Food for Thought—a Solar Solution to Food Insecurity

Mikayla Sullivan first saw real poverty helping her grandparents distribute food and clothing to needy families in Mexico when she was 10 years old.

“It made me realize that there are people who need help and I could do something to help,” she says.

That experience has shaped her life. Sullivan, who is a sophomore in agriculture and society and global resource systems, is working towards a career in international development and food security.

In 2014 she attended the Thought for Food Challenge in Germany – a movement dedicated to using new ideas to tackle the global challenge of feeding 9 billion people in 2050.

“I knew I wanted to go again, but this time I wanted to compete,” Sullivan says.

In September she and four other students, called the Gung-ho Globies, began brainstorming ideas on how they could address the food challenge. They came up with a mobile dehydrator called KinoSol – Kino for mobile and Sol for solar. The team was selected as one of 10 teams out of 336 entries from 51 countries to go to Lisbon, Portugal, and present their idea.

Team member Clayton Mooney (’12 English), a senior in global resource systems, says Sullivan coordinated the team and kept everyone on the same page.

“Her preparation made our 4,300 mile trip to Portugal incredibly smooth and I know her efforts will help KinoSol become sustainable,” Mooney says.

The team didn’t win the competition, but Sullivan says they made connections to promote KinoSol to non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

“It was amazing,” Sullivan says. “Now we can promote the KinSol to international markets and help get it to the people who need it.”

The team hopes NGOs can offer microloans to farmers in developing countries to purchase the KinoSol units. The farmers can use the dehydrator to extend the life of their crops for their
own use or to take to market.

Ted MacDonald, horticulture adjunct assistant professor, was one of several advisers to coach and encourage the Gung-ho Globies. He says Sulllivan’s leadership and enthusiasm helped the team make the top 10.

“She had a clear vision about what needed to get done from the start and that really served the team well,” MacDonald says.

Sullivan has traveled to a dozen countries and is currently the regional director of North and South America for the International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences (IAAS). Last fall she interned at the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines.

Sullivan grew up in Ames, Iowa, and received several scholarships including the Baker Excellence in Agriculture Scholarship and the Presidents Award for Competitive Excellence.

This summer she is interning at the Expo Milano in Milan. More than 140 countries will attend the six-month global expo to showcase technology with the goal of producing safe, healthy and sufficient food.