LSU AgCenter Capitalizes on International Strategic Partnerships: LSU AgCenter/MENDELU Food Symposium

Ivana Tregenza and Maria Bampasidou

In 2014, the LSU AgCenter and Mendel University (MENDELU) in Brno, Czech Republic, established a strategic partnership with a goal to develop sustainable cooperation in research, extension and outreach, and education. The two universities have a strong presence in agriculture, offering quality programs that engage stakeholders and students and promote entrepreneurship. Their approach to food science in particular offers multiple possible cooperative actions and elevates the quality of both programs in research and technology — through sharing of cheese formulas, for example — and education by the offering of joint courses. The two institutions have participated in faculty and student exchanges and offered a joint agricultural economics course, and teams from both are working on collaborative projects on curbing food waste and improving farm-to-table programs. Additionally, cooperation with the LSU AgCenter Food Innovation Institute (FOODii) resulted in a number of food products produced at MENDELU, such as baked goods, pasta products and cheeses, making their way to student cafeterias.

The partnership offers exposure to an international forum, an opportunity to work within international networks on global agricultural issues and a chance to share cultural experiences. As a result, faculty have participated in exchange programs, presented relevant research and published in quality journals. Similarly, students have engaged in research projects of common interest, exchanging knowledge and expertise, and engaging in research early in their programs. Moreover, the two universities have explored opportunities of study abroad and campus visits. As such, the partnership allows for an impactful international exposure adding to other high-impact learning activities, such as study abroad programs, semester abroad and internships.

In March 2021, the two institutions organized their first joint symposium focusing on food-related topics. The areas of food science, human nutrition, food technology and food safety have deep roots in both universities. While MENDELU is highly focused and successful in food production, which includes meat products, bakery products, pasta, beer, wine and dairy, much of LSU’s food production is housed in FOODii, which supports small Louisiana startups.

Due to the pandemic, the 2021 MENDELU/LSU AgCenter Food Symposium went virtual. With almost 450 registered participants, interest was piqued among the faculty and students. Research sessions focused on best practices in horticulture, food technology, food safety and food waste with experts from both universities presenting on timely topics and research applications. Student-oriented sessions included the first joint LSU–MENDELU course comparing food systems in each region and a discussion session allowing students to directly engage and exchange information on academic programs and student life. Such events might have been the first exposure to international cooperation for LSU College of Agriculture students and faculty, considering the pandemic. Graph 1 depicts the Food Symposium structure and attendance per day. Student interest was overwhelming (see Table 1). Remote participation negated the need for travel arrangements and concerns of time differences and alternating host universities. Because of this flexibility, a hybrid mode was proposed for future events.

Food Symposium 2.0 was hosted by MENDELU between Feb. 28 and March 4, 2022. Registration increased to 535, with participants from 18 additional partner institutions. For four days researchers, students and extension agents had the opportunity to present their research, discuss ongoing projects between the two universities — some of which formed during the 2021 symposium — and network. Building on last year’s recipe, food science-related presentations were complemented with presentations on economics on labor relations in agriculture and guest worker programs and new trends in food science, such as 3D printing of food. These presentations nurture multidisciplinary collaborations. Moreover, recognizing the importance of providing opportunities to students to present their work at an international event, a session of the symposium was fully dedicated to student research presentations. Nine students had a chance to present their results and projects, receiving attention from faculty and mentors.

While the LSU AgCenter – MENDELU Food Symposium 3.0 is still a year away, the organizational team is already identifying topics valuable to both Louisiana and the Czech Republic. In the meantime, students and faculty of both universities will be welcomed to the International Summer School at LSU for a two-week, hands-on agricultural experience in Louisiana in July 2022.

Ivana Tregenza is the director of the LSU College of Agriculture International Relations and is associate director of the LSU AgCenter Global Network. Maria Bampasidou is an assistant professor in the LSU AgCenter Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness and a member of the planning committee for the LSU AgCenter Global Network.

(This article appears in the spring 2022 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)

Four men pose with hot sauce bottles.

Mendel University faculty and students visit the Tabasco factory when visiting Louisiana for an in-person food symposium during their early learnings of Louisiana food industry. Provided photo

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Table 1: Registration Information for Food Symposium 2021, 2022 


Food Symposium 2021 

Food Symposium 2022 























6/21/2022 2:02:02 PM
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