16 May 2003
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to visit the United Kingdom under the Seligman APV Bursary awarded to me by SCI. It was also a privilege and prestige for me to be the first Indian to be honoured by one of the most esteemed and acclaimed professional societies of the world. I feel extremely proud to be a guest of SCI and I enjoyed my stay in the UK supported by good weather. The experiences I gained, both professionally and personally, can hardly be summarized in this brief report. However, I would be happy to put forth some of the outcomes of this bursary.
The bursary period was well organised and arranged systematically by the Seligman Food Engineering Division and the administrative staff of SCI. The visits involved academic institutions viz., Universities of Reading, Cambridge, Bristol, Manchester Metropolitan, Westminster and industries related to food processing viz., Weetabix, APV and Amcor Flexibles. The bursary helped me to meet, discuss and share the experiences of towering personalities like Kurt Berger (Technical Consultant, Oils and Fats) and Dr Parkash Kocchar (specialist in edible oils, antioxidants and related products).
I attended a two-day training course on ‘Food Factory Inspections’ conducted by LawLabs Ltd in Birmingham and conferences on ‘Innovative cleaning techniques for food and drink industries’ at SCI, London, and ‘How does a food manufacturer avoid poisoning people?’ at the University of Reading. The visit to Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association (CCFRA) introduced me to the latest technologies used in product and process development and I feel extremely unfortunate to miss training at CCFRA due to its cancellation. The visit to International Arable Crops Research (ICAR), Rothamsted, gave me an insight in the use of insect supersense as an effective biosensor tool for assessing the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The places of visit were so well coordinated to allow me sufficient time to reach the places in time and distributed widely enabling me to see different parts of the UK as well. The organisers exposed me to the food engineering research being carried out in various places according to the field of interest expressed by me in my application. They also made enormous efforts to rearrange my visits when some of the scheduled programmes were cancelled.
During the bursary, I was fortunate to contact Professors like Dr Keshavan Niranjan (SCI Food Engineering Group Chairman) at the University of Reading, Dr Ian Wilson (SCI Food Engineering Group Secretary) at the University Cambridge, Dr Joe Quarini, (Professor of Mechanical Engineering) at the University of Bristol, and Dr Paul Ainsworth at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Dr Niranjan guided me to conduct practical experiments on Modified Atmosphere Packaging in his laboratory and his colleague Dr Ashok Ghare educated me on the working of various advanced food processing machineries available in their pilot plant with due importance to the quality and hygienic practices. During my stay in Reading, I visited Reading Scientific Services Limited (RSSL) and collected literature from the library of the University of Reading.
The visits to industries of food engineering concern were highly informative and interesting. At APV, Crawley, I saw the cleaning of heat exchanger plates, designing of food processing equipment using CAD and automation of industries using computer simulation. Some of the technologies so far known to me only in texts could be seen in practical application, viz., radio frequency drying and impingement drying at Weetabix, designing and testing of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) at Amcor Flexibles and CAD/CAM application in food industries at APV.
The experiences and contacts I have gained will be used for the betterment of food process engineering education and research in my parent institution. It will also help me in getting collaborative research funding from international organisations through established contacts. It is planned to prepare and submit a project proposal to the British Council on ‘Development of extruded nutritive snack foods from traditional crops of India like sorghum and millets’ in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University. It is also planned to carry out some research on ‘Edible oil from Simarouba glauca (Paradise Tree) kernels’ in consultation with Dr Parkash Kocchar. The visit prompted me to adopt some of the hygienic practices of the food processing pilot plants of the UK in our laboratory such as the use of overcoats, head covers and spectacles for visitors and users of the pilot plant, provision of insect traps, designated walking area, maintenance of cold chambers. The contacts I have gained can also help the students of my institution to look for higher studies in the UK. The training on ‘Food Factory Inspections’ will enable to me organize similar training to interested entrepreneurs and processors of our region so that they can easily comply with the import regulations of the various countries.
Finally, I would like to mention that being a Seligman APV Bursary will help me immensely in building up my professional career. I take this opportunity to thank SCI, Dr Richard Denyer (SCI General Secretary and Chief Executive), Graham Byars (Seligman Trust Management Committee Chairman), Dr Keshavan Niranjan, (SCI Food Engineering Group Chairman), Dr Ian Wilson (SCI Food Engineering Group Secretary), Monica Iglesias, (SCI Awards Coordinator), and Lizzy Ray (SCI Publicity Officer) for their wholehearted help and involvement in making my visit to UK under the prestigious Seligman APV Bursary a highly successful and memorable event of my life.
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University