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Simon roots for success

August 27, 2020

Simon Hegarty MSc student on Leaf to Root EIT programmeA 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.

EIT Food logo

EIT Food programme EU funding statement

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 programme 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 this link or view this video on CAFREtv. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram at ‘Discover CAFRE’.