By: CropLife International

Last year we continued showcasing the good work done by farmers and plant scientists through our #FoodHeroes campaign. Originally launched in 2016 with 40 inspirational people, the campaign continued to grow throughout 2017. Today there are almost 100 Food Hero profiles online, each one explaining what motivates them and how their work helps bring food to our tables.

This month we’re featuring ten of the most popular Food Heroes from 2017.

  “Three things fascinate me the most [about my job] – incredible chemistry within plants, large data from plant biology laboratories and the ability to conceptualize large data using computing algorithms and resources. Ultimately, it will be beautiful if we can understand the basics of plant stress response and use it to the benefit of mankind without disrespecting the powers of nature.”

Ramanathan Sowdhamini is a professor at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore, India. She comes from a chemistry background and was trained as a structural bioinformatician, with a focus on protein structure prediction and similarities among proteins.

View Ramanathan’s profile

“I was born in a small rural farming community on the Kenyan Coast. At the age of 7, I was introduced to farming. My parents, who were teachers and farmers, gave me a strip of land along the river, on which I planted cabbages. Every day I went to watch their progress, and slowly the cabbages came up, green and vibrant. Then one day the rains came, and kept coming, and the river rose higher and higher, until it flooded out the cabbages and destroyed my small farm patch.”

Esther Ngumbi is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology in Alabama, United States. Her experience with farming growing up inspired her to pursue a career that would allow her to find solutions to the challenges farmers around the world face today. She loves her work and believes she has the “best job in the world!”

View Esther’s profile


  “Plants are complex and I was always intrigued by what their full potential was by manipulating and introducing certain conditions. I love how we are able to offer them the most ideal environments and allow them the opportunity to flourish in these situations. What truly inspires me about what I do is that fact that I can see my work in action. These plants and their fruit will directly affect someone’s day and life. I am young, energetic and enjoy the practical applications of our work and innovations.”

Dusty Zamecnik is a fourth-generation farmer at EZ Grow Farms in Norfolk County, Ontario, Canada. He graduated in 2013 from St. Francis Xavier University with a Bachelor of Business Administration, and is the Young Farmer Representative for the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.

View Dusty’s profile

“The number of people actively involved in producing our food is diminishing each day. That is why the responsibility of those who decided to remain in this profession is increasing. We give these farmers the responsibility to feed the world, and in return we must give them the tools to do so. As an agronomist and farmer, I must understand both perspectives.”

Alina Cretu is a Romanian maize, sunflower and wheat farmer and Director of the Romanian Maize Growers Organization.

View Alina’s profile


  “Farmers should always be aware of new innovations and ways to improve their production.

I love growing sugarcane because it’s such a major source of food and energy. But I can lose up to 10 percent in productivity and 5 percent in sugarcane quality to the borer.”

Sugarcane farmer Evandro Piedade Do Amaral, who started his farm at the age of 25, enjoys growing sugarcane, but gets disheartened by insect infestations.

View Evandro’s profile

“The damage to a farmer’s crops [caused by caterpillars] can be really devastating, causing dramatically reduced yields and, in some cases, entire crop losses. To see the products that we started in a breeding program now selling as the best products in the market is inspiring.”

Gabriela Luciani is a plant scientist for Monsanto. She developed biotech soybeans that are resistant to caterpillars. Today around a third of Argentine farmers are using her insect-resistant variety.

View Gabriela’s profile


  “Remmy is a food hero because in front of the very real challenge of reaching a large number of growers, he found a practical and simple solution to expand the reach and diversity of agricultural training and advice, linking together many different players all equally engaged in unlocking the potential of Zambian emerging growers.”

Remmy Mainga is a technical sales manager in Lusaka, Zambia. He helps emerging growers move from small scale, subsistence farming to larger commercial operations.

View Remmy’s profile

“I became a scientist because I grew up being extremely curious about the natural world. I wanted to know how living organisms function. How they became the way they are. My aim is to perform cutting-edge research and significantly advance knowledge on economically important plant pathogen systems.”

Sophien Kamoun is a plant scientist at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, United Kingdom. Passionate about plant pathogens, he works primarily on blight and blast diseases.

View Sophien’s profile


  “During my undergraduate studies, I was deeply inspired by female scientists such as Marie Curie. The choice to be a plant scientist probably came from memories of my vacations while I was teenager; I was inspired by seeing my grandparents taking care of their crops and how important it was for them to have healthy farms.”

Dr. Virginie Mfegue is the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV) Program Manager in West Africa at the World Cocoa Foundation. She is in charge of leading a multicomponent research and development program aimed at developing tools for the control of CSSV and the protection of cocoa farms.

View Virginie’s profile

“Every profession has got challenges and agriculture is no exception. What inspires me to overcome these challenges is to lead a self-sufficient and respectable living. I must able to feed my family, give good education to my children and to make some savings for my old age. Above all growing crops and feeding the world gives eternal satisfaction.”

Sudhindra is a mixed farmer from the remote village of Jevargi, Kalaburagi district, India. He grows Bt cotton, wheat, pigeon peas, rice chickpea and jowar (sorghum).

View Sudhindra’s profile


Would you like to submit a Food Hero? It’s not too late, please keep sending them in your #FoodHeroes here.

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