Writtle academics achieve top awards to extend agricultural research

Two Writtle College academics have been given top awards to enable them to push forward research in their areas.

Dr Nicola Blackie, Senior Lecturer in Animal Science (Livestock Production and Welfare), is one of only five recipients nationally of bursaries from the Farmers Club Charitable Trust.

Nieky van Veggel, lecturer in Animal Science, is one of only two recipients in the country to be given the UK Federation for Food Science and Technology’s (UKFFoST) John Coppock Award.

The Farmers Club Charitable Trust’s bursary is designed to help college lecturers boost their expertise. Nicola’s award – of nearly £4,000 – will enable her to research the influence of lameness on the feeding and lying behaviour of Holstein dairy cows on large-scale dairy farms in the USA.

Nicola, from Clavering, will travel to the American Dairy Association Conference and will present at the Kentuckiana Dairy Exchange.

Nicola, who is also Course Scheme Manager for the undergraduate programmes in Agriculture at Writtle College, said: “This is going to be a fantastic experience and, without doubt, is going to enhance my teaching and research, while enabling me to gain new knowledge.

“The Kentuckiana Dairy Exchange will give me the chance to talk to farmers and investigate the use of technology on American dairy farms. The conference is hugely important in the industry so it will be great to learn more from the presenters there.”

Nieky’s award, which is given annually to promising young scientists, will enable him to attend the 17th International Union of Food Science and Technology’s World Congress in Montreal, Canada, from 17 to 21 August.

Nieky, who gained an MSc in Animal Biology and Welfare at Writtle College and is currently working towards a PhD in Applied Biology, is using essential oils to make antibacterial packaging for meat and fresh produce to extend their shelf life. The ultimate aim is to reduce food waste and consequently make more food available in answer to the world’s booming population. Nieky presented his research at the most recent CREST Research Symposium in September 2013.

The 29-year-old, from Great Dunmow, said of his award: “The opportunity to travel to Canada and present some of my work to an international group of experts in food science is extremely valuable. It will enable me to build up my research portfolio and that of the College’s Antimicrobial Packaging Research Group. I am very grateful to UKFFoST for this chance.”