Category Archives: Uncategorized

Interaction with Not For Profit Entities & Community Engagement

Over the last two months the Agrifood Technology Station has had the pleasure of interacting with two entities involved with community engagement, upliftment and creating employment. Beside the Technology Innovation Agency mandate for Technology Stations overtly being Innovation Support and Technology Transfer, a less emphasized element of the overall mandate is that of collaboration with other entities, stimulating growth of businesses and also creation of employment. In 2018, another such collaboration had taken place with Food Forward SA (see blog here).

The first entity engaged in this was in 2019 was Abalimi Bezekhaya, an NPO involved with food gardening in the greater  Cape Town area. Beside providing micro-farming advisories, this also translates to production of food at home and in the community. Their Harvest of Hope program also connects the market to these small farmers, allowing them to earn an income in the process.

However, because of small glitches between production quantities and sales made, there is often surplus produce left which, because of its generally short shelf-life, either goes to waste or is sold as animal feed at a pittance. Mr. Zukile Malusi described elements of the challenge faced and suggested that ATS could possibly help in two specific ways:
1. Assist with accepting and hosting the processing of excess materials at CPUT in the Pilot Plant;
2. Simultaneously assist with offering basic training dealing with washing raw material, conversion to a secondary or tertiary product, appropriate packaging materials, storage conditions and shelf-life awareness. Presently this is being planned between the two parties and we hope that this will eventually be realized with benefits to all parties concerned.

A second happy confluence of events and people happened via a visit by Abalobi ICT4Fisheries in the form of Ms. Jackie Sunde. In a very similar fashion to that with Abalimi Bezekhay, they required assistance with seafood processing, product development, food safety, packaging and marketing. This included the need for training to make women involved in coastal fishing communities more able to add value to their harvest of seaweed and other edible organisms.

The Department of Food Science & Technology attended an initial briefing meeting in St. Helena Bay where participants from both the west and south coast were represented. Prof. Jessy Van Wyk and Dr. Suné Henning presented the potential from the side of CPUT to offer appropriate assistance. This was estimated to include, but is not limited to:
1. Training involving hygienic handling and process of marine products. This happens to be a speciality of Dr. Henning since she had developed material and conducted training for trout harvesting and processing for small aquaculture farmers in the areas surrounding Cape Town. This aroused the interest of all participants who indicated a dire need for such.
2. It was also proposed that this eventually morph into a Service Learning project under Dr. Henning’s management, another arrow in her quiver of academic offerings. Service Learning involves credit-bearing work undertaken with registered students in different communities.
3. A link was also made to the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Documentation Centre (IKSDC) which is presently managed by ATS on behalf of the national Department of Science & Technology. It was proposed that the Centre Coordinator make contact with the community through appropriate channels in order to document such indigenous knowledge for recording and protection by DST on behalf of the community for further beneficiation. Sharing of this information was well-received by the community, since the members who attended the St. Helena Bay event were given the assurance that the recordal of any Indigenous Knowledge by the IKSDC will not jeopardise their ownership/ benefits of the Indigenous Knowledge in any way.
4. ATS had also suggested that a drying bin developed at CPUT for by-catch processing also be considered for rolling out in the community, possibly together with the partner organization that participated in the process.

So, very soon, a second meeting is to be held with the west coast community where a little more detailed information will be given in terms of potential elements of the project which will be rolled out over time. This includes training workshops on both the west and south coast.

It gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling when we can assist people and communities in this way, over and above the hardcore technology innovation expected of us!

Something’s Brewing in the Food Science and Technology Building at CPUT!

In 2014, a few novice brewers , including staff and students, knocked together a special brew for the national Inter-varsity brewing competition. And they won a prize for their Rooibru. This was an interesting start to what is now an amazing journey for the personnel involved as they have grown, honed and improved their skills in this art  posing as science (or vice versa).

Some history: this entry into fermentation heaven was started off by then South African Breweries donating toward an entry level micro-brewing system. This had been done at a number of Engineering departments at other universities over the years in order to stimulate an interest in brewing among students. And hence also the development of an inter-varsity competition. Placing a unit at a Department of Food Science & Technology was a first in South Africa.

However, staff at the department decided on a  different route to that of previous donated breweries i.e. one built with hygienic design principles in mind. And so it came to pass that an albeit rudimentary, but definitely functional, micro-brewing system was born. And every year, since its inception, CPUT students have been winning awards at the inter-varsity, which included cash, the latter which was then used to improve the brewing system.

