What were your favourite subjects when you were at school? 
My favourite subjects were definitely the sciences, specifically Biology and Chemistry but I also really enjoyed PE and would look forward to the days we had that and rugby training too. 

When you left school, did you have a career path in mind? 
I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do, aside from not wanting to be stuck working in an office and wanting to make a positive impact on the world. I know lots of people at that age feel that way and end up working in an office and enjoy it, but I still feel like that now. 

Did you find it tough getting your first role after graduating or was the pathway quite straightforward? 
I did find it tough, probably in part because I didn’t have a set career path in mind and partly due to the nature of graduating in a pandemic economy with not as many job roles in the fields I would be interested in.  

What helped to guide you to your role today?  
An interest in insects from a young age, care for the environment and some great teachers who nurtured my interest in biology through School – Mrs Lim, Mr Millar and Dr Turnbull.  

What inspired you to pursue a career in sustainability? 
I have always been fascinated by the natural world. From a young age I loved nature documentaries and learning about different species and habitats, and I grew up in a time when the threats to global biodiversity have always been known. So that coupled with wanting to make a positive impact made me jump at the opportunity to start a career in sustainability. 

Can you tell us about Better Origin and what their aims are? 
Better Origin are a biotechnology company based in Cambridge that produce decentralised insect mini farms. The farms take food waste and use it to feed black soldier fly larvae which in turn are fed to laying hens. This helps us achieve our aims of fixing a broken part of the food chain. The planet wastes 1/3 of all the food it produces. We fix this by diverting waste back into the food chain and using the insects grown on this to replace soy as the high protein component of the hen’s diet. This also reduces use of soy which often comes from deforested land in South America. Finally, the laying hens benefit from feed that is closer to their natural history – they have better feather coverage, lay fewer eggs on the floor and have lower mortality.  

What is your role at Better Origin and what does it involve day-to-day? 
I am an Insect Farming Technician and team leader for one our R & D squads, focused on optimising the rearing and breeding processes at our production site. Day-to-day I am mainly designing and running experiments and conducting data analysis.  

What do you like most about your job? 
I like that each day is different because I am working on different things. I enjoy collaborating with my colleagues for ideas and the sense that we are all working for a clear common goal.  

What has been the most challenging part of your career so far? 
I have only been working here 7 months, but the most challenging part was making the decision to move across the country after a few interviews with a company. 

Do you have any advice for pupils at ESMS who might wish to follow a similar career path? 
If you can’t get into your desired field immediately keep looking, even if you have to start something else in the interim. 

Where do you see yourself in five years? 
I am really enjoying my work at Better Origin and would like to continue to progress and develop here. In the future I would love to work with some rewilding projects, focusing on habitat restoration or species introduction.  

What’s your fondest memory from your schooldays? 
I really enjoyed the outdoor pursuits we were able to do, the trip to Carbisdale and Duke of Edinburgh expeditions particularly come to mind. 

One thought on “Mark Leckie (2016), Insect Farming Technician at Better Origin

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