Being an Alberta-based team, agriculture is a substantial part of our provincial identity as many people build their lives and families around the industry. Fungal pathogens which affect crops can have drastic effects on our livelihoods and the provincial economy as a whole. Thus, this is why we chose to tackle the pervasive issue of Fusarium Head Blight, caused by Fusarium graminearum infections in grain crops such as wheat. We discussed our project with a myriad of researchers and experts within the agriculture industry to gain a better understanding of the issue and the current methods to address it. The ultimate goal of this project is to use synthetic biology to benefit the agriculture industry and advance research on detection methods for fungal pathogens.

Heading into our integrated human practices work, we knew we were facing a divide between academic research and an understanding of practical agricultural use by farmers. This is why it was crucial to interview farmers and other professionals who work in the agricultural industry to both integrate their feedback into improving our project, and further address their concerns and offer insight into our research practices. We sought to understand a different perspective of our project, viewing it through the eyes of those who would be the actual users. Through these conversations, we were able to gain an understanding of the current issues agriculture is facing and take into consideration the concerns of each group. We also focused on the effect fungal pathogens have on each of these individuals, how our project would affect them, and what feedback they could provide on the project. This allowed us to incorporate their feedback and focus on implementing a user-centered design. In addition to these informative conversations, our team also decided to conduct a policy review on sprays in agriculture. This was done with the intention of understanding the relevance, regulations, and impact that our ultimate product, a biosynthetic construct contained within a sprayable solution, would have. What we learned from this review remained relevant as we continued to develop project FEDDS, emphasizing our user-centered design approach. This guided us to discuss the implementation portion of our project more in-depth with experts in the field, specifically related to the use of Artificial Intelligence in agriculture, specifically the concerns that have been raised over its use and how project FEDDS could address and improve this.

While the primary focus of the human practices for project FEDDS was on the farmers, we also aimed to involve the broader community outside of agriculture. A fundamental focus was placed on education outreach initiatives where we worked within our community to encourage interest and engagement with the different facets of our project, principally agriculture, synthetic biology, and technological applications. We broadened our focus to include students from kindergarten to grade 12, local families in our communities, and university-age individuals in a variety of community engagement programs. Learning was a reciprocal experience, with our community contributing as much as we did, focusing on making science both accessible and enjoyable.

The human practices component of our project also entailed out active participation in science communication opportunities. We were given the opportunity to participate in conferences, newsletters, showcases, and more. This was invaluable as it allowed our team to interact more closely with both industry and academia, while working to become more effective communicators.

Summaries of our human practices work and the goals of each initiative are presented within their respective sections (Education, Science Communication, Integrated Human Practices, Policy Review). There we detail the impact we had on the individuals and organizations we engaged with and reciprocally how their contributions shaped our learning and influenced our project.