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IFSTAL Symposium: Technology – a silver bullet for the food system?

Posted 10 February 2017

On Saturday 28th January the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) hosted the inaugural public symposium of the Innovative Food Systems Teaching and Learning (IFSTAL) programme, on the theme of Technology – A silver bullet for the food system?  Over 100 postgraduate students, academics, and professionals came together from a range of sectors working within agriculture, food and health, in order to discuss the use of technology in food systems.

The symposium was opened by Professor Ken Smith, Director of the Department for Pathobiology and Population Sciences at the RVC, and was divided into three main sessions (Production; Processing & Distribution; Consumption & Waste) Presentations by specialists and practitioners were delivered on a variety of topics, such as: crop development; organic dairy farming; technology applications in poultry production; sustainable fishing net designs; fresh produce processing and transportation; functional foods; biodigesters and food waste; and the role of technology in future shopping. The day concluded with an engaging and lively panel debate on the question “Is Technology the Answer?” with high-profile speakers from the STEPS Centre, Econexus, KTN Innovate UK, and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. Discussion included questions about what we mean by the term ‘technology’, the extent to which it can provide solutions to the challenges faced in food systems, and which technology, how and for whom can it be useful. The themes covered throughout the day provoked wide discussion, and delegates had the opportunity for Q&A, to speak in small groups, and participate in instant polling on a range of questions.

Dr John Ingram, IFSTAL Programme Leader, said “It was really exciting to hear the passionate views of people from a range of different backgrounds who share a common interest in food systems. The common view is that technology in food systems is not inherently good or bad, it all depends on how we use it, and this symposium provided the ideal platform to bring together people who can make informed decisions on the best approaches to take in the future; the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

The Great Hall Lecture Theatre and Lightwell at the RVC provided an excellent space for the panels and discussion throughout the day, with the animal skeletons on display inspiring curiosity.

Read the blog posts about the day by Titi AdebolaCatherine Price  (PhD students, University of Warwick) and Nathalie Folkerts (MSc student, University of Reading) on the IFSTAL blog, a Storify from the Twitter activity, or download the symposium programme.

IFSTAL is a multidisciplinary programme designed to improve post-graduate level knowledge and understanding of the food system. It is delivered across seven higher education institutions and is available to all postgraduate students at the partner institutions. For more information, please visit

Symposium presentations (pdf)

1.1 IFSTAL symposium – Rosemary Collier
1.2 IFSTAL symposium – Susanne Padel
1.3 IFSTAL symposium – Ian Lowery
1.4 IFSTAL symposium – Dan Young
2.1 IFSTAL Symposium – Carol Wagstaff
2.2 IFSTAL Symposium – Tim Foster
2.3 IFSTAL Symposium – Julie Brown
3.1 IFSTAL symposium – Rokiah Yaman
3.2 IFSTAL Symposium – Ben Cullen
3.3 IFSTAL Symposium – Alan Hayes
3.4 IFSTAL symposium – Jane Dixon

Upcoming events

IFSTAL events at each university (2016/17)

We are offering a range of events this coming year, with some taking place at each university – the workshops associated with each online unit, and others will take place at a single location so as to allow students and academics from across the IFSTAL network to meet and learn together.

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IFSTAL Seminar: differing disciplinary approaches to researching malnutrition, Wednesday 15th March 2017, 3.30-5pm, LIDC, London. This is an IFSTAL-led talk as part of the LIDC seminar series Understanding Development, which looks at different methodologies used by various disciplines to study the same issue. Dr Sara Stevano (SOAS) and Dr Pauline Scheelbeek (LSHTM) discuss their differing approaches to studying malnutrition, Sara from an economics and anthropology perspective, and Pauline from an epidemiology, nutrition and environment perspective. Details in the Portal calendar and on the LIDC website.

Careers and skills days: we have specialist careers days in each IFSTAL location taking place in May 2017. YOU CAN BOOK A ONE:ONE SESSION WITH A CAREERS ADVISOR/ROSINA. For more details and to book your slot, see the link in the Workplace Events section here on the Portal.

  • 4th May: Careers / Skills day for Oxford students.
  • 11th May: Careers / Skills day for Reading students.
  • 18th May: Careers / Skills day for Warwick students.
  • 25th May: Careers / Skills day for our London students.

13th June 2017: PhD Away Day in London, focussing on interdisciplinary working, with sessions on how to publish your interdisciplinary research and tips on finding funding. Applications open 2nd May.

2nd7th July 2017: Summer School this year takes place at the University of Warwick. Further details here.