Michigan 4-H’ers win Ag Innovators Experience Video Challenge

Michigan 4-H’ers win Ag Innovators Experience Video Challenge

What would you do if you knew the globe’s supply of food could potentially run out in 40 years? That’s the question posed to Michigan youth during the Ag Innovators Experience this past May.

With the world population expected to grow by 2 billion in the next 40 years, food production will need to increase greatly. It is up to the future generations of farmers, scientists and other professionals to become leading ag innovators to tackle this challenge. The 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, sponsored by the National 4-H Council and Monsanto, involves 10,000 youth in states with a strong agricultural industry and background, and helps them learn and develop skills necessary to feed the world’s growing population.  

With support from a $15,000 grant, Michigan 4-H members took on the “Fish Farm Challenge” activity to gain awareness for this global initiative by engineering a food-distribution system that evenly dispensed soy-based fish food for a tilapia farm. The challenge was administered in eight states across the country – Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin.

In addition to the more than 8,000 youth in urban, suburban and rural areas all over the Midwest who participated in engineering a system, some youth also worked on videos demonstrating their ideas to be shared throughout their communities. The video challenge component allowed youth to address food shortage as a major issue and explain why it is personally important to them.

“I believe that if we battle world hunger, other conflicts can be resolved. We can be one step closer to world peace and happiness,” said Gary Payne, Michigan 4-H member and Ag Innovator Experience participant.

Gary and Corbin Nelson, members of the Vista Maria Giving Hope 4-H club in Wayne County, participated in the contest and were awarded a $5,000 cash prize for their 90-second video entry.

“Through participating in activities such as the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, young people like Gary and Corbin are learning the skills necessary to become the ag leaders of tomorrow,” said Adnan Khalil, Vista Maria Giving Hope 4-H club leader.

Grand prizes were awarded for each of the four categories in the contest: rural, urban, suburban and global. Gary and Corbin won the urban category, which had 51 other entries.

 “It’s great to see young people from Wayne County participating in STEM-related [science, technology engineering and mathematics] activities to build their future workforce skills,” said Nick Guthrie, Monsanto direct sales manager.

The 4-H Innovators Experience specifically aims to develop workforce skills in youth through hands-on experience and activities. By creating challenges and contests, this program allows youth to explore the field of agriculture and develop creative solutions to global issues, benefitting both the youth and tomorrow’s world.

“There are a lot of homeless and hungry out there. I would like to build a type of food-topia, probably somewhere in a park where the whole community can come out here and join in,” Nelson added.

The video by Gary and Corbin displays how youth can be an essential part in the solution to feeding a growing global population by enacting teamwork, communication, agricultural innovation and science skills.

“We’re trying to eliminate world hunger starting with our community,” Gary said.

The $5,000 cash prize will be shared between the youth and Vista Maria, a nonprofit agency that provides inventive education, treatment and care to at-risk youth. The funds appointed to Vista Maria will support the Vista Maria Giving Hope 4-H Club.

Watch the winning video by Corbin and Gary and learn more about the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience to get involved and make a difference. The 2015 4-H Ag Innovators Experience activity will help youth learn about water in the United States and around the world, explore the water footprint of common food products, and make the connection between water use, environmental sustainability and food security.