SOFHT is an independent consortium of food industry specialists set up to keep members advised of the current hygiene and technology issues through providing technical support, training and topical information as well as a vital forum for networking and sharing best practice across the entire food chain.
This sounds pretty exciting. How did you get involved?
My PhD research at the University of Lincoln focuses on intelligent automation for hygiene maintenance in food production settings. My industry sponsor, Campden BRI put me in contact with the Society of Food Hygiene and Technology who invited me along to their Innovation Day as a keynote speaker.
How did the innovation day start?
Not knowing quite what to expect, and excited that the event was taking place in person (rather than virtually), I arrived at the York Biotech Campus. Here I was welcomed warmly by Karen Middleton (Operations Director for SOFHT) and Peter Littleton (SOFHT Chair and Technical Director at Christeyns Food Hygiene Ltd). I began to browse the stands – this seemed very novel after 2 years of ‘networking’ on line!
Were there any presentations before you?
We first heard a talk by Damian Malins, Venturing Project Director at Fera Science (with a site based at the York Biotech Campus) about repurposing and redistributing food waster reformation, in particular, about insects as a food source. It was a fascinating presentation about the power of waste – perhaps not to be considered waste at all! If insects can consume some of our organic residues and food waste products then we can convert them into to a very valuable product.
Another keynote speaker highlighted a new antimicrobial technology that can be embedded into surfaces for improved hygiene in high traffic/high risk areas. The technology works in minutes and lasts for the lifetime of the product that it is embedded in. This could be used for shopping bags, coffee cups or chopping boards at home or in factories.
Did you have any nerves presenting the keynote?
Once the other speakers had finished, I found myself heading up to the stand to present about robotics to an audience of food hygiene specialists! It was exciting to be able to highlight robotic capabilities as well as describing our particular approach to this – to begin by simulating and optimizing a task carried out by a team, as an interim step for introducing robots into the team.
After giving my presentation, during the next coffee break, it was great to chat to other delegates in more detail about my PhD research plans – one hygiene manager said that he “had never considered robotics for cleaning tasks before, just for production tasks”.
Prior to the day I was a little apprehensive about speaking to an audience of food hygiene specialists, but it was such a sociable event, with open enthusiastic delegates that it was a real pleasure to take part.
Do you have any tips to give other CDT students?
I would advise rehearsing your presentation to whoever will listen! Whether this be to your supervisor, to friends, or to your research team.
When you’ve prepared exactly what you want your message to be, and have tailored your slides so that there are lots of images (where appropriate) and enough to keep your particular audience interested, it makes actually doing the presentation so much easier!
I think that it’s important to recognize the value of your work and potential impacts that it could have and to keep this in mind when presenting.
Congratulations Amie on being invited as the keynote speaker and sharing the benefits that robotics can have throughout the whole agri-food supply chain. It is fantastic to have role models within the CDT student cohort whom others can seek advice and experience from as early career researchers.
If you would like to find out more information on the research being done within AgriFoRwArdS, or to find out more about Campden BRI or the Society of Food Hygiene and Technology please visit the respective websites.