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Lunchtime Lecture - Food Structures for a sustainable world

Lunchtime Lecture - Food Structures for a sustainable world

Seamus Higgins, AFIChemE, FHEA, Associate Professor of Food Process Engineering at the University of Nottingham

As part of the global food system, food engineering has a particular responsibility to society. Food and its production matter for every single individual on this planet —It always has!

While the global food industry has had many successes over the past 50 years in terms of scalability and offering abundant food supply to many parts of the world, it has not happened without consequence and controversy.

The end of the 20th century and the global realisation that nature’s resources are finite and cannot absorb the world’s waste introduced two new dimensions — other than growth and profitability — to the food industry: environmental and sustainability concerns.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation puts a number on it; for every dollar spent on food, society now pays two dollars in health, environmental, and economic costs. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2019). The FAO calculates the global price of hidden health and environmental costs of our present agri-food systems to be at least $10 trillion annually.

As such, with future population and urbanisation growth, as well as more significant societal costs, there is no doubt that our current food system needs to change.  A fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of the entire food chain and its practices is required.

By linking a very simple definition of engineering as being “to make things or to make things better” with the discipline of food engineering, perhaps the point has been lost by more recent numbers-orientated management that a food engineer’s key role has always been, as proven over past millennia, to consistently re-engineer food systems to achieve beneficial change.

This seminar will overview some of the Environmental & Sustainability challenges the industry is now facing and present some practical steps, from an engineering perspective, as to how the industry can embrace future change and adapt to implementing better ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) goals.

Seamus began his career in the food industry as an electrical engineer and has worked with several leading international food companies, including Nestle and Premier Foods. Having completed an MBA programme in project management in the mid-nineties, he has since worked in several lead project and senior management roles, including factory development, food process engineering and new product development. He has also performed and consulted for several leading global food and UK companies, entrepreneur development, and new company start-ups.

He joined the school of Chemical & Environmental Engineering, University of Nottingham, in 2017 as course director to develop a new MSc programme in food process engineering.  His position as an associate professor for Food Process Engineering at the University of Nottingham allows him to combine several years of food industry experience with departmental expertise in Chemical and Environmental sustainability endeavours. He combines his passion for a more sustainable world and novel food manufacturing techniques with a new generation of process engineers, the University of Nottingham and supporting institutions.

Seamus is an associate fellow of IChemE and a fellow of the Higher Education Authority UK. He is also an editorial board member of the International Journal for Food Process Engineering. 





14/05/2024 - 1pm-2pm
Online via Zoom