Professor Albert Thembinkosi Modi is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, College of Agriculture Engineering and Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal. He was the founding CEO of the Moses Kotane Institute for Science and Technology, which was established by the former KZN Department of Economic Development in 2008. In addition to his management roles at UKZN, he teaches Crop Science modules at third year level and above. His research interests are in Seed Science and Technology, Plant Physiology, Sustainable Agriculture, Water Relations, Food Security and Climate Change. In 2017, he established the UKZN Centre for Transformative Agriculture and Food Systems in order to enhance his research and rural community engagement profile. This allowed him to attract national and international research collaborations and partnerships. Since 2002, he has trained 58 postgraduate students under his supervision – 28 MSc and MSc Agric; 20 PhDs.
These include three current Professors at UKZN; a Dean, School of Agriculture and Biotechnology, University of Eldoret, Kenya; Lecturers at UKZN, Fort Hare, UniZul, MUT, UNIVEN; a Senior Manager of the South African Research Council, and many more. He has written more than 150 research publications, including peer-reviewed journal articles, conference proceedings, book chapters and books.
His interest in rural economic development was influenced by growing up in the rural areas of Centane in the former Transkei, Eastern Cape. This led to him establishing direct linkages with small-scale subsistence farmers across the Province of KZN. One of the flagship projects of this interaction was the establishment of the Ezemvelo Farmers Organisation at Umbumbulu, eThekwini District, KZN, which led to the first commercialisation of amadumbe – an indigenous crop of KwaZulu-Natal (EZEMVELO FARMERS ORGANISATION). His community service includes membership of many Boards, including UMEDA (uMgungundlovu District Economic Development Agency), the Institute for Commercial Forestry Research, the Institute for Natural Resources, Baynesfield Estate, Fountain Hill Estate and others. He believes in participatory research that is inclusive of indigenous knowledge, science and agriculture to resolve local problems associated with agriculture. He is the Fellow of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf). In 2021, he received the award of the African Academy of Sciences Fellowship, in recognition of his contribution to agricultural science with impact on innovation, human capacity development and community engagement.