Friday, 07 June 2024 08:55

Connecting campus to community

Written by  Staff Reporters
Massey University is returning to the Fieldays next week with a new site. Massey University is returning to the Fieldays next week with a new site.

Massey University is returning to the National Fieldays next week with a new site, focusing on community-relevant collaborative research in the food and agriculture sectors.

The university says its presence at Fieldays over the last five decades has been dedicated to driving real change for New Zealand by sharing research, innovation and pathways to educate the next generation of global leaders in the food and fibre sector.

“With our 2024 stand, we aim to bring our research beyond the university’s borders to connect and collaborate with Fieldays visitors,” it says.

“Featuring two ongoing research projects, visitors will not only engage with the most recent findings and see research take place in real time, but will be encouraged to participate in research relevant to themselves and their communities.”

It says providing this collaborative space allows the opportunity to demystify the science research process and ensures its work remains relevant, impactful and accessible.

The university will be at Mystery Creek Pavilion (site PE51) from June 12-15.

Here’s a taste of what will be offer at the university’s stand:

sensory science in consumer acceptance: Did you know that the shape of chocolate can impact how it melts in your mouth and alters your taste experience? Or that where you choose to eat ice cream can affect how much you enjoy it?

That is the realm of sensory and consumer science and it plays a crucial role in the marketplace. Consumer acceptance is the single best predictor of success or failure with a new food product. With current data showing 80% of new food products fail, it is the mission of Massey’s Food Experience and Sensory Testing (Feast) Laboratory to make a difference and enable the voice of the consumer to have a lead role in new innovations in agrifood.

The Feast Laboratory, located on its Manawatū campus, also has the most advanced range of tools for digitally immersing consumers in relevant food consumption scenarios in New Zealand, and they’re bringing a slice of their state-of-the-art food technology and expertise to Fieldays.

A team from Feast will be on site to demonstrate how they investigate consumer perception of food products by encouraging audience participation in an active research project. Visitors will have the chance to eat chocolate in the name of science and report on their chocolate experience.

Visitors will also have the chance to experience a mixed reality environment through a mixed reality headset, which provides multi-sensory experiences. Participants’ experiences will be displayed in real-time on the screen at the stand, showcasing how the Feast team uses technology to simulate real-life environments for sensory science research.

Professor Joanne Hort, the Fonterra Riddet Chair in Consumer and Sensory Science who established Feast, says she’s excited to share the fascinating world of sensory and consumer science with Fieldays audiences, as it’s a key stage of the farm-to-fork pipeline.

“Attending Fieldays is a great way to celebrate nearly six years of research capability for Feast and to show people how important sensory science is. The relationship between an individual and their foods is very emotive and complex. We’re programmed to be rewarded for eating food, so if it’s not rewarding, we’ll reject it. Sensory science holds the key to consumer acceptance, and it’s all about working with consumers to shape the future of food innovation and create products that truly connect with their preferences and expectations.”

Urban/Rural Divide

Identifying as rural, urban or a combination of both is a personal and complex matter for New Zealanders, says Massey University.

These identities not only relate to a geographic sense of place but also reflect diverse connections in one’s life.

Exploring how these identities intersect and challenge the narrative of the rural-urban divide is a key goal of the Diverse Experience of Farming project, a collaboration between the College of Sciences and College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey.

The project will be a feature exhibition, presenting current results collected from 2022 and 2023. The results showed the value of fostering dialogue within local and context-based industry events, so by bringing the research to Fieldays, the conversation can continue.

Visitors will be encouraged to get involved, prompted by several questions that will allow them to share their thoughts and perspectives, contributing to the ongoing discussion.

By uncovering public perceptions of farming and identifying points of difference and connection, this research serves as a catalyst for change. It will generate new ideas to strengthen the connection between farmers and diverse publics, enhancing social licence to operate.

The research has already revealed that the perceived deep divide between the urban and rural public doesn’t reflect reality, with New Zealanders across all regions, genders, ages and ethnicities finding value in our farming sector. Instead, a more complex and rich diversity of opinion about farming is being uncovered.

Panel Session

University alumna Dr Maheeka Weerawarna will feature on MPI’s Opportunity Grows Here panel session, which highlights young female leaders within the food and fibre sector.

Weerawarna is a research scientist at Fonterra, where she leads projects in consumer and sensory science and manages sensory data alignment. She began her journey with Massey as a Feast intern, before pursuing her PhD studies, exploring how consumers experience products through the whole consumption experience as opposed to just one bite or sip.

After completing her PhD in 2021, she took on a new role as a Postdoctoral Researcher on the Future Food Catalyst project, where she investigated barriers and motivations to consumers of plant-based alternatives to animal-based foods.

She is known for her passion for food design and combining sensory and food chemistry worlds, often spending her free time in the kitchen coming up with new food creations.

To learn more about Weerawarna’s role and her expertise, check out the panel at Fieldays on Thursday 13 June at 11:15am at site E30.

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