In 2014, Rooibru won the “Ben Lamaletie” IBD Intervarsity Beer Brewing Challenge Floating Trophy, the top honour Castle Lager Best Bru Award, as well as the Carling Black Label Champion Lager. In 2015 we won the Best Speciality brew (Tipsy Inyanga), best Label in 2016 and Best Cider (Apple Adventure) in 2017 at the inter-varsity, which included cash which was then used to improve the brewing system.  The Best Lager (Munich Dunkel) was awarded to CPUT in 2018 which is characterized by depth, richness and complexity typical of darker Munich malts with the accompanying Maillard reaction products.

Dr. Keyser on left with Team receiving an award

The first significant change resulted in the brewing system being capable of gravity filtration between the Lauter tun and the Wort kettle. This, together with the installation of a more powerful pump, greatly facilitated this important separation step. From there it consistently grew in functionality. Right now we are on the brink of receiving our upgraded system from benefactors and partners (Robotic Handling Systems and Beckhoff) who had offered to assist with adding a Programmable Logic Controller to better monitor, control and record different elements of the brewing process. The intention is to add as many electronic sensors as possible to the micro-brewing setup over time in order to obtain real-time profiles of what is happening during brewing. This is in keeping with the 4th Industrial Revolution concept as well as the Internet of Things.

CPUT has, in its 2030 grand plan, identified 4IR as a major element of future training and curriculum development. And so has much of the world if you watch science and technology news streams. In tandem with this, the Agrifood Technology Station (ATS) is in the process of putting together a proposal for a 4IR-related project in terms of employing sensor technology more widely in the SMME sector of the food industry to improve efficiency.

Coming back to brewing: as much as brewing is a young element of research being done at CPUT, it is intended that this will be grown in terms of postgraduate study but also as an area where collaboration with micro-brewers can be developed. How about becoming an experimental facility for micro-brewers who can play around with brewing profiles without compromising their own commercial brewing program. Intended areas for collaboration include analytical services (colour, carbon dioxide, enzyme activity, humulones, isohumulones, density, etc.), shelf-life analysis, and also training for entry-level brewers.

Another aspect that has developed significantly over the years is the broadening and deepening of the skills and knowledge-base in terms of our brewing team. From the humble beginnings of Dr Keyser and two MTech students, we presently have the support of three BTech, two Master’s and one Doctoral student. Our most recent focus areas include indigenous brews such as umqombhoti, low alcohol beer as well as improving and extending our range of yeast cultures.

We are also proud of our partnership with the University of Applied Sciences, Osnabruck, Germany who owns a pilot scale brewery. Exchanges thus far resulted in their brewing of our “Rooibru” during a festival, in honor of the late President Mandela, in Osnabruck. Very high praise was heaped on this beer by the fortunate consumers. This news was very pleasing considering that German beer drinkers can rightly be considered discerning.

This is just the start! Keep an eye … hic! …. on this page!!

Larry Dolley (on be half of the Brewing Team)

Indigenous Knowledge Systems Documentation Centre – a Mouthful of Heritage!

The national Department of Science & Technology has a specific directorate (Knowledge Management Systems) managing and documenting indigenous knowledge. The Western Cape Indigenous Knowledge Systems Documentation Centre (IKSDC) was previously managed by a Not for Profit agency and, as of 2018, had been transferred to CPUT under the aegis of the Agrifood Technology Station. The Western Cape IKSDC (as it is known) is one of 10 in the country (one in each of 8 provinces and two in Kwazulu Natal).

The IKSDC is a flat structure in terms of personnel i.e. a Manager (myself) and a Coordinator, the latter being appointed as of 1st March 2019 (Ms. Mbali Dlamini). The latter person is the key practitioner and works closely with the Directorate: Knowledge Management Systems and different communities as they are identified. The Manager and a Steering Committee largely plays an oversight role and the project will be monitored through the DST M&E unit related to this.

Considering that ATS is a latecomer to the game, systems and activities are still being put in place or enacted. One leg of the project is to re-visit a community in the Oudtshoorn area which was  survey in the last three years. This visit is to tie up loose ends and to re-collect data that did not live up to expectations in terms of its integrity.

