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News from ACES International is published twice per semester. Please click on the links for more information about these news items presented by the Office of International Programs in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 


As 2020 draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to share appreciation for the network of partners on our campus and around the world that has come together in support of one another, even as the pandemic has imposed an unprecedented degree of physical isolation. Earlier this year, when the reality of pandemic had just emerged and coping strategies had not yet developed, the ACES Office of International Programs received a “Message of Solidarity” from colleagues at the Federal University of Lavras in Brazil. In the midst of imposed separation and grave uncertainty for future activities, that message brought a welcome reminder that we have a strong web of friends, colleagues, and collaborators with whom we can build pathways forward. The articles in this newsletter demonstrate how that body of faithful partners from around the world provided the resilience needed to navigate 2020 and build meaningful activities like virtual international seminars and programs for developing climate-smart technologies for smallholder farmers. This newsletter comes with a note of gratitude for all the people and institutions in our global network that have worked together to bring us through 2020 with strength and high hopes for the future. Best wishes for the holidays and we look forward to working together in 2021.

Alex Winter-Nelson


The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant disruptions and complications with regards to the College of ACES (and everyone’s) international activities. ACES faculty have engagements in 76 countries, but since March 2020, representatives of ACES have not traveled for official business, and the college has not hosted international guests.

To better understand how international activities were continuing and what lessons could be learned from different experiences, the Office of International Programs initiated a series of structured conversations with 30 ACES faculty members who have ongoing international engagements. We learned that our faculty and staff have found creative ways to move their international projects forward and have even identified some bright spots among the challenging circumstances. 

The Federal University of Vicosa campus in Brazil. 

The 13th cohort of the ACES Global Academy “International Partnerships for Digital Agriculture Research and Applications in BRAZIL” is building collaborations with Brazilian colleagues in spite of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic.

While getting to know colleagues at the Federal University of Lavras, the Federal University of Vicosa, and the Piracicaba campus of the University of São Paulo (ESALQ) through a series of mixers and seminars, ACES participants are finding they have much to collaborate on.


The Office of International Programs has announced its seed grant recipients for Fall 2020. The goal of the Seed Grant program is to support awardees in establishing a strong international relationship that will continue to expand and flourish into a larger and substantial international collaborative effort that will ultimately benefit departments, programs, the College of ACES, and the University of Illinois.

Congratulations to the most recent recipients:

Dr. Juan Arbelaez, Department of Crop Sciences, "Integration of Multi-Trait Genomic Prediction Models to Improve Rice Grain Quality for Latin America and The Caribbean"

Dr. Salah Issa, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, "Investigating and Improving Safety for Soybean Innovation Lab’s Multi-Crop Thresher"

Dr. Michael Miller, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, "Microbial diversity analysis of a cheese facility"

Dr. Al Roca, Department of Animal Sciences, "DNA-based software to identify the source of confiscated trafficked lions"


Five postharvest loss-related research projects totaling nearly $158,000 have been chosen for funding through ADM Cares. These newly funded projects include both new and longtime partners, and accommodate the new realities of the global COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Scaling postharvest technology adoption in India through digital platforms
  • Piloting durable household hermetic storage systems in Bangladesh
  • Towards improved storage capacity and practices for small- and medium-sized traders: Delivering quality soybean in Ghana (with University of Illinois-based Soybean Innovation Lab)
  • Postharvest loss prevention training and outreach through the Postharvest Loss Experimental Training Hub at Njala University, Sierra Leone (with University of Illinois-based AgReach)
  • Understand and educating women farmers on Marketplace Social Sustainability Literacy in the era of climate change
ASMC works with smallholder farmers in Bangladesh on rice harvesting technologies. 

The Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC) at the University of Illinois received a $2.25 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to continue work on empowering smallholder farmers in West Africa and Asia through sustainable mechanization solutions.

The new three-year phase of the project will focus on facilitating the evaluation and scaling up of selected transformational technologies for smallholder farmers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Burkina Faso and Senegal. 

SIL provides technical assistance to soy food processors and manufacturers like SIL partner, Sunseed Oil Ltd. in Malawi. 

The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) is hosting a virtual international symposium on soybean processing in collaboration with the American Oil Chemists’ Society, the Institute of Food Technologists, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Makerere University, and the National Agricultural Research Organization. 

Registration (which is free) includes on-demand access to virtual presentations for one year. The event runs through December 11.


The documentary 'Engineering Fire' has won a Mid-America Regional Emmy Award in the category Specialty Assignment Program or Special. 'Engineering Fire' tracks a team of Illinois scientists as it develops and tests a revolutionary solar-cooking device called a Sun Bucket. Watch it here.


While students wait eagerly for study abroad programs to open back up, the ACES Global Service Learning course is proving to be a fulfilling alternative. 

ACES 298 is a first-year experience course that would typically be connected to a study abroad program, but this year it is presented without travel to connect with community partners in Italy, Ecuador, and Pine Ridge (SD). This class is offered in partnership with Amizade, a global service learning nonprofit who has facilitated many of ACES study abroad programs in the past.

Even though they weren't able to travel, the students "visited" the three sites, learning about a different topic that relates to sustainability and service in that community. Some examples include: cattle farming and the ski industry in Italy, the pipeline in South Dakota, and conscientious living in Ecuador. Students will also complete a short internship project with either the community organization in Italy or in Pine Ridge.


Virtual Global Experiences have proved to be another innovative opportunity available to ACES students, allowing them to engage with worldwide partners in research, internships, and coursework. 

Many of the international providers offering Virtual Global Experiences are versatile based on student academic and professional interests and are focused around career-relevant internships with global startups, international businesses, nonprofits, NGOs, public health initiatives, and service-learning community programs. These programs are based in Austria, Brazil, South Africa, throughout the Southeastern hemisphere, and around the globe.


The Office of International Programs newsletter highlights the international activities in the College of ACES. If you have any comments, questions, or news items, please contact Leslie Sweet Myrick at lsweet@illinois.edu. Click here to: subscribe.

Stay informed and involved! The Office of International Programs maintains lists of current international funding opportunities and upcoming international events.