Simon roots for success

Date published: 14 August 2020

A local College of Agriculture and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) Master’s student is striving for success in the European ‘From Leaf to Root: Holistic use of Vegetables’ project. Simon Hegarty, from Ballymoney is one in a team of multidisciplinary students from Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, who is competing against teams from Hohenheim University (Germany) and Turin University (Italy) in a project funded by the European Institute for Innovation and Technology Food Consortium (EIT FOOD). EIT Food is Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, working to make food systems more sustainable, healthy and trusted.

The aim of the competition is to make use of parts of a locally produced vegetable that are normally wasted, either during the harvesting or processing stages. Many vegetables including sweetcorn, potatoes, artichokes and cabbage are not used holistically despite being safe to consume. It is said that in some cases, over 50% of nutritionally valuable material is left in the field or not further valorised.

Simon along with his team have chosen cabbage as the vegetable. The team must use previously unutilised parts of a vegetable to develop a food product that satisfies current trends and demands. The team hope to be victorious at the finals in December, when their total food concept will be presented to a panel of professional judges from food giants, Nestle and other leaders in food innovation. Simon commented:

“We are up against six teams in the ‘From Leaf to Root’ contest but we are focussed on making an impact on the judges. We’d love to be the winning team with the opportunity to commercialise our product idea through innovation grants.”

Simon was made aware of the ‘From Leaf to Root’ project whilst studying for a Master’s Degree in Business for Agri-food and Rural Enterprise. The course is delivered under a longstanding collaborative provision between the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and Queen’s University Belfast.

MSc Programme Director, Dr. Claire Hughes said: “Participation in the project is a fantastic opportunity for Simon and his student colleagues. This prog ramme will provide them with opportunities to develop their leadership skills whilst developing solutions to provide a sustainable benefit to the agri-food sector. I am very proud of Simon’s participation; he is a great ambassador for CAFRE and Queen’s.” 

Simon is currently completing the research element of the Master’s course and is investigating the social, environmental and economic impacts of growing fruit and vegetables. His work involves comparing field to fork, greenhouse to fork and from a fully controlled agricultural environment to fork. The work being completed for the ‘From Leaf to Root’ project complements his Master’s research.

“Involvement in the EIT Food project is very worthwhile. We have sought advice from a range of professionals including CAFRE’s Food Packaging and Knowledge Transfer staff. I am really enjoying working as part of a team and developing leadership and research skills. We are also investigating Polymer Science, an area which I had little understanding of before this project.”

Finally, Simon commented: “I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to apply for the Master’s or a related project such as ‘From Leaf to Root’ to do so, it really helps to grow your skills base and widen your networking opportunities within the agri-food industry. Our team now has a better appreciation of the primary production sector.”

For more information on the MSc Business for Agri-food course, please visit the CAFRE website and go to ‘Postgraduate Courses’. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram at ‘Discover CAFRE’.

Notes to editors: 

1.The MSc in Business for Agri-food and Rural Enterprise is delivered by CAFRE in collaboration with Queen’s University, Belfast.

2.Applicants with a 2:2 Honours Degree in any discipline will be considered.

3. Applicants who do not have an Honours Degree will be considered for the Graduate Certificate in Business Communication and will be asked to demonstrate relevant experience in the agriculture, food, community or rural sectors. Applicants must also have attained GCSE English and Mathematics at Grade C or above (or equivalent qualification) and provide a reference from a current or recent employer.

4. On successful completion of the Graduate Certificate in Business Communication applicants may then progress to apply on the pathway towards the Master’s Degree. 

5. Modules taught on the Master’s programme include:

  • Skills to affect change within businesses.
  • Rural business dynamics.
  • Integrating learning with business needs,
  • Research and development.
  • Planning and evaluating change management programmes.
  • One optional module from: Business communication, Innovation management or Rural enterprise development. 

6. Students undertake research with the support of a CAFRE staff member who is a Recognised Teacher of Queens’s University and collect analyse and present a three module weighted 16-18,000 word research thesis.

7. Download more information on the courses or view the video on Youtube CAFRE TV.

8. The department may take photographs and videos at announcements and events to publicise its work. Photographs, interviews, videos or other recordings may be issued to media organisations for publicity purposes or used in promotional material, including in publications, newspapers, magazines, other print media, on television, radio and electronic media (including social media and the internet). Photographs and videos will also be stored on the department’s internal records management system. The department will keep the photographs and recordings for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they have been obtained. The department’s Privacy Policy is available on our website.

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10. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office.


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