Regarding the concept, collection and protection of such data, you could refer to an article put out by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) dealing with attitudes to indigenous knowledge or how UWC is mainstreaming this concept in the curriculum. Another interesting article is that in the Mail & Guardian (February 2018).

Why is ATS dabbling with the concept of indigenous knowledge? Well may you ask! Keep in mind that indigenous knowledge takes on many different forms e.g. food, plants, medicine, arts & culture, storytelling, etc. It is obvious that food would be uppermost in mind in relation to ATS and the Department of Food Science & Technology. However, there is also common ground with all the other types of knowledge at CPUT and other institutions of learning. Medicine in particular – CPUT (via the Department of Horticultural Sciences) are working in this area. So too the Department of Biomedical Sciences and the Oxidative Stress Research Centre.

Keep in mind that the idea of information collection and protection is to ensure that any beneficiation related to this knowledge should include benefits for the owners of the knowledge in one way or the other. Examples of where this went wrong are the Hoodia gordonii incident and also rooibos (Aspalathus linearis). If it is done correctly, the data collected can then be used to drive innovation in the different fields to the benefit of all involved. It is expected that the family of Technology Stations in the country should be at the forefront of this beneficiation and technology development.

Finally, since this project in its entirety deals with people and communities, managing this process requires exceptional adherence to ethical practices, good communications and relationship management. ATS look forward to being part of this process as the project matures.

Food SMEs and the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Do you want to join us on a project?

This is a call to Small and Medium food enterprises. The Agrifood Technology Station wishes to generate a project(s) regarding the implementation of the Internet of Things (IoT) and 4IR concept to your factory floor.

This would involve doing a baseline assessment of the data you collect during your manufacturing process and then also identifying/ suggesting other areas for data collection to improve the overall data set. Where necessary, this implies installing appropriate sensor technology.

The data collected will be used to measure performance/ efficiency against the baseline data and possibly point out ways for further improvement/ efficiencies. Obviously, the sensor technology would have to be chosen based on the cost of such in the overall project.

ATS will be partnering with the Technology Station in Electronics based at the Tshwane University of Technology and the AMTL Adaptronics Technology Station at CPUT on this project.

You are hereby invited to write a short *proposal in e-mail format to dolleyl@cput.ac.za outlining the following (maximum 500 words):

  1. Company name and nature of the business (what do you produce);
  2. Size of operation in terms of factory area (square metres) and number of employees;
  3. Quantity of product produced per day (in whatever units appropriate to your process);
  4. The data you presently collect and record e.g. masses, numbers, volumes and any other in/on-line data recording such as fill levels, metal detection, etc.
  5. Any other items that relate to your process which you feel may assist in making a decision to implement in your business.

*Please do not divulge any sensitive or confidential information if you feel uncomfortable with it.

Your proposal will be assessed. If chosen for this project, an appropriate contract and confidentiality agreement will be signed between you and the University, after which a funding application will be made to support the project, either fully or partly, pending funder rules. You will be intimately involved throughout the process.

Larry Dolley

Look at the Expertise in our “Grey Knowledge” Database

ATS recently completed a funded project related to creating a database of retired experts in the broader food industry. The intention of this was to gather willing consulting candidates who would commit to help ATS in assisting SMMEs in the field. ATS always disclaims being the holder of all knowledge and expertise in this broad field and always indicates to clients the value of consultants.

Just think about the number of retired (and soon to be retired) employees in this industry who have years if experience, either general or in very specific fields! This database (and the project itself) is now an ongoing project that will grow organically as the news spreads and as more consultants are signed up. Coincidentally, a Sunday Times column by Peter Bruce touched on this very thing on 3rd March 2019 i.e. the lack of skills in the country. He pointed to skills leaving the country and, more pertinently, the difference between knowledge and skills. An example is the number of graduates leaving institutions with knowledge but often lacking in skills. The latter can mostly only be gained by learning from others or practicing in the field. And a lot of the expert skills are invested in “old hands” in the industry.

Beside it being commonsense to work on a project of this nature, it was seeded by the existence of a Dutch organization called Programma Uitzending Managers – Netherlands Senior Experts (PUM for short). In this instance, the Dutch organization enjoys state funding. They, with their retired experts, are tasked with assisting companies in other countries to develop their SMMEs in all fields. In this case it is on a volunteerism basis, something which in South Africa may not be as easy since not everybody retires “rich” – ask me – I am about to retire myself! However, the concept of sharing the knowledge is bigger than the concept of volunteerism in this instance. In addition, using such expertise will in any case very likely involve initial contact between consultant and SMME on a subsidized basis.

