We’ve hit the half century! Between 22 December 2019 and today, 3 February 2021, we’ve published 50 blog articles. What a journey and what a great time we’ve had growing, learning and lending our expertise to solve real-world issues for our clients in different parts of the world.

The Food Microbiology Academy journey started during the Black Friday sales of November 2019, with the upgrade of our WordPress website, then we registered our domain name shortly thereafter, and pushed out our first blog article on our website three days before Christmas. We started with an intention of engaging in primarily research activities, with teaching to support it. However, it was evident in January 2020 that our expertise in the food preservation space was valued, and we finished a couple of small consulting projects early in February 2020 for clients in London and New York. Wow yes, our first two clients were located in the two most significant global cities! During the course of the year we continued to build on our early success in consulting, and took on a Taipei-located lead food safety auditor to our team. With her industry experience in QC and understanding of bakery manufacture, coupled with her sharp and exacting knowledge of food safety, we greatly expanded our capacity.

After working with clients in Bali, Calgary (Alberta, Canada) and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in the United States, among others, we are now in a position to expand our service offerings and capabilities beyond consulting to the food manufacturing industry. To this end, we have finalised appointment of someone located in Sydney that will lead our education and training programs, initially online courses in microbiology, but ultimately training programs for the food manufacturing industry.

What have we learnt? As much as I (Philip) was thinking that food safety was what I wanted to be actively involved in, that really doesn’t seem the understanding and expertise the industry needs. I’m a bacteriologist, and tended to be more interested in food safety. However, I found that my interests and expertise wasn’t that relevant and it was more mycology along with food quality and spoilage expertise that is actually more useful when consulting to the food manufacturing industry. Many people wish to optimise or extend the shelf-life of their manufactured food products, and it typically isn’t bacteria that are limiting the shelf-life, more often it is mould growth. So I found myself getting excited about yeasts and moulds and spoiled food, then working with either I) established small to medium food manufacturers to troubleshoot mould-based spoilage issues and/or extend the shelf-life of those products, particular so that new export markets could be reached or II) food entrepreneurs who need shelf-life and food preservation advice to simply know how long their product will remain stable for. Yes, it was different to bacterial food borne disease, but this different area I slotted into was a refreshing change, and one which I found satisfying, to an extent I didn’t expect.

The next exciting period of our growth is consolidating ourselves in the consulting world, while we establish our offerings in research and in education and training. To this end, as mentioned above, we have made an appointment of someone to lead our education and training area, and are actively looking to fill our newly created leadership positions in research and in consulting and extension. With these three functional areas capably led, we’ll be able to advance in accordance with our mission toward our vision. This is indeed a particularly exciting development early in our second year of operation.

What kind of advice or insights may I be able to offer or do I have in food microbiology or in establishing an organisation like this? Here are some that come to mind:

  • There is plenty of opportunity in food quality and spoilage, as the economic impacts are significant.
  • Resist the temptation to have a business plan at the start of your organisation. Instead, have a framework and a mindset that allows self-reflection and reflection of the organisation so that change to occur as you work flexibly and fluidly towards attaining a minimum viable product or service.
  • It doesn’t hurt to focus on the basis! Start small (one person!) and concentrate on your expertise/interests.
  • Another temptation to resist is distraction – many of us with an entrepreneurial mind have too many ideas. Learn which you should pursue and when you should give them up.
  • Know your WHY. ‘Why’ you are doing what you’re doing is so important, as a business coach told me a few weeks ago. My ‘why’ is to improve the quality of life of people – through safer food, fresher food and healthier food. This is why I love my work, because of the difference I make to the quality of life of people in this way through food.
  • Keep trying things, have outlandish ideas and just give them a go. People are generally not going to make great strides by playing it safe and adopting a risk-free approach.
  • Most of all, you’ve got to love what you’re doing otherwise you won’t want to do it!