Pedro Lafargue, PhD student in the Science Communication Unit and Centre for Research in Biosciences at UWE Bristol, talks about his PhD.
I completed an Engineering degree in agro-industry and food science in UDLA (Ecuador) and completed my training at SEMO (USA) obtaining an honour degree for higher achievements in 2014. During my studies, I carried out several internships in food and agriculture companies, working in research and development, industrial production and quality assurance. My main areas of research have been assessing bio-stimulants and fertilizers for the banana and green plantain crop, development of quality-control protocols for a wide range of products - from vegetables to ready-to-eat processed foods - and optimisation and redesign of production lines.
I started my career in industry working as production supervisor for an FMCG snacks multinational in Colombia and as an engineer in research and development for an FMCG company in the meat industry in Ecuador. As an enthusiastic entrepreneur, I established a cocoa farm in Saneli Cacaotera and a chocolate brand (TOW Chocolates), which was launched in Ecuador in 2014 and in the UK in 2018. These have the mission of improving the livelihood of small farmers and cocoa quality by implementing 100% sustainable practices and training farmers to become entrepreneurs.
Research, practice and projects
My research interest is in the development of strategies and models to improve agro-industry and sustainable food production, which can lead to successful businesses. In my PhD project, I am focusing on advanced traceability technologies to improve the supply chain of the multibillion cocoa and chocolate industry. For the last two years, I have worked in developing genomic based markers from plants, seeds and the microbiome involved in the fermentation of cocoa beans, to identify bio-markers and barcodes that could be associated with specific farms, postharvest locations and country of origin of cocoa beans.
As my project has two main components - 'Genomics applied to food industry' and social communication ('Analysis of stakeholder’s needs in the cocoa and chocolate supply chain'), I have interviewed representatives from policy makers to artisanal chocolate makers. My aim here is to identify key players that need to improve traceability and understand the reality, limitations and strengths of designing technologies that could improve the tracking of the beans.
I have created collaborations with Biodiversity International, INIAP, cocoa advisers, worldwide farmers and various chocolate makers, from which I have collected and analysed samples to assessed the origin of the products and created a library to control their origin. Results of my research have shown that various stakeholders along the food industry are open to implement genomic tools to trace back the provenance of their products, with the aim to support sustainable certifications and establish supply chain transparency.
- Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Innovate UK funded Flourish Project – working with older adults and a wide range of disabilities to understand their needs, trust and expectation about the use of autonomous vehicles and factor testing of human-machine interfaces (HMI) responsive to accessibility needs. UK, 2018-2019.
- Trained smallholder cacao farmers to process their cocoa beans under quality standards for the first time. Esmeraldas -Ecuador, 2018.
- 2017 International Symposium on Cocoa Research (ISCR), Lima, Peru, 13-17 November 2017 - The use of chloroplast markers for the traceability of certified sustainably produced cacao (Theobroma cacao) in the chocolate industry. P. Lafargue Molina, A. Wetten, J.M. Allainguillaume, A.J. Daymond and J. Allainguillaume.
- Physalia, Markers and Barcode development for sustainable cocoa, Freie Universitat Berlin 2019.
- From farmers to your door; Entrepreneurial pitch and Entrepreneur of the year (Runner up) as a doctoral researchers implementing tracking systems to improve food traceability, UWE Bristol 2019.
- The Socio-Economic impact of Genetic markers for Sustainable Agriculture in Native Cocoa Communities in Esmeraldas Ecuador, UWE Bristol 2018.
- Social-Entrepreneurship; Support small-holder farmers in the Cocoa Industry by TOW Chocolates. Univ.Salford, Manchester 2018.
- 3Minute Thesis: Development of DNA markers for chocolate tracking, second place(Runner up), UWE Bristol 2017.
- Bristol Distinguished Address: Direct trade chocolate, from farmers to your door, UWE Bristol 2017.
- Centre for Research in Biosciences CRIB: Everything about chocolate (From farm, chocolate and genetics), UWE Bristol 2017.
- West Operational Research Society (ORS), UK Annual General Meeting: Proposed mathematical model for the prediction of the effect of a vaccine of bio-stimulants and advanced fertilizers to the vascular system in Green plantain (Musa paradisiaca AAB). Bristol 2017