ATS intends expanding this database and will eventually look to place it on a web-based platform, with added features such allowing consultants to list themselves without going directly through ATS. Obviously, vetting of such consultants will be done before new data is allowed to go live. It will also allow the public to search the database using key words in terms of the challenge they face or the sub-field in which they require assistance. If this comes up positive, with an indication that expertise is on the database, ATS may then be contacted to set in motion the process of rendering assistance in the specific sub-field or challenge.

For now, there are about 20 such experts on the database with the plan to register at least 50 by mid-2019. The range in expertise is quite extensive and the list below tries to indicate this:
• Hygienic design and food process engineering;
• Protein chemistry and engineering, including gelatin;
• Spray drying;
• Food safety systems implementation and management;
• Beverage technology, development and processing;
• Dairy technology;
• Meat technology and processing;
• Packaging technology;
• Halaal expertise;
• Thermal processing;
• Rheology;
• Quality assurance and control;
• Flavours and fragrances;
• Business development and export promotion.

In the next few months ATS will use these experts on the basis of matching client needs to the expertise available. An assessment will be made at the end of 2019 as to the success/ value of running and keeping such a database updated.

Help us grow the database! Do you know of anyone who has recently retired and who may be willing to join us?

Larry Dolley

Is ATS good at communicating science?

Before we answer this question, let’s first contextualize the structure, mandate and operating procedures of the Agrifood Technology Station. The Station consists of seven technical staff members, an Administrator and a Finance Officer. Our mandate is innovation support to SMEs in the food industry and also technology transfer and training. In our set of Standard Operating Procedures it would be quite evident that meeting this mandate requires significant two-way communication with our clients, other academics, suppliers and the public at large.

Now, having said that, it also implies that we need to do this in a way that the parties mentioned above understand, assimilate, use and critique such communication and its content. It will also be evident that the parties mentioned above would almost be a disparate group in terms of science. Put another way, the degree of knowledge of hard science and science “lingo” would vary greatly. In other words, ATS would need to communicate in different ways with different people pending their “science groundedness”.

Why the question in the first place? In the first instance, because of my own interest in science communication in terms of my role as manager of ATS. Hence my completing an online course in science communication through the Center for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at the University of Stellenbosch. In the second instance, the importance of science communication is growing in this science & technology-driven world. This is evidenced by articles in The Conversation:

Our job at ATS is thus clearly dependent on communicating science and technology. Over the years we have worked with nano- or micro-enterprises up to multinationals and big corporates. This means we would have communicated with a wide variety of people of all educational backgrounds, including academics at other tertiary institutions. We have learnt over the years how to communicate technically challenging topics or processes. This includes breaking down these topics or processes into simple unit operations. In the initial life of ATS (more than 12 years ago now) this did prove somewhat of a challenge.

Some parts of the challenge was that, in many instances, the clients we serviced were, more often than not, well-versed and technically savvy in their special project or task. However, in the same instance, they would not be as savvy regarding all the supporting knowledge or other operations which they needed for support and for solving their specific problems/ projects. This is where the value of ATS arose i.e. having a good generals science and technology background we could help clients see the trees in the wood.

I also completed a crash course toward certification as a consultant. This was a generic course that could be applied to many different fields. Surprisingly, this course corroborated our learnings at ATS in terms of how to work with a client. This included the empathy required with problem solving as well as the need to listen well before responding. To me, this confirmed that our approach, still in use today, was the correct one.

n the “publish or perish” world of academia, the need to address everyday challenges of our communities has slowly become more important. As the old story goes, blue sky research was the order of the day, a large percentage of which was fundamental or far from directly answering critical, real-world challenges. Suffice to say that, via Universities of Technology and also now traditional universities, this is being remedied. The Agrifood Technology Station is one such unit among many others at the forefront of this bandwagon, again communicating solutions and information to the challenges and improving public understanding of the outcomes of such.

We do try our best!

L. Dolley

Good Fad, Bad Food! Or?

When you do a simple Google search regarding good and bad food, the anecdotal evidence sometimes offered is seriously contradictory and often mis-leading. Proponents of one food versus another often end up either contradicting themselves or others.

