Written by Megan McKerchar, Ex Waitrose PhD Student and current Technical Manager at Worldwide Fruit
I am fortunate enough to sit between research and the commercial world where I work for Worldwide Fruit, and manage Research and Development projects focusing on CI and the three pillars of sustainability, economic, environmental and social challenges. I am still in the beginning of what I hope will be a long and fruitful (pun intended!) career, and I honestly believe we are in a very exciting and challenging time in the industry – feeding more people high quality food with less resources in a very dynamic global supply chain.
I originally did a BSc in Zoology at University College of Dublin, and then went onto do my MSc at Leeds University. My master’s research project compared land use change and how that affected bee and wasp communities using historical data – this was when my fascination with pollination and ecosystem services started. This then lead into my PhD on pollination and pest management in apple orchards, focusing on bees, hoverflies and natural enemies of aphids which was funded by Worldwide Fruit, Waitrose and University of Worcester. Towards the end of the PhD I worked part-time for Worldwide Fruit and once I finished writing the thesis I was made full time working with the quality team collecting data for field trials and maturity assessments. Fortunately the opportunity came for a year secondment to Waitrose where I was technical manager for core vegetables and potatoes. This gave me excellent commercial insight and understanding relationships across the supply chain, and how applied research has a role to fill in some the risks and opportunities in food supply. After the secondment I returned back to Worldwide fruit into my current role, which really have me the insight of the full supply chain from grower to consumer. Retailers are under increasing commercial pressure due to a highly competitive market where consumers are more demanding and informed. This has knock on effects for the economic rewards for growers, increasing costs of production (e.g. living wage) and combined with increasing pressures from policy and environmental changes means we need to tackle these challenges with an integrated approach using innovation and passion. Research has a pivotal role in this approach, which is why the CTP program and it’s students are vital to help create resilient and sustainable food supply chains.