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Food Pilot

Our Team

FoodPilot team includes experienced food technologists, engineers, operators and technicians.  Below are just some of those who may be involved in your project.

Dr Abby Thompson - Director

abby_thompson Abby Thompson sits comfortably in the challenging space that covers both the science and business of food.  As Director of Riddet Innovation, she leads the commercially-focused research and development activities (including FoodPilot) within MasseyFood.

After completing her doctorate in Food Technology at Massey University, Abby spent 3 years carrying out human clinical studies investigating the effects of nutrition on risk of chronic at the University of Reading (UK).  From there she headed to the world’s second largest food company, PepsiCo, as Senior Scientist - Global Projects within their R&D Nutrition team for 2 ½ years.  “It was a fascinating opportunity as somebody who has an interest in food and nutrition to understand how that knowledge can be used to inform the development of products that end up on our supermarket shelves.”

Abby returned to Massey in early 2013, and has been working with academics and the food industry on a wide variety of projects since then.  She is also part of the Riddet Institute Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE), is the Science Coordinator for FoodHQ, and is involved in the High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge.

Kirsty Blair - Food Innovation Team Leader

Kirsty Blair Kirsty has spent more than 20 years taking great food ideas through to commercialisation, giving her a deep understanding of food product development.

Before joining FoodPilot in early 2016, Kirsty was Research & Development Manager for Glanbia, Ireland’s largest food company. She joined Glanbia after more than 18 years at the world’s largest dairy processor, Fonterra, where she was involved in the development and commercialisation of ground-breaking whey protein products. From there, Kirsty was involved in developing the end to end process from the idea through to physically engineering for large scale manufacture, consumer testing and packaging requirements. Today, whey protein is a crucial element of Fonterra’s global ingredients business. Kirsty has also worked for Nestle, the world’s largest food company, as a project manager for their dairy portfolio.

Garry Radford- FoodPilot Manager

Garry Radford Garry Radford’s two most important roles at FoodPilot are managing and operating the large array of pilot-scale equipment and overall risk management. Trained as a biochemist, Garry first came to the FoodPilot as a Food Technology postgraduate student. Now he imparts his more than 20 years’ experience in the operation of food processing equipment to both commercial clients and today’s Food Technology students.

FoodPilot is a registered risk management facility with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). This means clients wanting to take test samples of new food products developed in the FoodPilot lab into other countries can seek MPI approval via FoodPilot. That’s no small feat for Garry and his team when you consider that every application requires a very detailed description of the product development process and no two food products are the same.

“You have to be quite creative in here – there are so many options for making and packaging the food. I like the people side of it. I like to see people go away happy. Sometimes it doesn’t work and they still go away happy because we tried something and they left knowing more about their process or product.”

Warwick Johnston - Product Development Lab Manager

The key to successful food research and development is adaptation and innovation. FoodPilot lab manager Warwick Johnston says because no two new food ideas or client requests are ever the same, a ‘can-do’ approach to problem solving is crucial.

Warwick has been problem solving in food research and development at Massey for more than 20 years. Along with managing the Product Development (PD) laboratory, he works closely with Garry Radford and Byron McKillop to set up the FoodPilot equipment and work with the Food Innovation Team to carry out new product development projects.

Byron McKillop - Design and Commissioning Engineer

Byron Byron McKillop has been creating and designing solutions to food engineering problems since 1987. There are over 60 types of specialist food production equipment in FoodPilot. Sometimes our client’s new and unusual ideas stretch the original purpose for a piece of equipment.  That’s where Byron’s many years experience and original trade as a tool maker, fitter and turner, comes to the fore, helping identify and implement a solution to enable them to achieve the desired outcome.

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