Sri Lanka’s University of Peradeniya visits Illinois

Peradeniya delegation visits the Alma Mater.
Peradeniya delegation visits the Alma Mater.

A delegation from Sri Lanka’s largest university, the University of Peradeniya, visited the University of Illinois in mid-November as guests of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and the College of Veterinary Medicine.  

The Peradeniya delegation included the deans and five additional faculty from the colleges of agriculture and veterinary medicine. The visit was generously funded by Siva Sivananthan, a University of Illinois alumnus who has a vision to increase food security in Sri Lanka.

“Because the visiting delegation has a goal of increasing soybean and poultry production to improve Sri Lanka’s food security, they met with the ACES-based Soybean Innovation Lab along with many others working on soybeans and poultry at Illinois to ask technical questions and to leverage their expertise,” said Lauren Karplus, assistant director of ACES international programs, who coordinated the visit.

University of Illinois President Emeritus Bob Easter had visited Peradeniya over the summer with a delegation from Veterinary Medicine and helped to host this reciprocal visit by joining the meetings and sharing the vision of Peradeniya with ACES faculty members. In particular, he gave the group an overview of Illinois agriculture that helped frame their understanding of Illinois’ regulatory and agricultural environments.

“In total, the group met with over 30 ACES faculty, staff, and related affiliates. Additional meetings and facilities tours included a visit to Parkland College’s agriculture technology program to understand how universities like Illinois partner with local technical colleges, as well as a visit to Schroeder Farms to learn about technology use in large-scale production agriculture in Illinois,” Karplus said.

To further facilitate partnerships, Peradeniya’s Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture Kodithuwakku Arachchige Sarath Sirilal Kodithuwakku gave a short presentation open to all Illinois faculty, staff, and students. Attendees learned that Peradeniya offers its students the opportunity for hands-on agricultural work in three climate regions (dry, intermediate, and wet). Seventy percent of its 112 faculty and staff hold doctorates from the world’s leading universities, including Illinois. Some of its current research focuses include biofertilizers and a prototype for a tea-harvesting drone.

Illinois is home to several Peradeniya alumni, who were able to attend the presentation.  

“Ultimately the visit facilitated Peradeniya’s plans to develop soybean and poultry value chains in Sri Lanka, and their Illinois peers indicated a willingness for future engagement. We expect these relationships will continue to develop remotely now that contact has been established researcher-to-researcher,” Karplus said.