Livia Sente

Role: HQP Scholar

Degree: M.Sc.

Primary Faculty Advisor: Alan Ker

Project: Business Risk Management Policy, Yield Resiliency and On-Farm Climate Change Adaptation Efforts

Department: Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, OAC

What inspired you to pursue your current degree? 

People will always need to eat. Unfortunately, there are a lot of major problems facing (1) the farmers who produce nutritious food in a sustainable way, and (2) equal access to this good food around the world. Wanting to develop lasting solutions that help people in both of these aspects is the driving force behind my pursuing this field of study.

What about your research area excites you? 

My research excites me because it involves interdisciplinary thinking. Specialization is undeniably valuable, but equally so is the ability to step back and see the ‘big picture’ of how everything’s connected.

What challenges do you find in your research, and how do you try to overcome them? 

The biggest challenge I face in my research is understanding and using very technical statistical and computer science concepts. These obstacles become infinitely more manageable when I tell myself that “It’s not that hard” as I go at problems from a first-principles perspective.

How would you describe your research and the implications of your project? 

My research helps us get an idea of whether today’s crop insurance programs help Ontario farmers transition to more sustainable farming practices that can help them effectively deal with climate change. Farmers can’t control the weather, but we can use artificial intelligence (which sounds strange and complicated but is basically just computers playing a game of arcade pinball) to simulate what future crop yields and insurance costs might look like under severe and mild climate change scenarios.

What do you see as your next steps after completing your degree? 

After my degree, I hope to start up a business and at some point begin a Ph.D. program.

What role has the HQP scholarship played in your academic journey so far?

The HQP program gets students’ boots on the ground in making an impact in the agri-food sector. Whether by learning soft skills through teamwork or the art and science behind our food and environmental systems, this program gives students a 360-degree view of the skills required to solve some of the biggest challenges of our time.

What are three of your favourite activities outside the lab? 

Three of my favourite things to do outside of school are gardening, kayaking, and dressage, which is a discipline in horseback riding.

What is one important thing you have learned during the pandemic? 

One important thing I’ve learned to depend on even more heavily with the onset of the pandemic is my eternal optimism. It goes without saying that it would’ve been better if this pandemic had never happened. There is, however, still a lot of good out there— it’s just up to us whether we decide to notice it.