeans a long time ago,” said Brian Steward, professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering. “But there is demand to design machinery for other crops, like coffee beans.”
It was from Steward’s trip to Brazil for a conference over ten years ago that the UFV partnership began to coalesce. Brazil has become a very big player in the global marketplace, particularly in agriculture. In recent years, Brazil has grown to be a major producer in corn and soybeans. The country is widely considered as a competitive and emerging market. With the demand for innovative and developing technologies, the Federal University of Viscosa, Brazil was an obvious choice for ABE to partner with and develop a student exchange program.
Through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Engineering study aboard offices, Iowa State University students are given the choice of short-term travel programs as well as longer exchange programs to Brazil. And the ABE department has played host to some excellent Brazilian students who have come to Iowa. Through their research collaboration with faculty, several have gone on to pursue advanced degrees through Iowa State University.
“From these experiences, the students are able to see a much broader picture of what it means to be agricultural engineers,” Steward said. “Over the years this has been a very successful collaboration which we hope to continue to build on.”
With the renewed ABE and UFV partnership, faculty, staff, and students can look forward to many more opportunities to learn and collaborate with the sister university. And by gaining a foothold in the Brazilian market, ABE graduates stand to be key players in the cutting edge global agriculture engineering market. Already, several ABE alumni and an external advisory council member work from Brazil-based offices.
“Our students need to have an understanding of other cultures. We are part of a global market, and if students want to go far in their careers, they can’t only design products and systems for Iowa,” said Steve Mickelson, department chair. “We want to produce competitive and culturally adaptable graduates.”