Posted 31 January
Industry experience helping food producers prepare for Net Zero has helped a Harper Adams student secure a graduate role with supermarket chain Morrisons.
Final year Food student Nafisa Jibrilu is set to take up the role after spending her work placement year – a crucial element of all Harper Adams degrees - working at the chain’s leading egg producer, Chippendale Foods.
Nafisa explained: “I didn’t know anything about eggs initially – I just applied for the job as I thought it offered an end-to-end aspect, working with the producers and going back to retail – it is all done under one group, which I thought I could benefit from because I would be able to work through with more or less the same people.
“My job was mainly office based, but I’d also go on farm as well and help with audits – just seeing what it’s like on farm – I did volunteer a couple of times to go on farm with producers and just work with them.”
Part of this work involved gathering data and information for Morrisons to help guide its Net Zero commitments - which included meetings with senior executives, such as the company’s Head of Agriculture, Fisheries and Sustainable Sourcing, Sophie Throup.
Nafisa added: “I was helping out with collecting data and speaking to the producers and I think as a team we had to brainstorm and see how we can get them to achieve Net Zero – so regular meetings with Sophie were a thing.
“Initially I found it a bit shocking – me, a placement student, talking to these people?
“But gradually, I got more comfortable – I think what scared me at first to begin with was not coming from an agricultural background, so I was like ‘I’m probably going to sound stupid speaking to these people’, but I just approached them in a manner of ‘I don’t come from an agricultural background, but I’d like to know more’
“By the end of it I was reaching out to people and wanting to learn more – not just internal people who we worked with, but also breed companies for whom it’s more the producer who works with them than us directly– just reaching out to them to see what they did and building industry contacts.”
Having now found a taste for working with both producers and retail, Nafisa applied to Morrisons for a place on its graduate scheme upon returning for her final year at Harper Adams – and is set to continue her work on Net Zero with the company once she completes her food science degree later this year.
Born in London, Nafisa was brought up in both Nigeria and Egypt before returning to the UK to take her Highers in Scotland.
As she completed her further education, she began to look for universities – and Harper Adams caught her eye.
She explained: “I think it was actually pure coincidence finding Harper online – but I thought the course seemed really interesting and extremely hands-on which is what I was looking for. I didn’t want to be just sat in a classroom learning the theory, I wanted to be experiencing it for myself.
“Co-incidentally, after I’d applied, I found out my grandad went to Harper as well in 1961 – he studied poultry when it was a college. I’d applied, I told my dad about it, and he went ‘oh, that’s where your grandad went!’”
She added: “I first came to Harper on my Offer Holder Day, which was quite interesting – they got us involved in the Food Academy, in the kitchens there – we made chocolate!
“I was fascinated when I arrived, I didn’t really imagine seeing an industrial sized kitchen in the middle of a university campus – and for students to have access to these kinds of facilities I think is incredible.
“I don’t know of many universities that have the same policies when it comes to students using equipment straight away.
“I think Harper is seen as a small, agricultural university, but that’s not true - it’s becoming more diverse.
“It’s a community Uni almost - everyone knows everyone, you’re in a room and the lecturer knows everyone by name.”