When doing a more scientific appraisal (more objective but not always entirely so), another theme comes up i.e. what was good for you yesterday is not good for you today. Why? How do we assess, internalize and then include this changing information into our lifestyles? And yes, we have not even mentioned “fake news” in this paragraph yet. However, for the purposes of this blog, let’s leave that aside for now.

Examples of foods, or some of their components, that relate to this includes (but is not confined to): sugar/ carbohydrate, caffeine in coffee, tannins in tea, chocolate, monosodium glutamate, eggs, cholesterol, fat (especially saturated), tartrazine, allura red, cream, butter and different types of berries. Can you think of others that were good one day and ad the next? What about food that was in fashion and had become a fad and is now abhorred? Have a look at this website for examples of what I am referring to in terms of good, then bad!

Another theme which is still current is the Banting diet i.e. low carbohydrate with high fat and protein. I personally love this since I am diabetic and it theoretically allows me to braai every evening when I get home. We have seen Prof Tim Noakes being involved in a lawsuit in this regard, albeit not so much for the scientific reasons but rather from the point of view of giving medical advice.

At the end of the day, one would aim for moderation rather than going to either extreme in a diet, since all of your food components, whether good or bad, can kill you at high enough dosages. Ask Paraclesus!

L. Dolley

FoodForward SA – Community Engagement with ATS

The Agrifood Technology Station has had the pleasure of meeting with a not for profit organization, focused on surplus food recovery, called FoodForward SA (FFSA), in the last period. To find out more about them, please click on the link to visit their website. Suffice to say that it is a noble enterprise that is being used as a catalyst for social change (their words). Their model promotes 11 of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

In a nutshell, the organization receives quality bulk edible surplus food from wholesalers, retailers, and manufacturers like Pick n Pay, Shoprite Checkers, Food Lovers Market, Nestle, Clover and many others. These products are then vetted by FoodForward SA and, if appropriate for ongoing donations, a “not for sale” tag is applied and the product is then donated to member beneficiary organizations that offer feeding programs in local communities. This model is called foodbanking. In addition, where farms have surplus or post-harvest raw materials, these may also be donated in a usable form – this is their Second Harvest concept which is also practiced around the world.

So, where does ATS come into this you may ask? Good question! FoodForward SA often cannot predict what it will receive from donors. In the case of raw materials such fruit and vegetables, this sometimes poses a two-fold challenge:

    • The quantity provided is too much to distribute quickly (tons);
    • A short shelf-life product means the need for very quick distribution e.g. cherry tomatoes, kiwi fruit.

This challenge has a number of potential solutions, some of which are expensive or not totally effective i.e. long-lasting. This is possibly where ATS could play a role. The first two which come to mind are:

  1. Process product to a more stable state i.e. cook or pasteurize;
  2. Convert to an alternative-use product e.g. to a paste, powder or ingredient to be used to prepare other food products.

Obviously ATS only has limited capacity but, since an opportunity has presented itself, a trial may soon be conducted to prove this concept of assisting FoodForward SA on a small, and possibly growing basis. It would be a matter of making the way by walking it.

But hey! This is not just about what ATS may be able to do in a direct manner, but also about what we can do to promote FoodForward SA to our own stakeholders. As a start, here’s two things:

  1. ATS will promote FoodForward SA for a limited time by including the FoodForward SA logo and web link in my own e-mail signature.
  2. We ask all stakeholders who read this blog to consider which companies in the Western Cape, big or small, who could further commit to donations of appropriate food products which may end up as landfill or animal feed. Contact me directly or you could send a mail about the possibility to info@foodforwardsa.org.

Let’s see if we can help them make a further difference.

Larry Dolley

AGRIFOOD TECHNOLOGY STATION – HOW IT COSTS ITS SERVICES

This may be a boring topic for some, especially if you do not use the services of ATS. It is lengthy but is packed with detail for those who use our services or who may wish to do so. However, in the interests of open communication, here goes!

Circumstances have dictated that we clarify our position while we are in the process of changing our Standard Operating Procedures. It is very important to us that, in doing this, we keep our existing clients as well as new incoming clients updated to minimize misunderstandings and incorrect perceptions.

Keep in mind that the Stations generally have two important outputs to meet with SMMEs i.e.
1. Innovation support and facilitation;
2. Technology transfer and localization.

