I was born and brought up in County Durham, the land of the Prince Bishops and lived in an area surrounded by farms. I decided from a young age that working with food would be a lifelong passion. Whilst at Silsoe College, Cranfield University I became interested in international development and on completion of my MSc in post-harvest technology, I worked for an NGO sponsored project in Uganda for subsistence farmers before moving to a commercial farm which grew vegetables for export to the U.K.
Affectionately known by friends and colleagues as ‘Mrs Bean’ I quickly settled into the ‘expat’ farm life and its various challenges. I enjoyed the experience of living and working abroad but I outgrew my role on the farm and returned to the UK to become more involved in the fresh produce industry which was expanding rapidly into the prepared foods market in the late 1990s.
I had an exciting time travelling to different countries to procure products, working with growers to develop new product lines, choosing new varieties of crops and learning to speak French and Spanish along the way.
I became a technical manager at Bakkavor and moved to Northwest England and was based at a vegetable processing plant until I left in 2014. I embarked on a MSc course in Human Nutrition and set up a technical and nutrition consultancy, Alo Solutions, providing services to the food industry.
Working for myself has been a great springboard for positive change in my professional and personal life and it continues to amaze me that I have the opportunity to work on projects that bring about successful change within businesses, spend quality time with friends and family and still find time to volunteer with Big Bookend, Tough Mudder and run the UK student conference for the Nutrition Society held in September 2016.
The belief to apply for a Nuffield Scholarship is thanks to the new found confidence that I have gained from running my own business and realising that the phrase ‘Just do it’ is a real motivator. Once my Nuffield project is completed; I plan to expand and develop my consultancy business so that I focus on adding value to my clients’ businesses by assisting them to implement innovative systems and products. Involvement with professional bodies is part of my current strategy and that will increase as I engage with new colleagues and continue my professional development. Coaching and mentoring will become a more significant part of my career so that I can encourage people to achieve their goals.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Food Chain Scholarship Fund for their generosity in sponsoring my Nuffield Scholarship.
The relationship between farming practices and healthy nutrition has declined as food processing has overtaken home cooking in many Western diets.
Identification of health problems that can be solved by innovative farming approaches would bring stakeholders together for their mutual benefit.
Recently there has been a shift towards adapting growing methods and animal management to provide solutions to human nutrition problems.
Around 3.8 million people in the UK suffer with chronic kidney disease stage 3-5 (CKD). Consequently, these patients are advised by their dietitians to adjust their diet for protein, sodium, potassium and phosphate. For these individuals, in addition to eating a healthy, balanced diet, they must also modify the way food is cooked, for example leaching vegetables to reduce potassium content or avoiding foods such as potato crisps and other processed potato products.
Making potato products available to this consumer group by focusing on growing and processing potatoes within a specific potassium range could replace their consumption of other starch based products and increase sales
My research will take me to the Netherlands, USA, South Korea, New Zealand and China in the search for innovative farming practices and vegetable processing solutions for human nutrition problems.
I aim to inform growers in the UK of the options that are available when working strategically with human nutritional health needs and how key foods can be of commercial benefit.
I would like to have a commercially viable potato product for people with chronic kidney disease to be able to consume and I will use the knowledge I gain to take my consultancy business in the direction of innovation and development.