Behind-the-scene: Rebecca Co

These Behind-The-Scene posts reveal a bit about the people involved with Health Hydroponics. We would like to put names to faces and personalities especially during this time when we are unable to meet local growers in person.

Rebecca Co is the Manager and Coordinator of Healthy Hydroponics and the Manager of Innovations and Applications at Metagenom. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master’s of Science both at the University of Waterloo where in the latter, she studied the environmental microbiology of landfills focusing on the cellulolytic microbiome and capacity.

What is your role in Healthy Hydroponics and what do you do?

My role is to coordinate the day-to-day activities of the project, and communicate and plan out the sampling plans with growers. I also plan the logistics of the operation so that we can reach the big-picture goals of the project.

From your perspective, what is the most exciting thing about Healthy Hydroponics?

For me, the most exciting thing is being able to talk to growers and understand their hydroponic systems and pathogens of concern. I find growers are some of the most passionate people and many are starting to discover the benefits contributed by the system’s microbiome. Healthy Hydroponics uses high-throughput sequencing technology and machine learning to monitor the hydroponic microbiome and detect plant and foodborne pathogens systems which the technology is relatively new in the hydroponic agricultural sector.

What made you want to go to graduate school?

I’ve always loved learning and I mainly had a positive experience at university thus why not pursue more schooling? My curiosity about microorganisms, the opportunities to learn new techniques along with a project that I was interested in solidified my choice to do research in grad school.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy creating art, solving crossword puzzles, and reading lots.

What did you do for the first time recently?

Last year, as an adult, I bought a cassette tape – it was Carpenters’ Reminiscing. 

What is a good book you’ve read?

If you love fungi or want to learn about the wondrous things fungi are capable of, try Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape our Futures.

What is a hobby you would like to pursue in the future when you have a chance?

Identifying birds by their calls.

What is your favourite thing about microbiology?

Microbes are so little but they can do such amazing things that we leverage their metabolism for biotechnology, biodegradation, and bioremediation. Microorganisms can break down cellulose, a very recalcitrant plant material, and then convert it to ethanol which can be used as biofuel. Microbes are used in the production of fermented foods such as wine, bread, yogurt, and cheese. They can degrade and generate bioplastics as well as break down harmful contaminants in groundwater.

Last movie you watched?

Nomadland.

Do you find time passing differently when you work from home vs. when you work in the office?

What is time?

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