Playing the maths card

It was a pleasure to attend the IFST Lecture 2023 last week (10 October) titled – Surviving in a Hostile World: The Need for Food Science – by two presenters no less:

  • Professor Jeremy Hill, MNZM, Professor of sustainable nutrition, Riddet Institute, Massey University and chief science & technology officer, Fonterra Co-operative Group
  • Dr Wayne Martindale, FIFST, Honorary Secretary and Trustee IFST, and associate professor, food insights and sustainability, NCFM, University of Lincoln.

Setting out the challenges the world faces, Professor Hill helped us understand the “perfect storm of challenges” putting industry under a lot of pressure via climate change, sustainability, war and the challenges of new science and innovation, which are providing both solutions and opportunities but also threats in the eyes of consumers. He reminded the audience that one of the biggest challenges remains retention and recruitment of talent into the food sector because “if we don’t have the right people, if we can’t keep them then the industry has no chance whatsoever of overcoming these challenges”.

Dr Wayne Martindale wowed us with a famous photo called Earthrise, taken by Bill Anders an astronaut on Apollo 8 – it was probably the first full picture of the planet earth rising above the Moon.

His point was to tell us that we don’t want the blue planet going brown or red. To all intents and purposes, we are in a closed system. We can’t break the laws of physics and we can’t break the second law of Thermodynamics.

“What we’ve done over the last 250 years is essentially utilise the resources available to us and we’re recognising that there’s some payback for that,” he added.

We don’t want to live in a hostile world, Martindale asserted and believes that humankind will overcome the challenges put before us so long as we utilise innovation, food science and science generally.

Handing back to Professor Hill they both expounded on the logistic equation and used it to project what’s happening in a chaotic system with regards to food security and food supply. Introducing us to the Sustainable Nutrition Initiative or SNI, Professor Hill provided evidence of how mathematical modelling can indicate how nutrients will be provided in 2050 versus 2020. The SNI will play a role in how consumers will access both macro- and micro-nutrients going forward.

A sustainable food system, noted Professor Hill, needs to provide nutrition for populations. Yet, change must occur at a local level, however informed by global data.

All-in-all, the two presenters did a fantastic job of presenting a very complex topic within a complex manufacturing system. How it plays out to all the individual players in the market is one overriding thought. How much change will companies, and individuals be willing to make to provide nutrition for the world’s populations is one question. But, more pointedly, as was asked, how does mathematical modelling, and the like, work for the majority of businesses in the food and drink market? More discussions like this lecture are required as is informing a new legion of possible recruits to the food and beverage industry.

Related content

Leave a reply

Food and Drink Technology