In this series, we're sitting down with the Swette Center-affiliated faculty to catch up on food systems, innovation, and what makes a good meal. See the rest of the series on our Food Systems Profiles page.
Read on for an interview with Yujin Park, Assistant Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.
1) How did you get interested in food systems issues?
I grew up in Seoul, Korea, a very metropolitan city, and I really liked to be close to nature. Fortunately, I had a small garden in my apartment with my parents, and I spent a lot of time growing fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers in my garden. So, I've been interested in growing plants since I was young. I went to college in Korea and decided to major in Architectural Engineering, but I discovered this career path did not fulfill me. So, I went to school at the University of California, Davis, in my junior year as a study abroad student. UC Davis was a great environment to study agriculture, plant science, and horticulture. While at UC Davis, I took a lot of horticulture, plant science, and community development courses, and I worked at the UCD arboretum and UCD student farm. I really enjoyed growing plants and working with people who love plants and growing food. Most meaningfully, I took a food systems course with Dr. Ryan Galt. I learned about how food production and food choice influence the environment and society and how the environment and society are influencing our food options. I wanted to work and study something essential to humans, and food is really a crucial part of life. So, I thought being a part of food systems would be an amazing and satisfying field of work.
2) Share a glimpse of your current research and how it applies to food systems transformation.
My current research focuses on investigating how environmental conditions such as light, temperature, and nutrients regulate plant growth and development, specifically for horticulture crops, including vegetables, fruiting crops, and ornamental crops. By studying this subject, I can better control the environmental conditions in the vertical farm and the greenhouse to improve crop productivity and quality.
3) What's an innovation in the food systems world that you're excited about?
Since 2007, when I was a college student, I've been interested in indoor vertical farming. At that time, this idea was spreading out mainly in Japan and in the US. NASA explored the idea of growing crops in spaceships. I was fascinated by the concept that we can grow food crops year-round, regardless of the location or the weather, with much less water. I wanted to be a part of it then. I love the aspects of vertical farming that save water for crop production and promote local production, allowing for shorter distances between food products and consumers, even in the city.
4) What's your favorite weeknight meal?
Curry! It can be Thai, Japanese, or Korean-style curry because it is easy to make. You can enjoy it with all different types of vegetables and meat with soy sauce. I eat curry at least once a week.