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CambPlants Hub

A networking organisation for plants-related research and impact

Studying at Cambridge


Food Futures events: training and networking with industry

last modified Jun 12, 2018 09:44 AM
The two Food Futures events were aimed at University of Cambridge PhD students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with the agri-tech or food industry.

Food Futures 1 training event on 16 May

The first of the events took place at Robinson College, where the early career researchers were welcomed by Professor Howard Griffiths, followed by a very interesting talk on food industry trends and challenges from Imran Afzal, Senior R&D Manager, External Innovation at PepsiCo. Imran also gave some useful tips on how to communicate with industry, listed on the right of this page.

Imran Afzal, Senior Research and Development Manager at PepsiCo

The training continued with Amanda Wooding from Cambridge Enterprise who talked about Intellectual Property and what to be aware of when talking about your research. The rest of the day was led by Lucinda Spokes, Public Engagement & Festival Manager at the University; and Sarah Cruise from Eloquential, who engaged the participants in a workshop on how to present their research effectively. At the end, the early career researchers got to practise their research pitches on each other.

Lauranne Gateau from Plant Sciences and Yi Shen from Chemistry practising their research pitches. Both of them presented their work to industry later at Food Futures 2.

FoodFutures 2 was held at Clare College on 7 June

The day was an excellent opportunity for Cambridge's early career researchers to interact with industry representatives from ADAS, Buhler, Corteva Agriscience, Koppert, PepsiCo and more, hear about what these companies do, and learn about funding Cambridge has available for industry placements and collaborations.

A keynote talk by Pierre Broun, Head of Nestle R&D Centre, Tours, outlined current challenges in agriculture and the food industry, from climate change to crop disease. He looked at the opportunities ahead such as plant breeding and empowerment of farmers, and how the food industry can help. He also told us about Nestle's plans to collaborate with the University of Cambridge, through the Cambridge Centre for Crop Sciences, in the future in order to access expertise and develop a value chain approach.

Representatives from six food and agri-tech companies then gave short talks, providing fascinating insights into how they got into their current roles, and the work they currently do. There is a diverse range of career opportunities for researchers across many subjects from plant science, physics and chemistry to data science, education and communications.


Tim Kelf explains his work with a machine for the optical sorting of grains at Buhler.

The series of 16 flash presentations by early career researchers covered a huge range of subjects, highlighting the range of work applicable to research in the food industry, from lettuce harvesting robots, to all-natural microcapsules for food applications, to computational models to understand plant development.

Congratulations to Yuan He, at the Centre of Development Studies, who won the prize for the best presentation! Yuan, a social scientist, challenged the scientists in the room to consider not only food production, but distribution and access as important factors in addressing food security.

Yuan He

Yuan He gives her flash presentation on 'Food in China and India Compared'

We ended the day with networking in the beautiful Fellows' Garden at Clare College, where new connections were made and interesting conversations  continued, and Professor Howard Griffiths kindly gave us a tour in the sunshine.



Funding to interact with industry partners

If anyone who attended the event would like more information about funding opportunities for working with industry either through internships, short visits, or longer collaborations, or help with following up connections made on the day, please contact the CambPlants Hub , or the following people:

For Cambridge early-career researcher industry placements, the Translational Research Manager, Bioscience Impact Team

For BBSRC Impact Acceleration Account (pump priming funds to establish and strengthen connections with industry), the Impact Facilitator, Bioscience Impact Team

For EIT Food opportunities to participate in innovation, education or entrepreneurship activities, the EIT Food Coordinator for Cambridge

 FFII organisers                           

The organising team - well done ladies!

The Food Futures events were co-organised by Cambridge Global Food Security IRC, University of Cambridge Bioscience Impact Team, CambPlants Hub, School of Veterinary Medicine, and Office for Postdoctoral Affairs, with support from BBSRC and the Isaac Newton Trust.


Industry partners at the Food Futures events

'We recognise that we are stewards of a great company with the opportunity not only to make profit, but to do so in a way that makes a difference in the world', PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi

Imran Afzal from PepsiCo spoke at the first event and gave good tips for success when talking to companies about your work and possible collaboration:

You are dealing with people not just a company.

