“Science reflects the people who make it.”
February 11th marks the sixth year of International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
Science and technology are crucial in getting produce from field to fork and makes vital contributions to the sector. Despite STEM-related areas being so important, data published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) highlights that only around 30% of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. Trainees on the MDS scheme can work in a range of STEM roles, and we are proud to say that gender representation is equal (Trainees who identify as Female represent 47% of the total current cohort).
To celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we interviewed Ffion, a next-generation #FemaleFoodHero on her experience as a science graduate on the MDS scheme.
Why did you choose a science degree?
I had always enjoyed science at school, particularly biology as it is naturally applicable to everyday life and there are so many aspects within it – biochemistry, plant biology, conservation (the list goes on). I also thought that a science degree would allow me to keep my options open whilst doing something I enjoyed.
How has your science background helped you on MDS?
I am currently managing a project that involves a type of light spectrometry which I am familiar with from University. While it isn’t a necessity that I understand the ins and outs of the device, it is certainly an advantage. This understanding helps me manage people, as they appreciate that I have some knowledge of the topic. I feel that my understanding of plant biology is useful for the fresh produce industry, as it provides a foundation for many aspects.
What do you think are the industry’s most significant issues, and how can science and technology help this?
I think the biggest issue we will face in years to come is over-population. It will become increasingly difficult to feed people, especially in countries affected by low soil fertility, drought, and farmland space. I think this will lead to an increase in the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). For example, a rice plant has been genetically modified to grow with around 40% of the amount of water needed for conventional plants. Currently, GMOs are still seen as a taboo, as consumers like to know that their food is natural and isn’t made in a lab. But once people understand their necessity and that they are not a threat to human health, they will become the future.
I think another exciting development is vertical farming. These methods can be used in houses, containers and underground, making them great for urban areas. This development could also allow people to become physically closer to food that they eat, lowering the carbon emissions of shipping food across the globe. It could increase the appreciation of the farming process, rather than expecting everything to be on supermarkets shelves despite the season. This method will also be great for the future when populations increase, meaning less land area for crops.