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Think differently: Could insects be a protein alternative to beef?

A Q&A with Global Challenges student Ivan Savytskyy, one of dozens of students discussing the future of food
March 21, 2017
First-year astrophysics student Ivan Savytskyy is a member of the inaugural cohort of the Global Challenges course in the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation. Photo courtesy Ivan Savytskyy

First-year astrophysics student Ivan Savytskyy is a member of the inaugural cohort of the Global Challenges course in the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation. Photo courtesy Ivan Savytskyy

On March 14, more than 200 students, faculty, leaders and community members came together to discuss a critical issue facing our society: how to feed nine billion people by the year 2050. The event was meant to spark conversation and action around the issue of food security and challenge participants to think differently about how to address this issue in the future.

Through the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, the Global Challenges course brings together first-year undergraduate students from across disciplines to study issues of international importance, and find potential solutions to these big questions.

Ivan Savytskyy is a first-year astrophysics student who was born in Nosovka, a community of 20,000 people in Ukraine. He lived there and in the Czech Republic before moving to Canada in 2002. We spoke with him as a member of the inaugural cohort of the Global Challenges course and event guest about his experience.

Q: What made you enrol in the Global Challenges course?

A: I received an email that invited students to join a Global Challenges course, offered by the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation. As I read the outline, I pictured myself participating in a humanitarian program that travelled across borders and offered interdisciplinary solutions to global issues like over-consumption, territorial wars and extreme poverty. University is an opportunity to be a part of a movement, to design your future, and I saw the Global Challenges course as an opportunity to address the problem of feeding nine billion people.

Q: Why is food security an important topic to you?

A: Ukraine is a major exporter of agricultural and industrial commodities. It may not appear that way, though, to the people living in decaying homes and suffering from food insecurity, as they do not directly receive the benefits of Ukraine’s commercial enterprises. I often visit my grandparents, and what I see is the beauty of traditional farming — its appreciation for local product and how it stimulates the local economy — being suppressed by an ease of abundance in the world.

When my grandparents harvest their veggies and roots, every piece is used to prepare the most delicious meals imaginable. Contrast this to the following: over $31 billion worth of food is wasted in Canada a year, and millennials are a big contributor to producing that waste. In one form, it’s heart-wrenching, though in another it’s enlightening, because it allows you to reflect on what we as a community must do to significantly reduce that figure.

Q: At the dinner, who did you sit with?

A: I sat with an incredible collection of individuals: former Board of Governors member and energy industry leader Charlie Fischer; mechanical engineering students Ben Huang and Gloria Nemati; Leaf & Lyre farmer Rod Olson; founder of AdFarm Kim McConnell; and Lynn Taylor, vice-provost of teaching and learning.

Q: What kind of conversations happened over dinner?

A: An important theme we had was that of generations — how do Canadians treat their food now compared to how they treated it prior to the Green Revolution of the 1930s and 1940s? What educational programs can we implement that would encourage future generations to be environmentally aware and have culinary capabilities? Current and future generations also need to ask what Alberta’s place is in feeding the world.

Q: What was your favourite part of the evening?

A: My favourite part was how diverse our collective was. We had entrepreneurs, astronauts, farmers, students, CEOs, media representatives, and academic directors coming together to address a global issue. As a result, the conversation was always smooth, respectful to the controversial opinions, and educational for those who were interested in learning more. I actually reconnected with my principal from high school — wonderful to see him participating in the same movement!

Q: Favourite dish of the menu?

A: The 7K Ranch grass-fed longhorn beef. It sparked the most conversation among the table, as we addressed alternative protein (insects!) and the consequences of removing or increasing beef production.

Q: Do you think the conversations helped your learning, in the course or generally?

A: Global Challenges is interesting because it is an inquiry-based — rather than lecture-based — course. It allows me to cultivate my knowledge and take responsibility for my career through my own resources and research projects. The conversations I had illuminated certain aspects of food security that I was unaware of, so I think that events and conversation addressing a global challenge should be held regularly, at schools and at home, for youth and for groups of all ages, casually and professionally, because they do more than bring awareness, they inspire people to join the movement for sustainability.

The Global Challenges course is a signature program in the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation, in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. Learn more about it.