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Young talents collaborate with the food industry

Students and industry support each other in the development of new solutions for the Danish food industry. With the new building for the Department of Food Science in Agro Food Park in Aarhus N, the distance between the university and the industry becomes even shorter.

2018.03.22 | Lotte Rystedt

During her project at HortiAdvice Scandinavia, BSc student Maria Zita Salvesen examined how basil could become more chill-tolerant. Photo: Maria Zita Salvesen

When Maria Zita Salvesen had to choose her elective subject on the fifth semester of her BSc study in Agrobiology at Aarhus University, she had no doubt that she wanted to do a project with a company. This meant that she had to identify a company where she could do her project.

-          I really wanted to work on a project, get some contacts within the industry and experience what it means to be part of a company, says Maria Zita Salvesen.

She chose to focus her study on food science and is affiliated to Department of Food Science at Aarhus University. She did her project at HortiAdvice Scandinavia that has a branch at Agro Food Park in Skejby. It is in this food cluster that the Department of Food Science will have its new facilities in 2019.

In the first part of her project, Maria Zita Salvesen followed one of the company’s consultants, and then she started a project where she studied how the composition of soil affects growth and shelf life of organic basil.

-          I studied how basil can become more chilling tolerant by adding gypsum to the soil. The results showed that with increased gypsum content in the soil, the plants had increased chilling tolerance. However, more experiments are needed to be able to draw any clear conclusions, says Maria Zita Salvesen.

A gift for the company

She made a report for her assignment, and HortiAdvice Scandinavia received a copy. At the company, Senior Advisory Manager Thomas Skovgaard Lund is very pleased with the student’s work.

-          It is a gift for us, when the student can explore in depth the projects we are working on. The gardeners appreciate the extra attention to their challenges, and the students can discover for themselves how interesting a job in the industry can be, says Thomas Skovgaard Lund.

For the company it is important to be visible to the students.

-          It is in our interest that the students know who we are, when they have finished their education, because we need young talent in our business. We also wish to have a strong link between the research at Aarhus University and the challenges for horticultural growers, says Thomas Skovgaard Lund.

The university underpins synergy

At the Department of Food Science at Aarhus University collaboration between industry and students is important.

We focus on ensuring that the education we offer the students is relevant and matches the needs of their future employers. Therefore, many students, BSc, MSc and PhD, do their projects in close collaboration with a company in the food industry. It is of great value to the student to get hands-on experience with the subjects they learn during their education, and for companies it is very useful to get to know the students and their capabilities, says Michelle Williams, who is Head of Department at the Department of Food Science.

Agro Food Park includes 75 companies with up to 1,000 employees, and Michelle Williams sees many advantages by bringing the students closer to the companies when the Department moves into the new building.

-          Agro Food Park has a good mix of entrepreneurs, medium-sized and big companies, and this creates a dynamic food cluster. We see many opportunities to connect students and PhDs with companies and thus create a strong and active network between young talent and the industry, says Michelle Williams.

Already last year, Department of Food Science established the entrepreneurial hub – ‘Food ehub’; for students with business ideas within the food and agricultural sector.

-          It is a very active and creative environment, and we look forwards to linking our young entrepreneurs with the Future Food Incubator at Agro Food Park, says Michelle Williams.

Contacts for the future

Maria Zita Salvesen is now doing her BSc project, where she analyses health-promoting compounds in broccoli. Here she collaborates with a horticultural grower who she contacted during her project with HortiAdvice Scandinavia.

She does not hesitate to recommend that other students collaborate with a company during their assignments.

-          You get to use your knowledge in practice and achieve new capabilities within other subject areas, and in addition, you get valuable contacts for your further study and work life, says Maria Zita Salvesen.

Students and staff at Department of Food Science expect to move into the new facilities in November 2019.

Facts about the build

Building area: 6,800 m2 on four floors. Three floors above the ground will hold teaching facilities, offices, meeting rooms and laboratories with ultra-modern facilities, and a basement floor of 1,700 m2 for i.a. freezers, storage, postharvest facilities, etc. In connection to this, an ultra-modern glasshouse of 2,500 m2 will be built, with climate chambers and facilities for multi-layer growing of plants etc.

In total 140 staff and students will have the new buildings as their workplace.

The buildings will be ready for use in November 2019.


Head of Department Michelle Williams

Department of Food Science

Email: mw@food.au.dk

Food, DCA, Food, Knowledge exchange