by Stacy Dunn
BioFoodTech, owned by the province of Prince Edward Island through Innovation PEI, and located on the University of PEI campus in Charlottetown, provides specialized services to companies and entrepreneurs in both the food and bioscience sectors.
For over 30 years, it has helped clients determine their needs and offer solutions. It provides expertise and assistance at every stage – from idea generation to pilot-scale to commercialization and test marketing new products.
About 30 people are on staff at BioFoodTech. Job titles include Food and Bioscience Scientists, Microbiologists, Technologists, Technicians, Engineers, Administrative Support, and Building Maintenance.
They work in the following areas:
- Food technology (lab and pilot scale)
- Bioscience technology (lab and pilot scale)
- Laboratory Services (mainly food microbiological testing)
- Building maintenance and administrative support
The company’s staff is multilingual. In addition to fluency in English, several team members have a working knowledge or fluency in French, Chinese (Mandarin), Russian and Spanish.
“About two-thirds of our staff are technical,” says Edward Charter, PhD, PEng, Food and Bioscience Technology Manager. “As well, a limited number of clients work within our facility to do research and development and office administration.”
Working with companies
Edward oversees staff in the Food and Bioscience Technology areas, where they work with companies on product and process development, packaging, shelf life, and more. “In some cases, we scale up to make a commercial product. For a period of time, they make the product at our facility. It’s the same process for our bioscience clients, where some have started making product for commercial sale.
“We bridge the gap between the bench and the commercialization of a product. There has also been a significant growth in the regular quality testing of bioscience products in our lab.”
Staff education levels
The education levels of staff range from high school, to diplomas in biotechnology, to Bachelors, Masters, and PhDs in science and engineering. “While our staff cover the full range of academic training, it’s important to note that we try to find staff who have some exposure to industry as well,” says Edward.
BioFoodTech has hired three technical staff in the last six months. Edward says while they are not hiring now, their needs could change in the next 12 months or so.
Jobs are posted on their own website and those of the PEI Public Service Commission (Provincial Government Job Opportunities page), PEI BioAlliance, and national organizations such as the Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology.
Once applicants’ resumés are screened, successful candidates are called for an interview. BioFoodTech has conducted interviews remotely with candidates who live abroad and during the pandemic.
“Two or three staff are present to do the interview, which goes for about 30 to 60 minutes. It is a standard, straightforward approach to an interview.”
As a crown corporation under the Government of PEI reporting to Innovation PEI, BioFoodTech follows the provincial government classification of occupations, wages, and salaries.
“The PEI Public Service Commission reviews the qualifications, responsibilities and other requirements for a given position, and then determines the pay scale in line with other public service jobs.”
Coming full circle
Jil Sproul assumed the role of Executive Director of BioFoodTech in January 2022. She is a graduate of UPEI and AVC, and holds a M.Sc. in protein biochemistry. Jil began her professional career in the microbiology lab at BioFoodTech in 1989 when it was known as the PEI Food Technology Centre.
She went on to Novartis (Elanco) where she worked as a Quality Control Manager and a Quality Training Manager. After 17 years in biotech and quality management, Jil took on a new challenge, combining her lifelong passion for fitness with her extensive leadership experience to bring the brand of GoodLife Fitness to PEI. She was with GoodLife for six years.
“I am thrilled that my career has come full circle, bringing me back to BioFoodTech,” Jil says. The past 6 months here have been so rewarding; I have been thrilled to create a new and dynamic strategic vision for the organization.”