Food Doctor Ng is Filling The Gap In Nigerian Food Industry -Awesu Temitope Joseph

Joseph Awesu
Joseph Awesu

Food Doctor Ng is Filling The Gap In Nigerian Food Industry -Awesu Temitope Joseph

Awesu Joseph is a dynamic and a very determined youngman with a focus to make a positive difference in whatever he does.

Having studied Food Science & Technology at the Lagos State Polytechnic, Joseph thought outside the box to carve a niche for himself. 

Joseph is an active member of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science & Technology (NIFST).

He is the founder and Managing Director of Food Doctor Nigeria, an indigenous food consulting firm with a track record on exceptional and professional performance. 

Can we know you better?

My Name is Awesu Joseph Temitope, second son of a family 6; 4boys and two girls.

I was born in the 80’s at Shomolu General Hospital. I started my primary school at De-Young Nursery and Primary School, Ikorodu, Lagos.

I later went to Ansar ud Deen Secondary School for my common entrance examination. I had my post primary education at the Lagos State Civil Service Model College Igbogbo, Lagos and I was the Environmental Prefect Boy and Chief debater where I won several laurel for my school.

My dream was to study medicine, but I was not lucky enough with University admission, but I later settled for Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu in 2008 to study Food Science & Technology. My love for saving lives as a medical doctor was what translated to my saving lives through food.

I didn’t give up on my dream, therefore in 2009 I came up with “Food Doctors” idea while on campus. I graduated in 2013 with Upper Credit, HND in Food Science & Technology.

Joseph Awesu

I went for my one year NYSC service, where I was posted to Sagamu Model College. I taught agricultural science and engaged personal Community Development Scheme (CDS) project called ‘Sagamu Walk Against Malaria Parasite (SWAMP)’ because of the frequent absentism of my students from school due to malaria fever. I was given state honours award and nominated for presidential honours award at the same time. I continued my educational at the Lagos State University, where I studied Industrial Biochemistry at post graduate diploma level.

Why did you decide to study Food Science & Technology?

I was advised by a family friend, Mrs. Toyin Ojo to put in for Food Science & Technolog. She told me that I could work in a big organization like Nestle, Cadbury, Dangote as a food technologist. I love the idea, so I went to  a cyber cafe and I made some researches on the course and job opportunities. So I put in for the course as option B. Luckily I was admitted by the Lagos State Polytechnic.

How did you feel when you couldn’t secure job in any of your dream organization (s) after your graduation?

I didn’t pay attention at seeking for job because I wanted to further my education. My resolution was to either work for myself or get a government job that would enable me to study more.

The most painful part was when I heard a senior manager of Nestle Food saying that they don’t employ HND holders. I felt bad and I made up my mind to become a brand to reckon with in Nigeria as a HND holder. So I stopped my job search.

Joseph Awesu

In your view, do you think we have enough food industries to serve the number of food technology graduates in Nigeria? If the answer is no, what do you think we need to do to correct this?

No, we don’t have enough. It is not all graduates of food science and technology that must work in food processing industry. The food industries in Nigeria are not even employing food graduates rather they employ chemists, biochemists, microbiology graduates and graduates of other science related professions.

The food business value chain is wide, graduates need to look into other opportunities. We have food packaging industry, product development and research, additives and food colour business, food consultancy service, food safety advocacy, brand endorsement, water industry among others. We have little formal food industry, but a large number of informal food business sector which non-food graduates are taping into.

“The name Food Doctor emanated from the need for a better identity.”

Almost, every rich man in Nigeria wants to start a food business, but they don’t know who to consult to guide them on how to go about it. That is the missing link for food graduates of food science and technology. There are some beverage organizations in Nigeria, which products are not selling well or competing well with new brands in the market simply because they refuse to develop new products. These are opportunities food technologists should make use of.

Also, food Industries should create internship opportunities for fresh graduates, how can they have experience when they are denied the opportunity.

Do you think our institutions of learning are well developed to train food science graduates to be self reliant?

“The journey was a bit rough, but we were persistent before we finally had a  breakthroug”

It’s not possible to gather all the information needed on the field in a higher institution of learning, there is need for personal development.

In fact, there are some professional courses that you don’t need to visit four walls of a university to study.

Now, we have online university and courses that are delivered in accordance with the best standards in the world.

With the prevailing situation in the country, where food professionals don’t have the relevant recognition, how do you think we can correct all the anomalies in the food sector of the economy?

For one to gain relevant recognition in a chosen field of endeavor, he or she must have done something extra ordinary. The question is how many outstanding food professionals do we have? The few ones you can mention are mostly retired staff of some multinational food organizations. I only know of the late J.K Ladipo, Duro Kuteyi, Oyebode Joshua and Bola Osinowo who truly stood out by starting up food businesses in line with their profession.

Other food professionals are job seekers, they are not solving any economic problem.

Nigeria is having food insecurity issues and post-harvest losses, those making moves on solving these problems are nonfood professionals.

For food professionals to solve these anomalies that plague the food sector they must do the following:

1. We must let people know what our profession is all about

2.  The Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST) must restrict her membership to strictly food scientists & technologists.

3. The professional institutes must be on air sharing her vision and mandate with the world.

4. International food product exhibitions should encourage more investors and grant food technologists platforms to leverage on in various organizations.

