02 Jan Growing a solution
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Jan 2, 2018
Last month I was lucky enough to shadow Azotic Technologies for the morning; not only to get a taste of the work they carry out on a day to day basis, but to get insight into the people that work there. David Dent, Director of Azotic Technologies, leads a team working to reduce the global use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser via their product N-Fix ®.
Having bumped into some of the guys from Azotic at BioCity’s weekly yoga classes and annual gingerbread house event, I was excited to meet the whole team! So, I donned a lab coat (feeling like a BioTech Super hero!) and Research Assistant, Charlie showed me into the lab to introduce me to everyone. I was instantly welcomed by a friendly and relaxed team, all positioned at their own benches setting up experiments for the morning.
Firstly, I was introduced to Steven, a PIP (Professional Internships for PhD students) from the University of Nottingham, who has chosen to carry out his 3-month industry placement at Azotic. Azotic is just one of many of the fab companies at BioCity that provide work experience opportunities to students like Steven.
“I’m studying plant genetics on a Doctoral Training Programme, which allows me to get a lot of industry experience and training, rather than carrying out traditional research. I’m really enjoying working with the group towards a common goal”.
Usually a busy lab of 13, there were a few missing that day- otherwise occupied at an exciting conference in Vienna. And from what I was told, amazing travel opportunities are not uncommon (beats a day in the office!)
Ian Clarke, Research Assistant and Dr Katrin Schwarz, Molecular Biologist and Microbiologist
Next, I chatted with Katrin, a Molecular Biologist and Microbiologist at Azotic. It was her first time helping out to remove seedlings from their pots and clean the soil from them to see how the pH affects not only their growth but also the efficiency of Azotic’s product N-Fix ®. Katrin normally works on different experiments, so she was keen to learn about other aspects of experiments in the company and was being shown the seedling process by her colleague Ian.
Katrin is originally from a small town near Rostock, located in former East Germany – “it’s a lovely and beautiful place, charming for tourists!” She did her PhD at the University of Rostock, followed by a 2 year post-doc at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands. After completing a 6 year post-doc at the University of Nottingham in 2015, Katrin joined Azotic.
“I’ve been at the company for two or three years – it’s my first industry job. I really enjoy the focused work and drive to achieve the end product. We’re always asking, ‘does this task make sense?’
“I like that Azotic is a young start up, with a nice team from across the globe. I’m passionate about sustainability, so I like that Azotic’s work has an environmental focus – makes me feel like I’m helping to “save the world!”
“I feel really strongly about the importance of teaching the next generation of scientists (I have three kids; twins almost one and a two-year-old) and think it’s important to get kids involved in science at a young age.”
“I joined the University of Nottingham’s Science Outreach Programme for two years and took part in several events interacting with the public, such as ‘Science in the Park’. It was great to inspire and motivate the children and the event and get them interested in the subject. It would be fantastic to bring more kids into the working environment, so they can see how science translates into a job.”
Dr Katrin Schwarz, Molecular Biologist and Microbiologist
I was then invited to speak with Inma also a Scientist) in the opposite lab, who was leading the days’ experiment. Inma comes from Spain, where she did a Ph.D. in Microbiology at the University of Seville.
“I then went on to do a Post Doctorate at the University of Nottingham and feel like Nottingham is my second home from Spain. After finishing at the Uni, I took a break and started a family. Azotic was the perfect company to join after the break. I’ve now been here for 3 years, and it’s my first proper job in industry. My work has been focused on plant-bacteria interaction and microbial ecology, where my special interest lies.”
“I’m preparing the plates and the rest of the team are sampling for me. I need help from everyone today, as this is a massive experiment. We’re looking at the characteristics of bacteria and its interactions with other bacteria and the plant itself.”
“The company has strong core values and respect for your family life. They are very flexible considering I have two children. It’s evident here that the more flexible the company is, the more committed you are to the company, which sadly doesn’t happen often in Spain.”
Inma’s children are one and four years old, and when asked whether they were interested in science, she said they were a little too young but definitely have the characteristics of a scientist; experimental, questioning, always asking how things work and seeking explanations.
Unlike Inma and many of the other scientists at Azotic, Michelle has a non-academic background, instead choosing the route of “starting at the bottom and working my way up.” She began at global CRO, Eurofins in Derbyshire and progressed her way through the company before leaving to join Azotic as an Agronomist. “I organise contract field trials throughout the UK, Europe and across Asia.”
“From the offset I had a very good recruitment experience with Azotic. I felt so welcome and it was a really nice way to start a new job. Azotic is lovely place to be – at a conglomerate you feel like one of so many, so I do prefer working for a smaller company. It’s great that the company is based at BioCity as you have access to so many facilities that you wouldn’t get if the company was based in its own building.”
Charlie – Research Assistant and Communications officer
Having had the opportunity to speak to most of the employees, it’s clear that they thrive in Azotic’s culture of shared working and fun, laid back environment. Everyone I met at the company had a firm passion for what they do, for contributing to sustainable food production and for the company. Though the structure of the company does not allow for traditional hierarchical progression, employees can utilise their skills and interests to form their own speciality in their job role, which is unique to working for a small business. Everyone was undoubtedly aware that achieving results for the company would only be accomplished by working collectively as a team.
TAGS: Agronomy, Agtech, Azotic, BioCity company, Case Study, Spotlight