  • Know what you want.
  • Be concise - put yourself in their shoes. Limited attention span.
  • Understand who you are talking to and their company strategy. PWP in our case.
  • Understand what they are looking for. Connect their needs to your work.
  • Demonstrate that you respect their IP, your own and others'. PepsiCo does not always need to own IP.
  • What's your USP?
  • Product samples can be very engaging.
  • Sometimes nothing will progress - that's okay, move on.
  • Has to be a win-win for everyone (sic).
  • Be in it for the long term. The food industry is tiny, you will meet the same people again and again. 

Peter Jens from Koppert

Peter Jens from Koppert spoke at Food Futures 2. He was one of the various industry representatives who participated in the event by presenting the work that they do and the possibilities for early career researchers to collaborate with them.

The following companies participated in Food Futures 2:


Nestlé is the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company. Nestle have more than 2000 brands ranging from global icons to local favourites. As a strategic partner of the University of Cambridge, Nestle is looking to collaborate in areas such as plant science, food safety and nutrition. 

AMT Fruit

AMT Fruit are a supplier of fresh fruit to Tesco, they are based in Newmarket and provide a uniquely customised supply chain, specifically designed to fulfil Tesco requirements in citrus, melons, grapes and pineapples. AMT Fruit would like to collaborate on innovative sustainability projects that address water use, waste and carbon emission reduction.


Britvic is a British producer of soft drinks. Britvic aims to be the most dynamic, creative and trusted soft drinks company in the World. Britvic is interested in partnering with academics in projects looking at natural sweeteners, novel materials and sustainability.


Innovative solutions for positive nutrition (fibre, alternative protein sources), less saturated fat, less sodium and of course less sugar, sustainable packaging solutions and water use. Key commodities that the company uses: potatoes, oats, citrus fruit.


Sustainable cultivation solutions for food crops and ornamental plants. Some core disciplines: biological pest control, natural pollination, application techniques & monitoring, seed treatment.


Process technology solutions for grains and food and for technical materials. Buhler’s technology covers the entire processing chain from grain to bread, from chocolate bean to bar. Strategic fields are: food losses, food safety, food structure design for healthy food and feed.


Solutions for the development of healthier recipes, efficient methods of production, side stream management, customised packaging, advanced consumer research. Products include: juices, instant products, pasta, jams, sauces, ready meals, vitamins and supplements.

Map of Agriculture

Pioneer of predictive marketing in agriculture. Their innovative technology enables any business within the food supply chain – from farmer to retailer – to make sound decisions based on accurate, real-time information, employing state of the art data modelling.


UK’s largest independent provider of agricultural and environmental consultancy, rural development services, research and development, and policy advice. Areas of expertise: agriculture & horticulture, energy, food & drink, planning & land development, chemicals, engineering, environment, soils & water.

Hummingbird Technologies

Artificial intelligence business using drone and satellite technology. R&D work with businesses and institutes such as Velcourt, NIAB, Beeswax Dyson Farming, Spearhead, BASF. Services across a range of crops in cereals & vegetables, such as crop stress detection, detection of diseases, weed grass mapping, nutrient management mapping, yield prediction, plant counting in row crops.

Ed Plowman from Hummingbird Technologies

Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDupont

Improving sustainable crop productivity for example through increased seed performance and productivity (including rice, wheat, cereals, corn, etc.) and controlling weeds, disease, insects and nematodes. Key focus areas: breeding, biotech, crop protection, seed applied technology, digital solutions, agronomic solutions. 

Bayer CropScience

Bayer CropScience helps farmers increase their yields and reduce potential losses by providing crop protection solutions. They work with wheat, oilseed rape, sugar beet, barley, potatoes, brassicas, maize, peas and beans, top fruit, soft fruit, salad crops, leeks, carrots and onions.


Entomics transforms food waste into sustainable, renewable resources by using insects (Black Soldier Fly). The flies feed on food waste converting it into fat and protein inside their bodies. Using the larvae, the company generates animal feed and frass (fertilizer).