Monthly Archives: February 2014

Food Technology – A Cinderella Career Path Due to an Un-Sexy Name?

It would seem that the programme title FOOD TECHNOLOGY (with its appropriate qualification in linear fashion from National Diploma to Masters) is somewhat mis-leading, un-sexy and does not catch the imagination of the pupils at high schools. Let’s face it, with the word “FOOD” as part of its title, the mind immediately sees “COOKING”, “CHEF”, “DOMESTIC SCIENCE” and “HOME ECONOMICS”, the latter two related to the subject names previously and presently used in the South African schooling system. Another thing the mind sees: It’s for women!!

Just mention the National Diploma in Biomedical Sciences and immediately this conjures up a more sexy image involving white lab coats, clean laboratories, needles, pipettes and other paraphenalia associated with TV programmes such as CSI et al. Don’t even talk about the Engineering courses….more conjuring of hardcore males (mostly males but increasingly females) doing their thing on bridges, roads, spaceships, un-manned aerial vehicles and such-like interesting things. Sexxy stuff for a fertile mind still at school. Food Technology……naah! That most probably sucks!! Let’s look at other career fields!! My goodness, and we have not yet covered other exotic career fields and programme titles…….Biotechnology, Industrial Design, Analytical Chemistry……and one could go on in this fashion. One last one: ND Consumer Science (Food & Nutrition)!!

Let’s dissect this a little. The name itself is very descriptive: FOOD (is what we work with) and TECHNOLOGY (how we work with it) = Lebensmittletegnologie (German). The first word is hugely descriptive and ecnompasses FOOD in all its forms. However, I suspect that the general populace meeting the career field for the first time would see highly processed i.e. prepared food e.g. a menu and a meal. TECHNOLOGY? I think that generally people would make a better assumption about all this entails.

So the problematic word here is FOOD since, based on my assumption above, if you see a prepared meal in your mind’s eye, then this has got to be cooking classes. What to replace it with is a problem….how do you say FOOD (in all its different raw and processsed forms) in a sexy way? Let’s call for suggestions here!

TECHNOLOGY in itself may be more easily understood but highly unlikely in all its various forms of processing technologies. I like the way the French literally translate it: TRANSFORMATION (of food raw materials). What word to use here to make it more attractive?? Suggestions?

At the end of the day, FOOD TECHNOLOGY has sufficed with a little more explanation required than with other disciplines in the sciences when speaking to pupils and to others not familiar with the field. But just think how differently this could have looked if a more creative (rather than descriptive) name were used in the first instance.

Again, for the uninitiated, check out the wild things we use to process food and to teach people how to do it:

By: Larry Dolley
p.s. FOOD SCIENCE is not allowed since there is another qualification existing with this name already.


Innovation Un-obviousness

Innovation (and its twin sister “technology transfer”) is, based on my reading of many documents, supposedly in need of splodges of wonga to make it happen. As well as this may be true to a degree, there are also innovations happening due to inherent needs in SMEs (and for you and I) facing immediate challenges, many of them small speedbumps, if you wish. “‘n Boer maak ‘n plan” as is often said in local vernacular (a farmer makes a plan?).

And many plans are made on a  daily basis to meet these little challenges with very little outside assistance and funding. So innovation is alive and well and in our midst. However, when governmental and other such organizations mention innovation, it usually conjures up the said splodges of wonga and big, idealistic projects based on the wonga being thrown at challenges. And again, this is true to a degree in that it does help.

However, a year ago I had drafted a “proposal” (yoh! that often used word in organizations needing funding to do the things they want to do) to investigate the recently retired (or close to being retired) knowledge base vested in our older brethren. In particular, the proposal revolved around interviewing recently retired experts as well as floor workers in the food industry to elicit from them what ideas they had that were not accepted by the hierarchy in which they operated and which still had merit  in terms of implementing these ideas. A simple question could be used to trigger a possible floodgate: What did your Supervisor turn down in terms of your ideas in order that he/she was not shown up at management level? I think you get the point.

A very recent discussion with a soon-to-be colleague and present collaborator with the Station delivered two comments in this regard when this topic arose: (1) Universities add to this all the time i.e. retirement at 65 when you are still (in many instances) at your most productive in terms of contributing to your field and (2) retired farmworker must have many stories of innovations they had introduced (through the farmer himself) during their working lives low down on the totem pole.

At the end of the day, the key point is that we have a stratum of talent (used and unused) in those recently retired and who feel they may still want to contribute and have not found a way to do so. It’s a story for another day, a project for which to writea proposal (that word) and a challenge to mine the knowledge base in the country.

He who would search for pearls must dive below, for errors like straw upon the waters flow – can’t remember the author sadly.