5. We should be fully involved in national programs such as National Industrial Revolution Plan of the Federal Government amongst others.

6. Food professionals should stop applying for non-food professional jobs (banking, insurance among others).

7. Lastly, learn how to make yourself marketable as a food professional.

Today, it is difficult to have our academics and the industry have a tolerable success in technology transfer, as a professional what do you think is lacking and how do we solve this problem?

The problem with technology transfer between academic and the industry is the inability of this faculty to patent their research work. The fear of research theft has hindered us as a nation as many research results are on the shelves, they are not implemented. The academic sector needs to generate revenue through research grants instead of depending on the government for funds.

What professionals need to do is to bridge the gap. Food technologists in various organizations need to be the liaison officers between the institutes and their organizations. The organisations should sponsor final year or post graduate projects and in return they will enjoy technology transfer.

How do we make food profession relevant as we have in the case of medicine and pharmacy?

The Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology has to go back to the drawing board and do a proper orientation of the students arm. The entire food profession starts from the institutions of learning, so NIFST must have a sound representative, who will constantly visit the students to orientate them on their chosen field. Some students didn’t apply for the course, but they were given so they don’t really have interest in it, but they go ahead with the study because they needed a degree.

Using ICAN as an example, every accounting student has a better orientation before graduation, so they end up becoming accountants that do not abandon their profession.

Also, NIFST Charter process should come along with public awareness. Many people do not know NIFST, several multinational food industries don’t include NIFST on their job seek as a professional body.

Meanwhile, you will see other non-chartered associations on their site.

What necessitated Food Doctor and how challenging is the task?

The name Food Doctor emanated from the need for a better identity. When I was in school, whenever I told people I was studying food technology they often asked if I could cook, but when I tell them I am a food doctor, they crave to know more about me. Now Food Doctor is a popular brand in Nigeria.

Food Doctors Ng is a registered organization and our mandate is to save lives through food. We have a large food and agro-allied professional network pool of over 64 faculty working with the organization in areas of capacity development for farmers and food industry. Also, we have a network of registered nutritionists working on zero malnutrition advocacy project in Nigeria and as well as ketogenic diet. The journey was a bit rough, but we were persistent before we finally had a  breakthrough.

Can you tell us some of the challenges you’ve gone through to get to where you are today?

Starting was difficult, it involved several trials and failures. I remember trying to build a working team on three occasions, but they all left because no one keyed into the vision. I started with free consultation and I discovered that no big investors will want to do business with a young consultant. To be a consultant in this part of the world, you must either be a retiree or working as a top management staff in a reputable organization. Therefore I worked briefly with Akco Foods and Spectra Foods as Quality Control Manager respectively, but I quit in June 2017 to focus on Food Doctors Ng.

I had my first major consultancy service to setup a Turn-key Flour Processing Plant in Imo State. After delivering all my findings and analysis, the client stopped responding. It was a big loss and waste of resources, but I didn’t give up, I kept on writing proposals to various organizations including research institutes on product ideas and system development. In 2017, Food Doctors Ng got an international partnership request from London Professional Training Centre on ISO 22000:2005 certification. Later on, we got a RFP from a German NGO (AFOS STIFTUNG) on capacity development for mid-level managers of top farms in Nigeria like CHI Farm, Tuns Farm, Animal Care, Obasanjo Farm, Foodpro among others.

Currently Food Doctors Ng consults alongside top consulting firms in Nigeria such as Philip Consulting, IITA, and Strategy Consulting among others. Currently, Food Doctors Ng is running an online GMP/HACCP training, where over 60 persons have successfully passed the course. We are young and we look forward to partnering with NIFST and other top internationals such as Nebosh on certification courses.

Where do you see Food Doctor in a decade?

In a decade, I want Food Doctors Ng to be a leading food and agribusiness consulting firm in Africa. Our dream is to give third party quality endorsement to over 500 food processing organizations within and outside Nigeria. We are hopeful and working towards our third party endorsement program for SME, which will kick off in 2019.

What is your advice to the coming generations of food science technologists?

“NIFST should be fully involved in national programs such as National Industrial Revolution Plan of the Federal Government amongst others.”

I will advise coming generations to think outside production, there are opportunities everywhere, look for where you can channel your professional strength. There are so many local food processors using old and conventional method of production, you can visit them, help them to upgrade and improve their productivity. People will only pay you if you provide solution to their problems.

Lastly, learn how to market yourself and one day someone will buy into your brand, and above all, trust God.

Joseph Awesu

As a member of the NIFST what’s your advice to your institute on the way forward?

NIFST is of age. It’s high time to participate effectively on national food security and safety issues. Release press statements on food trending issues. The institute should not just be about organizing national conference, but they should be addressing the needs of members in terms of capacity development and corporate recognition.

What other information would you like to share with fellow professionals?

Keep in touch with your professional colleagues, get a mentor or mentors on the job. The strength of Food Doctors Ng is our network of professionals and we are looking forward to having more professionals on our platform as we officially turn two years this November.

What is your opinion on Movietainment Magazine and what do you think we can do to make it better?

Movietainment Magazine is one of the oldest surviving magazines that I know of, keep growing and work on your vision and keep it running.