I’ve made passing reference to this before but I want to officially say that Acara Institute and the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota have created a partnership. The primary effort of this is the creation of of the University of Minnesota Acara Summer Institute, which is a 2 month on-campus incubator next summer for the winners of the Acara Challenge. This will be funded by IonE and will physically take place there. The idea of this is to help transition the Acara winners from a “class project” to a business startup. The team will spend 2 weeks in India, and then both the US and India students will come to St. Paul for the Summer Institute, and will receive a stipend for it also. We are pretty excited about this, it will add a lot to the program.

Acara Challenge is now part of the roster of IonE programs. That means I am a staff person at IonE, and get an office space. The University of Minnesota is one of the largest universities in the US, with around 50,000 students. It has one campus in the Twin Cities but physically this campus is split into one in Minneapolis and a few miles away, one in St. Paul. The Minneapolis campus is on the Mississippi River and next to downtown and is a busy urban campus. The St. Paul campus, is much smaller and is almost bucolic. It is the agriculture side of the school and next to the state fairgrounds. This is where IonE is located. My office window overlooks a barn with a real cupola (look it up) and cows. I love it. With the cows, depending on my mood, they either remind me of growing up on the farm or streets of India.
IonE has a number of great programs. It encompasses most of the environmental and renewable energy research going on here on campus, which is a lot. I’m am pretty excited to be part of it. More on some of their programs in later blogs.

Jon Foley, the Director of IonE recently gave a lecture on the issues of land and food use globally. It’s quite good, I would encourage you to watch it. It is archived here. The talk is about 30 minutes with 30 minutes of questions. The challenge Jon talks about is feeding 9 billion people (the expected peak population of the world in a few decades) without completely decimating the environment. Some of this work was just published in Nature.