Peter Fryer is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham and the 2018 recipient of the Seligman Medal and Lecture. He has published on a number of food engineering topics, including process cleaning, chocolate manufacture, validation of heat transfer processes and modelling of processes.
Peter Fryer with Roderick Seligman. All images: Andrew Lunn/SCI
He is Director of the EPSRC CDT in Formulation Engineering, which integrates work into microstructured products across foods, personal care, fine chemicals and ceramics, with industry partners.
In 1975, the Richard Seligman Memorial Trust was endowed by the APV Company in honour of its founder Sir Richard Seligman to commemorate his contribution to food engineering. SCI was asked to administer the Trust due its strong connections with Richard Seligman. Fifteen lectures have been given over the last 45 years that relate to the need for excellent engineering in food.
Congratulations on being this year's Seligman lecturer. Could you give a brief overview of what you discussed in your lecture?
I've spent the last 10 or 20 years looking at food engineering issues, most of which are about energy in one way or the other – either the energy needed to heat something up and kill bacteria or the energy needed to transform say chocolate into a potable form – and over the last few years I have been looking more and more at how we can save energy or reduce waste in the food industry.
What do you think are the biggest technology gaps in our current food engineering processes?
I think the first problem is there aren't enough of us. I think some of the undergraduate training in food engineering has disappeared because food is a peculiar material and it's not the sort of thing that people learn about, which I think is a major barrier.
The technology gap is how do we make food that people want to eat and that is good for them but is simultaneously sustainable. The issue is can we make sure that people eat healthily and enjoy eating?
And what point does this become economically sensible since, clearly, nobody will eat locally grown sustainable food if it's five times as expensive as what they would buy otherwise. I think honestly, they're having that the same problem across all industries as consumers demand sustainable sources, but a lot aren't willing to pay.
How do you feel about winning the award?
I'm absolutely delighted. I was very surprised to receive the email and I'm very grateful to the Sutherland Trust. I've been to a number of the lectures in my time, and I'm surprised and pleased to add my name to the list.
We also spoke to Con O’Driscoll, Global Product Manager of Dispersion Products of SPX Flow, who are long-time supporters and sponsors.
In 1910, Richard Seligman founded the Aluminium Plant & Vessel Company Limited, which is now owned by SPX FLOW, thus securing their relationship with SCI and this event.
Could you give us an overview of SPX Flow’s role in the food industry?
We see our role as offering innovative engineered solutions to help customers drive efficiency and productivity to increase quality and reliability, and to meet the latest regulatory demands. Our in-depth understanding of applications and processes combined with state-of-the-art Innovation Centres, where our customers test their products, all help in optimising processes and enabling our customers to reliably meet production targets.
We've got decades of experience as a leading innovator of process solutions through well-known premium brands, such as APV. When you bring all of this together with our engineering experience, this makes us a leading supplier of turnkey solutions and customised packages that are obviously very relevant today.
How are you connected to the Seligman APV Memorial Lecture?
We support this lecture because we truly believe in the value. It's an opportunity for people from the food and beverage industry from academia and SPX Flow, along with other technology companies, to come together to share ideas, wisdom, knowledge and concerns with what's going on in the industry. These networking opportunities help to spark innovation and nurture relationships which help those innovations come to reality.
Why do you think it is important that scientists, innovators and business people in the food industry are able to come together through organisations like SCI?
I help to deliver relationships within the food industry, which in turn creates progress and innovation and the development of markets for some of these trends that we’re talking about. Cultivating this network and fostering collaboration helps everyone.
It provides contacts with research, helps us to see what sort of science and engineering graduate talent is coming through and what courses have food-related content. So, SCI and similar organisations provide a really important role to promote and facilitate these relationships with graduates and academia.