Historically our pricing was done as a percentage of what commercial enterprises would charge for the same services, especially with respect to analytical work (microbiology and chemistry). We could obviously not charge more since we are not an accredited laboratory. For other types of services e.g. product and process development, our costs were estimated based on their value to a client (very fuzzy logic) and expenses roughly relating to man hours, type of expertise required and consumables (note: it is a little more complex than this but the description will suffice for now. See footnote1).

As part of our pricing, we were (and still are to a degree) able to offer a subsidy for smaller clients based on a sliding scale (the concept of “subsidy” is explained in more detail as a footnote2). This further enabled us to appeal to, and assist, techno-entrepreneurs, start-ups and smaller companies generally.

As we have evolved over the years, this mode of operation had been impacted upon by a number of things, the two key of which are:
3. Constraints in funding from our primary funder (Technology Innovation Agency) to meet our targets and to equip us adequately for some projects.
4. The legal obligation as a state-funded public institution to cost all services at “full cost”. The concept of “full cost” is explained in more detail as a footnote3. For (3) above, there are a number of ways of mitigating this risk, as outlined below:

  • Seek other forms of funding such as from DTI, IDC et al.;
  • Seek collaboratively funded projects;
  • Seek special funding for additional staff members/ contract employees/ researchers;
  • Expand our service range or renew existing services;
  • Advertise more aggressively;
  • Seek more innovation-rich projects;
  • Push up project throughput rates;
  • Generate intellectual property that could be converted to financial value or an annuity income stream.

This is by no means a complete list but, as the list grows longer, there is an implication of growth of the Station that would be required to handle the workload. Implicit in this workload is an additional administrative burden to handle the compliance issues for each funder involved and also to handle the monitoring and evaluation by the primary funder. For (4) above, the Station must (via this blog and other communiques) inform its stakeholders of the reason for an increase in the costs to which they have become accustomed over the years. For those services that are too expensive for the stakeholders, these may be done via ATS outsourcing such to commercial providers or by suggesting to clients that they use the commercial service directly. This could include an arrangement where the Station is the manager of a project during which the client takes samples from ATS for external servicing. It is important to note the following four caveats though:
a. ATS will still service internal demands from the CPUT research fraternity for those services which are more expensive than the commercial costs. The costs for this will only be restricted to expensive chemicals and other consumables required.
b. ATS will conduct such services toward student and ATS Intern training i.e. there is a solid reason for doing this.
c. Where ATS provides a legitimate community service these may also be provided at a minimum (subsidized) cost.
d. ATS still reserves the right to offer such services to clients with an appropriate subsidy to bring the cost down for specific cases where such is required. This option will be used sparingly.

All of this is a work in progress with a steep learning curve. The Station is indebted to Productivity SA through its Senior Adviser (Ms. Charlene Steyn) for conducting a training workshop for ATS staff. This contributed significantly to the process of becoming fully compliant in this regard.

Please direct any queries to us if this blog makes no sense at all!

Larry Dolley

Footnote 1:

Costing of non-routine services such as product and process development, use of the full steam line from the retort to the finished product after retorted et al. will be fully costed on a “per project” basis since there are many permutations of a set of unit operations. See later for the description of full cost.

Footnote 2:

The concept of “subsidy” as applied in the final price for a project is as follows:
Project price before VAT:       R 100.00
10% Subsidy applied:             R10.00
Project price incl. VAT:           R90.00 + 15%.

The key concept to note is that the subsidy implies that the Station has separate funding to apply such a subsidy. This means the Station still charges the full cost by taking the R10.00 from its reserves or from funding allocated to support such a project. If there are no reserve funds or special allocations, then a subsidy cannot be applied. For this reason subsidies are allocated sparingly and based on a strict set of rules.

Footnote 3:

The concept of “full cost” MUST be applied to ALL projects and quoted based on the following elements:

  • Project costs: Costs for man hours (HR), consumables, equipment time, communications, any new equipment purchased for a project, travel, IP assignment, contingencies, consulting services required, bursaries & fellowships and a margin.
  • Indirect project costs: A fee of 35% is added for these costs which includes electricity, water, IT infrastructure, CPUT administrative services, space, maintenance, etc.
  • Direct project costs: CPUT takes a percentage of the costs related to man hours above. In effect, the actual increase in project price (final cost to the client) above the Project Cost described above equates to about 12 – 15% at the end of the day depending on the nature of the project. The “full cost” concept and the “direct” and “indirect cost” concepts form part of the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act (Act No. 51, 2008) (the IRP Act) and was signed by the President and appeared in the Government Gazette on 22 December 2008, but only came into effect on 2 August 2010.

