Contributing to solving food safety challenges and environmental impact and improving the consumer experience regarding nutritional and ethical quality is the ambition of the “Agriculture & Food engineering” major, which is part of the engineering cycle at ESILV.
In an interview with Studyrama Grandes Ecoles, Pascal Clain, head of the “Agriculture & Food Engineering” major, details the theme, objectives, and opportunities of this new specialization in the 5-year engineering program.
Interview originally published on Grandes Ecoles Studyrama in December 2022
Why did you choose this theme Agriculture & Food engineering?
Feeding 8 billion people is a significant challenge to which engineers must contribute! Indeed, the worlds of agriculture and agribusiness faced many issues: food security, environmental impacts, and organizational modes of the two sectors.
Technological innovations, especially digital ones, can help build a better future and contribute to solving these issues.
In the agricultural world, digital technologies are focused on data (from acquisition to storage), modeling, learning and knowledge extraction, knowledge engineering for decision support, and automation and robotics, as recalled in the joint INRAE and INRIA white paper published this year on agriculture and digital technology.
In the agri-food sector, digital technology is a vector of innovation in consumer service. Thanks to the improvement of the information available to them and the certification of this data by technologies such as blockchain, consumers are becoming uncompromising about the quality of what they consume, both from a nutritional and health point of view and from an ethical and environmental point of view.
Design, use, and development of digital technologies require new skills and specific knowledge at the crossroads of digital and agri-agricultural sciences. In this sense, we have chosen to develop a unique training course on this theme.
How is this new major constructed?
The objective of this major is to train engineers capable of developing solutions for digital agriculture and along the entire food chain, from farm to fork. The specialization will take place during the last two years of training at ESILV. The program comprises four main themes.
First, we will establish a base of fundamental agronomic and food sciences knowledge necessary for a good understanding of the issues and specificities of these sectors.
Digital technologies will be covered in two blocks of courses: the first block will be on robotic and precision agriculture, where students will be able to support changes in practices and systems by developing new agri-equipment and analyzing the massive data from intelligent sensors.
The second block will be oriented around food safety and transparency, training students to use new methodologies for monitoring and analyzing health risks through AI and blockchain.
The last theme is transverse to the first three, where we will make students aware of the socio-economic changes and evolutions of these sectors of activity through opening courses, for example, on digital farms, urban agriculture, or new consumer trends.
The profiles sought are people who like and appreciate new technologies but want these innovations to be meaningful and socially sound. Those who want to work in an “impact” profession will find no better training than this one. At the end of the major, the students trained will contribute to protecting the common good and preserving soil resources and biodiversity.
What are the possible employment opportunities?
The agri-food industry is France’s leading industrial employer, and agriculture is the second largest. In terms of employment volume, this represents nearly 1 million people. We are also seeing a generational renewal of the workforce, which means that these employment markets are dynamic but penalized by a lack of image and attractiveness.
There are many and varied professions: innovation and R&D, production, quality (hygiene, safety, environment), control and analysis, logistics, marketing (and sales), and support functions are all possible ways of integration and professional outlets.
This training also aims to target the professions of tomorrow, including those that still need to be created, around innovation management through data or the administration of sustainable development. Among these new professions, we can find Agri or food-data analysts.