On 24 March, postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff from FABI, and an undergraduate class focused on the management of pests, diseases and weeds, had the opportunity to gain from the experience of Roedolf Nieuwenhuis of Cropwatch Africa.

In the morning Roedolf demonstrated the use of the Biosecurity Africa app and online platform for pest and disease surveillance. This platform is used by CropWatch Africa for its pest and disease surveillance for government, industries and research in agriculture and forestry. FABI students and staff are also increasingly using the platform for extension, field work and research data capturing – from PSHB work in cities, to forestry field work, maize disease image capturing to Macadamias – and much more! Apart from the powerful visualization of the data on the Biosecurity Africa app, the information also streams directly to the Information Hub where it can be combined with other data, analyzed for research or shared with key stakeholders. An example is the National Maize Lepidoptera Surveillance program run over six provinces over the course of the season, with data captured on Biosecurity Africa app, streamed to the Information Hub, from where it is updated on a website on a daily basis. 

In the afternoon Roedolf gave a lecture to 62 second-year BSc students. The aim of Roedolf’s lecture was to give the students insights into the practical applications of the theory they had learned about integrated pest management in the PLG 251 course presented by Prof. Almuth Hammerbacher. Roedolf showed the students the importance of pest and disease monitoring for governments, farmers and international certification bodies. Throughout his lecture, Roedolf emphasized the importance of sharing knowledge and data widely, to allow for rapid responses and appropriate decision making by members of the agricultural and forestry sector as well as government departments. He gave examples of the projects his company had completed in Zambia, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa. The students were very enthusiastic about CropWatch Africa’s monitoring project in the Kruger Park. This ongoing project aims to intercept invasive insect pests entering South Africa from neighboring countries. The most impressive part of the lecture, however, was seeing the amount of pro bono work that was done by the company for ensuring food security in Africa. The lecture was an enriching experience for many of the students and may influence their future career choices.