The Student Food Academy looked into the topics of food safety, food innovation and future food
For the second year, the Student Food Academy was organized by Tartu Biotechnology Park and EIT Food in cooperation with the Estonian Academy of Life Sciences and Bioscience Students’ Association. The event was held on October 12-14 in Tartu, Tallinn and Valgjärve, Põlva county.
The focus of this year’s Food Academy was on food safety and hygiene, future food and food innovation, circular economy in food industry and scientific possibilities of food production. Entrepreneurs with long-term experience as well as the early stage startups, researchers and specialists from various fields shared their knowledge and experience with the students. Altogether, 29 students from the Estonian University of Life Sciences, University of Tartu, Tartu University of Health and Tallinn University of Technology took part of the event.
The first day’s programme took place at the Chair of Veterinary Biomedicine and Food Hygiene of the Estonian University of Life Sciences. Professor Mati Roasto and lecturer Katrin Laikoja spoke about the actual topics and trends in food hygiene and food safety. The main idea was that food is safe in Estonia. The students visited the laboratory of food pathogens of the University of the Life Sciences, and during the practical work, everyone could take a sample from different surfaces to evaluate its purity.
On the second day, the students visited KODAS, an innovative and food and beverages company in Valgjärve. Sulev Nõmmann, CEO of KODAS, introduced the small factory and fermentation technologies which are used across the entire food chain, including the valorization of by-products from production into functional food.
The last day of the Food Academy was spent in Tallinn, at the premises of the Food and Fermentation Research Center (TFTAK). The day was led by food scientist Rain Kuldjärv, head of the functional food department at TFTAK. The students had a chance to visit laboratories where different products and technologies are developed and analyzed with the main focus is on innovative solutions in the field of food and biotechnology. TFTAK has deep food science expertise from ingredient processing to food manufacturing and formulation to sensory and consumer studies. They are also making important contributions to the field of alternative proteins. The center is engaged in both research and development projects, which are very closely related through the use of omics methods and the in-depth knowledge and understanding of molecules and their behavior. In order to find the best possible results, modern analysis methods and their own pilot plant have been installed.
During the second part of the day, a seminar was held. During it, early-stage entrepreneurs shared their knowledge with the students. Sirli Rosenvald spoke about future food - the brand Funki is a very environmentally friendly alternative to meat based on mycoprotein. Kaire Rajaver spoke about the new product NordTempeh, which is a fermented soybean food of Indonesian origin, but in Estonia it is produced from peas. In addition to food innovation, Siim Raadik spoke about the visions and activities of Shroomwell. He dwelled longer on how to create a successful research company and ensure food safety, a longer healthy life and a cleaner environment with mushrooms. We learned that the world of mushrooms is much wider than those growing in the forest. The focus of food innovation lies also in useful health products Shroomwell is developing from self-grown medicinal mushrooms. Their green innovation and soft footprint help people, biodiversity and the climate.
The event ended with group work where the participants had to describe a concrete business idea related to the topics discussed during these 3 days. They had to define the problem and the ways to solve these problems with new products or services and afterwards present them to others.
The feedback received from the students after the event was exclusively positive and they are looking forward to the next Food Academy which will be held next year. New acquaintances gained and also the potential internship opportunities in the visited enterprises will definitely help to promote their further professional development.