A New Academic Year and New Opportunities at the AFTP

As the last of the summer sun begins to fade and the nights draw in, autumn has well and truly arrived. But even as nature begins to slip into dormancy, we at the AgriFood Training Partnership are still busily working away, and are about to begin our first academic year following our successful launch in July 2017.
Most of you will be familiar with some of the courses that we offered in our previous life as the AgriFood, Pasture, and Food Advanced Training Partnerships, but this year is our most ambitious yet, offering more courses, more degrees, and more opportunities than ever before. We have around 50 courses set to begin before the end of the year, in subjects as diverse as climate change, animal health, crop production, nutrition, and food law. As much as I’d love to go through every one in depth, I’d like to take just a moment to highlight some of new and exciting examples to whet your appetite for the year to come.
Starting with the first of our five key themes – Business & Transferable Skills – we have Food Business Operations Management running from the 2-6 October. Though much of our training portfolio is focused on the practical aspects of production, processing, and retail, we’re also proud to be offering opportunities like this to develop our participants skills and knowledge on the ‘big picture’ operational front as well. This a four day, intensive workshop, so is also a great place to network with professionals across the sector – and can also be a stepping stone to the Postgraduate Certificate in Meat Business Management offered by Harper Adams University.

For Crops & Fresh Produce we’re offering courses that provide a broad overview of many types of fresh produce (as in our Fresh Produce Production workshops) and specialised training with particular crops (such as our Advanced Sugar Beet Production and Management course). My conversations with academics working in this field (no pun intended) have constantly brought home how quickly technologies and processes are evolving, and these courses offer the chance to explore the very best of the cutting-edge scholarship done at our partner institutions.

Environment & Sustainability continue to be some of the most popular training courses we provide, which is no surprise given its centrality to every aspect of the food chain. This is brought home with particular emphasis in Climate Change, a distance-learning module offered by Bangor University, which covers everything from the underlying science of climate change to the very real impact on a range of different areas. In Agro-economic Systems and Drivers of the Bioeconomy (a brand new course for this academic year) participants will have a chance to explore similar issues as they directly impact parts of the food supply chain across the world. Catchment and Water Quality, Soil Management, and Surface and Ground Water Hydrology all offer specific training in the fundamental building blocks for sustainable systems, with applicability across the sector. 

For Food & Nutrition, I’ve been lucky enough to see much of the material that’s been prepared for our courses, and as a result I’m quite excited about a number of these modules. What is Sustainability? offers a wide-ranging investigation into the science explored in the Environment above, while UK Food Law – The Basics (another brand-new course) offers a fascinating look at the legal aspects that impact on the food sector. The latter module is run by Dr David Jukes, one of the foremost experts on law and regulation issues, and he will also be running Risk Analysis in the Food Chain. More narrowly, we also have What is Lifelong Nutrition?, which covers ‘healthy eating’ across all of the age groups, and Applications of Food Texture and Rheology, which offers three days of technical workshops with a star-studded cast of guest lecturers and industry figures. 
And finally, in the Livestock & Forages theme, we will be offering Principles of Ruminant Nutrition and Sustainable Grassland Systems. Though handling slightly different topics, both of these modules tackle issues surrounding animal feed; the former exploring issues relating to animal health through nutrition, and the latter the role of breeding and maintaining crops for forage. In addition, we will also be running the online version of our Poultry Health course – an extremely successful module that is run jointly by the University of Nottingham and the Pirbright Institute, and which offers advanced technical skills training to technical staff, veterinarians, and other professionals working with poultry. 

I hope this whistle-stop tour of some of our modules give you some idea of the depth and breadth of training that we have on offer and, as I mentioned above, these are just some of the courses due to begin in what remains of 2017. There’s still plenty of time to enrol on these or any of our other modules, and I would encourage you to take a look through all the courses we’re offering on our website. We’re all thoroughly excited for the year to come, and feel that this represents a new and exciting chapter in our work with all of you. 

Craig Farrell, September 2017 

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