Women in Poultry: Dr. Anne Richmond

Learn more about Dr. Anne Richmond, Head of R&D at Moy Park in Northern Ireland
calendar icon 6 December 2021
clock icon 7 minute read
Dr Anne Richmond, Head of Research and Development at Moy Park
Dr Anne Richmond, Head of Research and Development at Moy Park

Describe a typical day in your current role?

Every day starts with a virtual R&D team meeting, where we discuss recent work, update on projects and look ahead to see what we need to prepare for. These meetings are really useful - not just to catch up with my direct team but with other colleagues from across the business. The rest of the day can vary, no two days are the same. I could be dealing with ongoing trials on-farm, meeting various academics to discuss research, speaking with innovative partner companies or sharing insights with colleagues across the Moy Park business. My role is varied, fast paced and busy – but I love the dynamism of it.

What’s unique about your role?

I act as a bridge between academic, university-based research and the practical reality of what is happening within the wider industry – taking on board feedback and ideas from customers and different parts of the supply chain and identifying people we want to work with. That link between academic and application is key to the role, being tapped into UK and global experts on poultry science, and the practical needs on the ground. I also look beyond poultry into other industries to see if there are other technologies and processes we can learn from and apply to our own sector.

What are the main challenges that you face in your role?

One of the main challenges I face is the sheer variety and range of the work our team is responsible for. In the same day I could be looking into sustainability, meat quality or AI and machine vision learning. I have to maintain a strong understanding across all these areas, and that also makes my role all the more exciting.

The challenge of the pandemic is something that has affected all industries, and of course society as a whole. Much of my role at present remains virtual, which has meant losing an element of human interaction. However, we have made it work, and thanks to video technology I can easily meet with people across the business, regardless of where they are based throughout the UK.

Key to overcoming all these challenges is working with such a strong team. I have the pleasure of working with people with different skill sets to me – each of us bringing a different strength.

Are there individuals or organizations in poultry who you’ve found particularly inspirational?

Ursula Lavery, Technical and R&D Director Europe at Moy Park, has been a personal inspiration to me. She is a good sounding board and has offered guidance and support as I have grown my career at Moy Park. At Moy Park, I have been fortunate to work with many men and women who have acted as mentors and helped me navigate through the early stages of my career. To any young people starting out within the food industry, I would really urge them to seek out those who have been around the industry for a long time. Display humility and get as much information out of them as you can – their experience is valuable and it is good to consider advice – even if we don’t always take it!

It is great to see organisations like Meat Business Women growing membership within Moy Park. Within the wider industry, there has been a sense that there is lots of good female talent that isn’t getting through at a certain stage. I feel there is an awareness of that and with the help of networks like Meat Business Women, industry needs to identify where we can fix it.

Have you encountered any challenges as a woman in your field? If yes, how have you overcome them?

It is vitally important for businesses to be reflective of the society they are operating within and the people they serve, and I really believe things are moving in the right direction. Mothers like me with young children can find it hard to balance family and career, but Moy Park have always been accommodating and open to me.

More experienced women and men in the business have helped me, and as a leader I feel I have a responsibility to pay that forward to younger women within Moy Park – identifying opportunities for young people and helping them develop skills and grow their careers. An important part of my remit is to oversee our PhD studentships, identifying the best young people who have the ability and helping them through their research. These opportunities of course benefit the business, but it is also personally rewarding to be able help people on their academic and career journey.

What outstanding challenge facing the poultry industry would you most like to solve?

Over the coming years the global food industry faces the huge challenge of continuing to provide the nutritional needs of a growing world population while having a positive impact on the environment. We are already industry leaders on integrity credentials across animal welfare, sustainability and quality. We have committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, which is the most progressive commitment of its kind within poultry.

R&D will be vital to delivering this. Across the food supply chain, there are lots of things we are doing already to take us there – but there is more to do, and new ideas will get us there. That’s where my role fits in, working with experts across the livestock sector to work on new solutions that deliver for people and planet.

What’s the most exciting innovation that you see on the horizon for the poultry industry?

There are so many exciting developments happening within poultry at present. Improvements in AI and computing are giving us more data quicker than ever before. We have the task of improving how we can better use that data from our operations, labs and farms, and turning it into knowledge. If we can do that, it will be transformational, making our processes even more efficient and freeing up more capacity for us to address the other challenges we face.

What are you most excited about in the next 5-10 years regarding the poultry industry?

This is a really interesting time to be working in poultry. In many ways the industry is at a junction with a number of things coming to a head – ongoing recovery from the pandemic, the challenge of net zero, new government food policies and dietary trends. It is exciting to be part of the industry during this transformational period. There are real opportunities for talented young people to come and build a rewarding, long term career in agri-food as the supply chain innovates and adapts over the coming decades.

What’s your next challenge?

Sustainability is one of the key focuses through which I look at all my work. Through R&D we are building the projects and carrying out the vital research that will see how we deliver on net zero and enhance our contribution to the environment. Who do we need to work with? Who do we need to communicate to? These are just some of the questions we are tackling as we continue on this important journey with our customers and suppliers.

Sarah Mikesell

Editor

Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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