The WAU Entrepreneurship Prize was presented on March 9th to Dr Lucas Noldus. The former WAU graduate has developed what began as a useful research tool into a product marketed by an international company with thousands of clients. During his PhD research Noldus wrote a computer programme which enabled him to register behaviour of ichneumon wasps directly on his laptop computer. His company Noldus Information Technology adapted the programme for use in other fields, ranging from tracking consumers' behaviour in supermarkets to registering the behaviour of laboratory animals in order to reduce their use in tests. Two thousand licences for his most popular programme The Observer have already been issued. The programme EthoVision goes a step further and fully automizes the observation process, eliminating the need for human participation. Noldus: The computer cannot yet register facial expressions, but can measure movement and distance between subjects.
The University Executive Board has postponed the presentation of the definitive Business Plan by a week. The Board will make its plans public on March 18th. The delay is due to discussions with the Supervisory Board, which is now busy incorporating the most up-to-date financial figures into the plan. The whole process of presenting a plan for the proposed budget cuts has taken longer than Chairman Cees Veerman had envisaged. In November when the preliminary version of the business plan was presented he had expected that the final version would be ready in January
The First European Congress on Agriculture and Food Ethics took place in Wageningen last weekend. It resulted in the formation of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics (EUR-SAFE). The objective of the new society is to stimulate international public debate and multidisciplinary research on ethical questions concerning agriculture and food. It was hardly surprising that little general agreement was reached: there were 150 participants from 17 countries, representing public, private and university bodies. Philosophers and scientists found it difficult to see eye to eye, and among the philosophers themselves there was not much agreement as to what constituted ethics
Protein researchers in Wageningen are out to replace animal proteins in foods with cheaper forms of plant proteins, so we can eat pizzas with potato protein instead of ground beef. The Centre for Protein Technology, headed by Dr Harry Gruppen has taken up the challenge. As Gruppen explains, one of the main problems is that not all plants are really meant to be eaten. Many plants contain anti-nutritional factors which inhibit digestion or even cause sickness when plants are ingested. Part of the Centre's research is directed towards making these factors harmless. In addition new markets need to be found to make production of plant proteins economically feasible. Whether plant proteins are more environmentally friendly than animal protein is unclear. The use of animal waste products is something which has been developed over thousands of years and is now so refined that almost nothing is left unused. Once more plants are used as protein sources the question will be what to do with the by-products