Updated: Sep 6, 2020
innov8.ag would like to start a series of posts where we highlight the faces of agriculture that we personally get to work with on a frequent basis. The development and success of our company hasn't been solely built upon the individuals that personally work for innov8.ag, we've had the opportunity to learn and work alongside many of the industry's smartest people. Please take the time to learn more about the individuals we value and learn from on a frequent basis.
Our first person we're highlighting is Sadat Amankona, who's been working over the past year as a research assistant for the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission. Sadat just wrapped up his year-long internship with WTFRC, and is exploring research & applied roles in the Washington state orchard industry.
Research Assistant at Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission
Sadat was born in Abesim, Ghana where he grew up in a family of growers and was raised working on the farm. His father currently owns multiple plantations of cashews, mangos, cocoa, coconuts, corn, tomatoes, okra and other cash crops.
Sadat is the second born of four other siblings, one brother and three sisters. He happens to be the first born male in his family where he has taken on the responsibility of helping his dad out with the family business. Growing up, when Sadat was still in primary school he remembers finishing his classes and coming home to help harvest tomatoes and work on the irrigation systems. One particular memory that stands out is when his dad was in the process of transporting their harvest to a neighboring country (Cote d'Ivoire). To help Sadat with a little extra motivation at such a young age, his dad offered to buy him a bicycle if he was able to stand up and contribute to the family business during this busy time.
Later on in junior high, the Ghana school system that Sadat attended offered a variety of classes in almost every subject. One of the many turning points that contributed to Sadat's passion for agriculture was during his time in junior high where he had the opportunity to take classes in agricultural science. At the end of the second year, the junior high gave out awards to students that excelled the most in each subject, Sadat took home 6 out of the 8 awards and the one that stood out the most to him was the agricultural science award.
High School at Sunyani Senior High School:
Due to his exceptional talents in most subjects, Sadat wasn't exactly sure what he wanted to do after high school. During his high school education he actually was leaning more towards visual arts because he thoroughly enjoyed and excelled at drawing, painting, and T-shirt printing. Even though he had the talents and the calling to art, life still pushed him closer to agriculture which then prompted him to work for a local poultry farm. As high school went on he started to focus even more on the agricultural science classes where he got to learn more about animal science, plant science, and almost every aspect of agriculture. This led Sadat to ask permission from the administration head of department at his high school if he could start an agriculture club since there were already clubs for almost every other program of study except agriculture. Instead of immediately taking on the role of club president since he personally created it, Sadat humbly organized elections where other students had the opportunity to take on leadership roles. To no surprise, Sadat became the president of the Sunyani Senior High School Agriculture Club. In 2010, during Sunyani Senior High School golden jubilee celebrations (SUSEC@50 anniversary), Sadat won the best Agric student Award as a finalist/final year category which was presented to him during the grand durbar.
Pursuing Higher Education in Ag:
He never lost his interest in the agriculture industry and because of his extensive experience in the field at home he decided to pursue his college education in agriculture-related science. Sadat made his way to Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology-GHANA. Now having experience in almost every aspect of agriculture actually made it extremely interesting for Sadat to narrow down his field of studies in college. At the time he was predominantly interested in agricultural engineering and mechanization so that he would have the opportunity to make new and improved equipment/technology to help further the advancement of agricultural practices. Thankfully the university allowed the students to take classes relating to all subjects in agriculture up until their third year, where they were then encouraged to narrow down their field of study. Just before the start of his third year at Kwame Nkrumah University he took on a 2-month long internship in Germany at the Forschunszentrum Julich, Institute of Bio- and Geosciences. During this internship he was working alongside a professor at the Institute, Dr. Nicolai David Jablonowski, to whom Sadat expressed the concern of not knowing exactly what to do in his career. Dr. Nicolai told him to follow his heart, and that he should consider his previous background in agriculture. This sparked inspiration and excitement in Sadat's heart to go back to his roots. When he got back to school he changed his major and ended up getting his bachelors degree in Horticulture at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology-Ghana (BSc. Agriculture). Eventually, he took on another leadership role as the President of their Agriculture Faculty where he represented the entire college at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology students parliamentary council and focused on factors that affected the student body.
Master's in Horticulture:
Just two days after graduation, Sadat took another internship in Germany for a farmer that produced oats, barley, wheat, and pigs. He was predominantly focused on the pigs and taking care of their daily needs like feeding, iron injection, ear tagging, tail cutting/docking, artificial insemination and general cleaning of the pig sty. Shortly after this summer internship, he went on to pursue a Master's degree at the University of Agriculture in Krakow (2 semesters), Mendel University in Brno (1 semester), Slovak University of Agriculture (1 semester) – (In Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia respectively) and received an International Master's of Horticultural Science, joint degree on June 4, 2019. The program allowed students to learn about fruits, vegetables, or ornamentals, Sadat studied all three areas and did his master's project work and thesis on vegetables and mycorrhiza. Even during the process of getting his master's degree he was still actively involved in leadership programs with the International Association of Agriculture and related Sciences (IAASWORLD) where he held the position of Vice President of External Relations(2018/2019).