This act places a legal obligation on ALL state funded institutions conducting research and possibly generating IP (universities not being an exception) to cost projects at full cost. The percentages referred to e.g. for indirect costs, is calculated separately per university and approved by the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO).

This act serves to protect IP generated using public funds (or allows sharing of IP on a pro rata basis) and also allows university to recoup costs for the use of facilities during such research.

ADDING VALUE TO FOOD NPD IN ACADEMIA

The use of new food product development as a capstone project for most (if not all) tertiary qualifications in Food Science and/or Technology is well over 25 years old in South Africa. From very small beginnings it has blossomed into a significant part of the training programme. It is one of the key elements in bringing the food industry into our assessment programme where students are grilled (pardon the pun) by experts on different aspects of the products developed.

For the uninitiated, students are given a theme against which product development takes place over a period of 4 months. They usually have six months to plan around this as a group after which, in their 3rd and also 4th year of study they have to execute. This execution ends up in a packaged product with appropriate labelling. Some examples are given below in which the theme was “inclusion of kelp”. Other themes related to meat analogues, soya-based products, children’s treats, etc.

However, this commentator had developed a jaded palate (pun-ish me for this J) over the years. It pointed to a need, in my mind for renewal and revitalization. However, let me be clear that the comments below are not necessarily original and possibly have been acted upon in one way or another. To give some credibility to the latter statement, I have taken advice from my colleagues in Food Science & Technology in this regard.

In my opinion (moderated by my colleagues), the NPD concept needed a hupstoot (for the language-challenged – a boost)! Either that or it must guarded against that NPD in the academic context does not become a simple “recipe and cooking instructions” process. I have been informed by my learned colleagues that the latter is not the case. However, two suggestions are mooted/ proposed for the possible improvement or re-invigoration of the concept.

Concept 1: When developing a product at kitchen scale, and if it is acceptable to the marketing people and other signatories, it would then have to be up-scaled while being compliant with all the necessary company policies and legislation. It does not make sense to develop a product for the mass market just to find out that it is not scalable due to one or other reason. As an example, if there was a big enough market, would you be able to satisfy consumer demand for pofferetjies at scale?

It is suggested that, as part of the NPD process, a professional food process engineer (or similar omnivore) be hired or enticed to donate time pro bono to assist. This person could, as part of the NDP process, provide advice on the feasibility of scaling up from the point of view of the manufacturing process. One could also extend this to an expert in procurement of raw materials – will you have enough raw material to supply an up-scaled process? Are there enough tomatoes produced in South Africa to make tomato paste? Click here if you want to know the answer!

This brings a whole new ball game and value to the development process! Imagine cross-fielding this with the Faculty of Engineering!!

Concept 2: A recent mail from a supporter of education in Food Science & Technology, Mr. Nick Starke (ex-Nampak R&D), contained a link to a website, the contents of which made an old itch revive itself and thus presenting a need to scratch. The website deals with the fact that under-privileged universities in Africa are starting to create/ build equipment for themselves due to costs and/ or availability. Read this article here!

Again, this had been a pet project of mine (in my head mostly but sometimes tumbling out of my mouth). Why not build small-scale equipment from scratch, either as a tool for demonstration or for actual use in processing? Why not make this a collaborative project with other departments in the Faculty of Engineering? An example of this is to build a small (nano-?) pasteurizer (tube or plate) to handle sample sizes of, let’s say, 20 ml?  Include sensors, pumps and a testing regime in terms of microbiology? What about any other high-value small volume liquid needing such (or similar) treatments? What about micro-fluidics and flow chemistry as a tool in this regard?

A few years ago we assisted a Department in putting together a brief to build a small-scale spray dryer. A working prototype was produced to spray dry milk using relatively inexpensive and readily available materials and parts. The potential is there!

And sure, there are commercial products at small scale. But you could, within reason, challenge students with such a theme/ request taking this beyond the textbooks and Powerpoint presentations in class. And yes, I may be over-simplifying the feasibility of doing this, but let’s see what can come of this! I have seen something similar to this at Innoventon, an institute at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth but at a scale a little bigger that what I envisage (more engineering than food though).

Concluding Remark: So, what do you as an alumnus of this institution think about these possibilities? What other re-invigoration would you suggest? Is it at all necessary?

Larry Dolley