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“Make agriculture sexy again” – interview with Hynek Roubík, a young Czech expert in waste management

Meet Ing. Hynek Roubík, Ph.D. a successful graduate of the Faculty of Tropical Agrisciences (FTA) at the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CZU), leader of Biogas Research Team and agriculture enthusiast with a passion for his work.

Hynek focuses mainly on organic waste management and is the author of several successful research thesis. As a young professional just 30 years old he has already published over 30 scientific articles within a range of topics related mainly to biogas, organic waste and waste management in developing world, has participated in and coordinated over 20 projects and is now the supervisor or co-supervisor of 1 bachelor, 6 masters and 7 Ph.D. students. Currently, he is also intensively working on the “CZU mobiLAB” project, which facilitates the work of medical workers in the field and offers a complex solution for the detection of infectious diseases (including COVID-19) in inaccessible areas of developing countries (see here to learn all about it).

As a young talented agricultural professional, we invited Dr. Roubík to shares with us his story through an interview conducted by Kristýna Havlová - YPARD Europe intern, who aimed at capturing Hynek’s journey thus far through a series of carefully crafted questions.

Enjoy the interview below:

Kristýna: Where does your passion for agriculture come from, what made you pursue the path of agriculture?

Hynek: Since I was small, I was always helping my family with our home production of vegetables, potatoes etc. I was always interested in different agricultural issues and aspects of it. That was probably the main reason why I applied for the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CZU), which gave me a lot of opportunities and technical skills. During my bachelor thesis research, I went to Vietnam as a research team assistant and there my career in agriculture started.

My focus is organic waste management, although I am still expanding my expertise, either in food security issues or different environmental aspects.

Kristýna: Could you tell us a little about your current work?

Hynek: Currently I am working at the FTA. I am a group leader of the Biogas Research Team, where we do a lot of both, research projects as well as development projects worldwide. We are focusing on processing the organic waste to energy and later to use the energy for rural households, small-scale farms etc. We mainly work with small-scale biogas technologies in developing countries; however, we also help with transition plans or larger scale solutions in more developed countries. So, there is a high variety of work.

Most of the projects take place in Asia, where I also spend most of the time. We have worked in Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, in a few African countries and also in Ukraine.

Currently, due to the COVID19 pandemic, I'm leading the project of CZU mobiLAB, which is a mobile laboratory developed for the detection of infectious diseases.

Kristýna: What do you consider as your biggest achievement thus far?

Hynek: Of course. I am happy for every successfully finished project of our team. An example of one of the main ones for which I am particularly proud is a project in which we built over 700 small-scale biogas plants in Vietnam. I was also one of the initiators of the Fairtrade “Be Fair” movement at CZU. I'm very happy that even though I have moved on and I'm now not an official part of it, it is still working and continues to grow, thanks to the students and CZU. Because my vision, when founding Be Fair was that it should be always in hand of students. So, when finishing of my PhD was coming close, I let others to continue and incorporate their visions and fresh ideas. Now, I continue more in a role of occasional mentor.

Kristýna: Do you have any goal you would like to reach in the future?

Hynek: Generally, I target my goals toward developing our research team and coming up with things that will facilitate people's life. I don't have any specific goals because the work at the university is very variable and you never know what the next day brings.

Kristýna: What do you think are the challenges for young people in the Czech Republic to join agriculture? What could we do to make youth more interested in agriculture?

Hynek: Agriculture is a challenge itself. It takes a lot of time and effort and this question is problematic in every country. I would say that many people have lost touch with agriculture in general. In the Czech Republic, I see the biggest issue is the lack of relationship between people and the land itself. Most of the land is being rented and used for revenue.

But nowadays it is getting better, many young people care about sustainability and try their eco-farming. There are also a couple of organizations that support young people in agriculture.

Kristýna: Do you think that the YPARD network can influence the youth to join agricultural activities?

Hynek: I definitely support the idea and I think that such platforms are very important to spread awareness among young people and connect them. I believe that it has a huge impact on young professionals, it connects them and helps to raise their voices. I have a relatively close relationship with YPARD, as the European coordinator is seated here at the FTA. We cooperated with them through our research projects as well. As well as I am trying to involve YPARD representatives in countries, where we conduct our activities.

Kristýna: Do you have any final message you would like to share with our community?

Hynek: Young people are the future; they reflect how we are going to live and what the world will look like. I think that agriculture is a world key discipline and it should always be promoted. As I always say, it is important to “make agriculture sexy again”.

Picture credit: Hynek Roubík