American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers: Achieving Global Food Security through Innovation

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With Prof. M K Othman
Year in, year out, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) creates a challenging competition among its members and their engineering firms to innovate and invent efficient agricultural technologies.
The technologies, mostly devices or practices are aimed at improving productivity, cost minimization and time efficiency of the entire agricultural value chain. ASABE is perhaps one of the biggest and most vibrant global professional bodies under the World Engineering Family.
It has members across the five continents of the World and runs global activities in 9 to 10 months of the year. It proactively inspires the inter and intra regional gatherings of Agricultural Engineers to discuss local and international challenges to agricultural mechanization ranging from conventional farm power to renewable energy, farm machinery to power optimization and many other common and emerging issues.
ASABE has over 9,000 members in over 100 countries across all the continents in the World. Its international membership drive is responsible for being present in these multiple countries, thus, making it the most populous engineering profession and second to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in the United State of America.
ASABE members are the leading group of professionals in the production, transportation, storage, and use of renewable resources worldwide. They use their knowledge of science and technology to meet the most fundamental needs of humanity: safe and abundant food; clean water; fiber, timber, and renewable sources of fuel; and life-enhancing and life-saving products from bio-based materials. And they do this with a constant eye toward the improved protection of the people, livestock, wildlife, natural resources, eco – system and the entire environment.
There is a substantial part of agricultural engineering program called “ergonomics” devoted for the safety, comfort and pleasure of the operators of engineering products and services. ASABE serves many functions to members and other relevant stakeholders: it provides a forum for communication of research findings through conferences, scientific journals, and a magazine; it develops standards of practice; it provides opportunities for members to network, exchange knowledge and experiences.
Again, ASABE as a professional platform of agricultural and bio-resources engineers, a profession with cross – cutting issues is enmeshed between two giant developmental divisions of the society; agriculture and engineering. This unique position is what makes agricultural engineering versatile and essential for increased productivity and efficient agricultural development.
AMERICAN ENGINEERS
Historically, ASABE has long lasting history spanning a century and decade ago; it was created as American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) in 1907 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE). After years of debate, members of the organization voted in 2005 to modify the name to better reflect the changes in the profession. This change of name did not come overnight, the discussion had its roots in 1937, but received presidential weight in 1984, when the then ASAE President Bill Harriott was reported to note that in the not-too-distant future, “We will need to consider a name change for the Society.” The discussion, debate between the “conservatives and progressives” continued for more than 20 years.
The change was certainly necessary as the discipline was going deep into biological system for many years, had broadened to include engineering for biological systems, and the name change simply reflected the reality. ASABE President Jerry L. Wille was president during the name change, he was quoted saying, “The profession has evolved and expanded over the last almost 100 years.
Our engineering skills deal with the entire food and fiber chain and all agricultural and biological systems. Now our professional Society name will be representative and descriptive of this breadth and depth.” A year after the “name change” a new logo was ushered during the annual conference of that year. The new President of the year, Otto J. Loewer stated, “This new look captures the spirit of design criteria and conveys a blend of our profession’s heritage while embracing a bright futuristic global perspective.”
A Focal Point for the World in April 2007, the location of the ASABE headquarters facility was declared an ASABE historic landmark. Past President and Past Executive Vice President Jimmy L. Butt noted, “This plaque will forever identify this site as the world focal point for agricultural and biological engineering activities.
As the Society looks to the future, ASABE members will continue to be at the forefront of the latest technological advances in agricultural and biological engineering. They will continue to bring exciting innovations to reality, find solutions to engineering challenges, meet the engineering needs of a growing population, and provide engineering for a sustainable tomorrow”.
After the name change, most of the university departments of agricultural engineering had already changed their names. The increase in biological engineering led to a number of breakthroughs that greatly affected the global agriculture system of modern society. Genetically modified organisms for instance have led to massive overhauls in food production, logistics and trade. The debate for this “name change” is rested for now but is likely to come up again as the profession looms deeper into bio – system.
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During my recent visit to USA, I observed that the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) had already changed the name of her Agricultural Engineering Department to Bio – system Engineering. UNL is the custodian of the famous Nebraska Tractor Testing Laboratory, which provides standard and certification to the manufacturers of tractors globally.
Today, the headquarters of ASABE is located at St. Joseph, Michigan while its cycles of activities move round the World. ASABE’s biggest gathering is the annual conference and meeting, which holds during summer between the month of July and August of each year.
The annual meeting is a 4 – day event, pack – full of activities, which provide members opportunity to interact, exchange ideas, professional knowledge transfer and networking. In addition to normal annual lunch/meeting and conference papers presentation from academia and practicing engineers, the AE 50 outstanding innovations award/recognition is a key event that has a direct bearing on the larger society across the nation.
The EA 50 awards encourage and applaud engineering achievement in Agricultural, food and biological system. Nominations are received from companies across the globe, the clientele of engineering profession of all sizes and varying inventive focus.
The winning products with clear innovative technologies are selected from distinguished advancements to the market place through improved efficiency, user safety, reduced labor, and costs. As usual, an expert panel of judges evaluates the entries through a transparent process for innovation, impacts on the market served and significant engineering advancement.
In 2017, the ASABE annual meeting took place in Spokane, Washington State between 16th to 19th July, 2017. The EA 50 innovation awards were presented to 32 successful companies whose entries were selected for the EA 50 innovation awards.
Among the 32 companies, John Deere, manufacturers of the John Deere tractor series and Case IH, manufacturers of the CASE tractors had their five entries each selected for the EA 50 innovation awards. This made them to be the first set of companies achieving the highest feat. Both companies are multinational corporations with their head offices located in USA. The second company whose four entries were selected for the EA 50 innovation awards was Deere Company, the manufacturers of SG series tractors.  AGCO Corporation was the third company with three winning entries in the AE 50 innovation awards. What are these innovations? What are their contributions to achieving global food security?
The second company whose four entries were selected for the EA 50 innovation awards was Deere Company, the manufacturers of SG series tractors.  AGCO Corporation was the third company with three winning entries in the AE 50 innovation awards. What are these innovations? What are their contributions to achieving global food security?
(To be continued next week)  
 

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