BLOG: Considering a Career in Potato Processing?
There are some jobs that people view as desirable, writes Andre Erasmus. Like being a racecar driver, a top footballer, a pop star or successful award-winning author –callings or professions that other people envy.
For example, I’d like to win the US Open Golf Championship, or be in a famous rock band. But there are limitations to how many people can achieve this. Many of my friends claimed their parents had told them to grow up and study to be doctors, lawyers or the like, as there is a need for people to fill these roles. Others said they were simply going to take over their family farms and still be successful – after all, the world needs food.
While this is true, they will also need people who can turn the raw products that farms produce into the food we cook and eat on a daily basis. So why not try potato processing? The potato is becoming one of the world’s most important food sources, even rivaling rice and grain.
There are colleges and universities worldwide that offer graduate or post-graduate training for professionals who can establish successful careers in this fast-growing and ever-evolving field. From agronomy to storage, engineering to management, there are a host of different options to pursue.
In the years that have I helped organize the International Potato Processing and Storage Convention, I have met many interesting, dedicated and highly professional experts from countries as far apart as Latvia, the United States, Scotland, Japan, South Africa, Peru, Poland and others. Without exception, they all loved what they did – whether it involved designing equipment for processing potatoes or being the CEO of international companies.
Beyond the original training one receives as a student, many institutions offer a variety of courses in the wonderful world of potato processing. This is in no way a sarcastic statement; the world of with potatoes provides a fascinating array of products from the humble tuber.
For example, the European Snack Association (ESA) offers snack production education courses for savory snack makers and industry suppliers. These are three-day intensive courses during which attendees learn in detail about industry best practice and the latest practical applications of new technology, both to improve product quality and consistency, and to achieve potentially significant cost savings.
Major players in the industry also offer agronomy-focused or similar courses worldwide in order to expand the field of experts, thus developing the industry as a whole. In Canada, the Potato Growers of Alberta offer education and research courses through its Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE). On a slightly different scale, the national body, Potatoes New Zealand, offers a variety of educational programs nationwide, ranging from culinary courses at schools and colleges to conducting research and development projects.
Such courses either hone existing skills or whet the appetite for learning new skills. It’s a win-win situation. These are only a few examples of the training available worldwide in this area.
I was curious about where some of the top players in the industry studied. As a result, I reviewed their educational records and found names like the University of Prince Edward Island (Canada), the Central Food Technological Research Institute (India), Wageningen University (The Netherlands), the Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland) and the University of Idaho (USA), among many others.