Professor Albert Modi is currently the Deputy-Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Agriculture Engineering & Science.
He has been the Dean and Head of School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences from 2011 – 2016. He was employed by the then University of Natal in 1996 and has been associated with UKZN since then. Before joining the University, he was provincial agronomist for PHI-Hibred International, a job that exposed him to the agronomy and rural development issues. He has also worked as a CEO of the Moses Kotane Institute for Science and Technology, which he established in 2008, while he was the adjunct Professor of UKZN. His agronomy research focuses on traditional/indigenous crops.
Professor Modi was born in Centane, Eastern Cape, South Africa, where he grew up and received his primary, secondary and tertiary education. He went to Gqunqe Junior Secondary School and completed matric at Macibe High School, before attending the University of Fort Hare, where he completed a BSc in Agriculture, majoring in Crop Science. Throughout his tertiary education, Professor Modi was funded by bursaries and scholarships, including the former Transkei government, Pannar Seed Company and Fulbright scholarship. He started his academic career as a lecturer at the University of Natal and worked to become a full Professor of Crop Science after the University had merged with the University of Durban-Westville to form the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Professor Modi has spent the past 22 years working first as an agronomist for Pioneer Hi-bred International and then as an academic agronomist focusing on Crop Science. He established a Seed Science and Technology curriculum and attracted postgraduate students to the University of Natal/KwaZulu-Natal. His interest in rural development also led to the establishment of a Sustainable Community Agriculture curriculum. Outside the University, he has served as a member of the Board of the South African Society of Crop Production, becoming President for two terms. He has been a member of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), the New York Academy of Sciences, and the Young Academy of Sciences of South Africa. He is an NRF-rated (C2) scientist, a member of SACNASP and Assistant Editor of the South African Journal of Plant and Soil. He is a regular reviewer for national and international ISI journals and institutions of higher learning.
Professor Modi is a Senior Fellow of Green Matter, an Honorary Fellow of Mangosuthu University of Science and Technology Faculty of Natural Sciences, and has been awarded a WRC Research Award for Human Capital Development in the Water and Science Sectors.
A highlight of Professor Modi’s community activity was the establishment of the Ezemvelo Farmers Organisation (EFO), a sustainable agriculture organization of smallholder farmers who produce organic taro in KwaZulu-Natal. Before that, he worked with small-scale farmers in Tugela Ferry, KwaZulu-Natal, who produce vegetables under flood irrigation and dryland agriculture. Since then, through his community outreach and research, he has worked with farmers across the province of KwaZulu-Natal, including Mtubatuba, Jozini, Richards Bay, Swayimani (Wartberg), Diepdale, Mphophomeni and Vulindlela in Pietermaritzburg. Currently, the largest project he works with is funded by SANBI, through uMngungundlovu Municipality. The other, is funded by the Water Research Commission (WRC).
In addition, Professor Modi is a Director of Jive Media Africa and the YAZI Centre for Science and Society in Africa (Non Profit), which focuses on science community outreach activities.
Professor Modi carries an active teaching load in the Agricultural Sciences Programme as well as supervising Honours, Masters and PhD students. In 2016 he was awarded the UKZN Distinguished Teacher Award.
Professor Modi’s research interest is in the broad area of Agronomy, including Crop Science, Seed Science, Plant Physiology, Field Crop Management (including response to nutrient and water stress), Underutilized Neglected Crops and Sustainable Agriculture. His publications largely cover these areas of agronomy in the context of plant science.