On March 19th, in collaboration with the Food and Farming Discovery Trust (FFDT) we held our second AgriTech Careers For a Sustainable Future event at the John Innes Centre (JIC).

The event welcomed 45 sixth form students from across the region to learn first-hand, about diverse careers in AgriTech.

Beginning at 09.30am, the daylong event was split into 4 sessions. The first session of the day introduced the young attendees to the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory’s joint vision: Healthy Plants. Healthy People. Healthy Planet. for achieving a safer, healthier and more sustainable future through the power of plant and microbial science.  Scientist Dr Eleni Vikeli from the Germplasm Resource Unit at JIC spoke about preserving genetic diversity in heritage varieties for future-proofing our crops. Dr Maria Hernandez-Soriano spoke of the importance of maintaining healthy soils and understanding relationships between soil microbes and plants for more sustainable farming and Head of Business Development at JIC, Dr Jon Clarke gave an insightful talk about Vitamin B12 deficiency and the potential use of biofortification of plants to enable healthier diets.

I am very passionate about making a difference in my future career, and I believe Agritech would offer me great opportunities to develop solutions in areas that are essential for all our futures, such as globally sustainable food production, and enhanced food security.

Agritech Careers Day attendee

For the following session “Innovation and Technology”, the attendees were separated into groups and had an opportunity to learn about; satellites and precision agriculture with Space East and HexCam, genetic crop improvement technologies with Dr Penny Hundleby (JIC) and Dr Elliott Atkins from Tropic Biosciences, and nitrogen soil sensors with Professor Tony Miller and Dr Yi Chen from Plenty Sense.

After lunch, the students got the chance to visit the JIC field station site at Church Farm in Bawburgh.  Donning their wellington boots, the AgriTech enthusiasts trekked across the farm to look at active field trials with Dr Ryan Brock, learn how JIC scientists use drones to assist with their research with Dr Martin Vickers and JIC’s scientific photographer, Phil Robinson and finally hear from PhD student Miles Curl about his path into studying drought tolerance.

To end the day, Greg Bowker, Head of Communications from the Earlham Institute (EI) welcomed the students to a science communication showcase. Science communication is a vital part of research culture, particularly in publicly funded research institutes, where it is important to inform and consult society on current and future research projects.  EI PhD student Mia Berelson showcased AirSeq technology and communication specialist Amy Lyall presented the EI banana themed stand from this year’s Norwich Science Festival to show how a complex scientific project was translated into a family-friendly activity to enable discussions around the topic.  Similarly, JIC scientists Dr Anna Schulten and Dr Govind Menon presented their stand from the science festival and SAW and the FFDT had information about careers in public engagement.

The day was a huge success, and we were happy to hear that 100% of those who attended would recommend the event to a friend and most importantly, 90% said they would consider a career in AgriTech having attended the event.

A huge thank you to the event funders, the John Innes Foundation, for making it possible, and to all those who presented.