Internship at the WTFRC:
Due to connections at the University in Poland, Sadat was recommended by Professor Czeslaw Nowak to The Ohio Program (TOP) where he was able to make his way to America. Before coming to America he had expectations of working in greenhouse research with vegetables but as life often times works in mysterious ways, everything changed and he eventually found his way into the Tree Fruit Industry through The Ohio Program (TOP). Inevitably Sadat came to Washington State where he began working with the Washington State Tree Fruit Research Commission in September 2019 as a research assistant. This is where innov8.ag was fortunate enough to meet this extremely talented and lively individual.
Some of the work he has been a part of in the WTFRC lab alongside WSU pertains to food safety including post-harvest research on listeria inoculation and other factors relating to food poisoning which is a collaborative work between the commission and prof. Meizun. He also contributed to the lab quality analysis and evaluation of the cosmic crisp apple even before its release in December 2019 as well as other apple breeding program projects. He has been helping the commission on all other projects and was apart of the team that organized all the research reviews in early 2020 as well as collecting, organizing, summarizing and analyzing some of the data work of the commission. He has frequently been a strong member of the commissions social media and website team bringing substance to their contents. In our Smart Orchard program, Sadat helped instal soil nutrient probes and collected weekly soil samples for comparative lab analysis, which are proving critical to understanding the efficacy of new in-field soil testing technologies - with the goal of informing growers as to variable-rate applications of fertilizer & nutrients. He also summarized all the sensors and probes, which parameters they are measuring in a form of signage fixed to each end of the rows with sensors. Designing a map for soil sample collection as well as a consolidated map has proven to be crucial in the capturing of the entire orchard blocks and environs. Lastly, he contributed to the harvesting of the fruits to help with the lab quality analysis and data entry during the pilot year of this project.
Throughout these years in Sadat's life journey from childhood all the way up to the WTFRC, he has worked in plantation agriculture, tropical horticulture, vegetable production, cash crop farming, poultry production, pig production, ruminant production, serving as a farm assistant and being constantly involved in organizational leadership. Sadat even has some recent experience in the organic production of vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, lettuce, onions, carrots, and other salad greens from volunteering on the weekends at Maverick Urban Farms in Leavenworth. This has given him a valuable opportunity to learn more about urban farming and how to sustainably grow large quantities of produce on smaller farm lands.
His Ag Take Aways:
Sadat expressed the importance and his own personal enjoyment of going out and conducting research that obtains actionable data that then can be given to growers to make educated decisions. Growing up he was constantly working in the field trying to make observable decisions that then couldn't be shared with others that would potentially benefit from the valuable information. These past experiences have allowed Sadat to thoroughly
enjoy and value the lab work and quality analysis done outside of the field that then can be communicated to the growers so that they can make informed decisions.
His time spent working on this internship position with the WTRFC has completely changed his perspective on the agriculture industry because of previously working predominantly around vegetables and now being able to see the different variables accounted for in growing tree fruit. He now has found a desire to get his PhD in tree fruit agriculture where he can focus on apples, pears, cherries, or sustainable and organic production of vegetables in the future.
Sadat sees the tremendous value of taking the knowledge and technology that he gained from his research in America to Ghana. He has expressed an interest later on in his life to possibly take over his family business or even start his own farm in Ghana to share the extensive knowledge and practices he has learned to the surrounding communities and countries in Africa. Because of his father growing a substantial amount of tomatoes and other perishable vegetables, he sees the value of doing research and applying practices to preserve the shelf life of tomatoes for his father's business. Sadat fully believes in following the systems and collecting data on your everyday practices so that when something bad actually does happen you have the ability to correlate it to actionable data to make an immediate change. Some growers in Ghana don't fully understand the physiology of the plant, they just believe that you plant a seed and then a plant will eventually grow, so there is a drastic need for education and actionable data in the agriculture industry of Ghana. Recently he has been seeing news and videos of growers in Ghana and Africa using drones to spray their crops, giving him the idea that growers are inclined to become even more progressive. In his off time, Sadat loves to play soccer (a Manchester United addict), photography, barbering, and to listen to afrobeat music with Yaa Pono (Ponobiom) being his favorite artist. To connect with him on LinkedIn, see his experience, and possibly contact him, CLICK HERE.