My research seeks to engineer solutions to technological challenges related to food and agriculture in settings of poverty. I am interested in integrating and adapting technologies to support sustainable food and water systems, and my current program spans Latin America (Colombia) and Asia (China). I focus on problems of specific low-income communities, and work in transdisciplinary teams to create customized solutions that take into consideration the particularities and complexities of each local context.
We are living in a world of high environmental contamination and accelerated depletion of natural resources caused by anthropogenic activities. The upward trend in population size is forecasted to continue with an average of 83 million people being added to the planet every year, the majority of which will be born in low-income countries. Without significant structural changes, the global demand of food is expected to surpass the agricultural supply capacity in the near future. Thus, human kind is now facing a critical responsibility of reconfiguring the agrifood systems to meet the food security/safety/sovereignty needs of current and future generations while restoring the health of the planet and protecting its ability to sustain life.
My research philosophy is that sustainable solutions to a potential global food crisis will come as the multiplicative effect of a vast number of individual initiatives. These efforts must be led at the local-scale through transdisciplinary schemes built upon comprehensive understanding of each particular socio-environmental context. I believe customizing technologies and education according to regional needs will be fundamental to transforming current paradigms of resource management worldwide.
I formed this vision based on reflections of my own professional experiences, observational learning from peers, and historical analysis of the progression of the agrifood sector in wealthy and poor countries. I think the biggest challenge for engineering sustainable food systems is to bring equity to the global food dynamics, which involves finding a healthy balance between centralized and decentralized production systems; small-, medium- and large- scale manufacturing; and consumer attitudes towards food.
Despite the many efforts for implementing technology solutions to improve food security and safety standards in the Global South, most previous attempts have been funneled through technology-transfer models. Using such an approach, solutions are largely put in place considering only technical perspectives, and inherently lack in-depth notion of the social constructs that may limit adoption and successful implementation of the technology to serve its intended purpose.
This situation gives rise to technology appropriation, which embodies a more comprehensive concept wherein individuals from different backgrounds converge to direct attention to specific context-driven solutions. My research focuses on designing technologies based on empathy and not just on functionality and economic profitability. In a sense, imparting connecting the sovereignty and cultural needs of the user into the technology. While this concept has existed in some industries for decades (e.g., social media), there is a significant gap in the knowledge regarding the best practices and fundamental principles that are relevant for analogous implementation of the paradigm in food production and resource management. My research group aims to uncover the engineering processes, principles and best practices for technology appropriation by diverse cultural groups, particularly in low-resource scenarios where large subsets of potential beneficiaries are allocated.
McLamore, ES., Convertino, M., Ocsoy, I., Vanegas, DC., Taguchi, M., Rong, Y., Gomes, C., Chaturvedi, P., Claussen, JC. (2017). Biomimetic Fractal Nanometals as a Transducer Layer in Electrochemical Biosensing. In: Semiconductor Device-Based Sensors for Gas, Chemical, and Biomedical Applications. Ed by Fan Ren and Stephen J Pearton, CRC Press. pp 35-67.
Vanegas, DC., Claussen, JC., McLamore, ES., Gomes, C. (2017). Microbial Pathogen Detection Strategies. In: Encyclopedia of Agricultural, Food, and Biological Engineering. Second Edition. Taylor and Francis.
Select Peer Reviewed Manuscripts
Vanegas, D.C., L. Patiño, C. Mendez, D. Alves de Oliveira, A.M. Torres, E.S. McLamore, C. Gomes (2018). Low-Cost Electrochemical Biosensor for Detection of Biogenic Amines in Food Samples. Biosensors Journal, 8(2). DOI: 10.3390/bios8020042. http://www.mdpi.com/2079-6374/8/2/42
Vélez-Torres, I., Vanegas, D. C., McLamore, E. S., Hurtado, D. (2018). Mercury Pollution and Artisanal Gold Mining in Alto Cauca, Colombia: Woman’s Perception of Health and Environmental Impacts. The Journal of Environment & Development, 27(4), 415–444.
Vanegas, DC., Gomes, C., Cavallaro, ND., Giraldo-Escobar, D., McLamore, ES. (2017). Emerging Biorecognition and Transduction Schemes for Rapid Detection of Pathogenic Bacteria in Food. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 16(6): 1188-1205. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12294
Demirbas, A., Groszman, K., Pazmiño‐Hernandez, M., Vanegas, DC., Welt, B., Hondred, JA., Garland, NT., Claussen, JC., McLamore, ES. (2017). Cryoconcentration of flavonoid extract for enhanced biophotovoltaics and pH sensitive thin films. Biotechnology Progress, 34(1):206-217. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/btpr.2557
Vanegas, DC., Gomes, C., McLamore, ES. (2016). Biosensors for Indirect Monitoring of Foodborne Bacteria. Biosensors Journal, 5(1): 137. http://dx.doi.org/10.4172/2090-4967.1000137