Centre for Innovative Food Research

ENGINEERING THE FOOD OF THE FUTURE

The world is running out of land to produce enough food for its future double-digit billions of human inhabitants. New technology is needed and engineers at Aarhus University are already developing innovative solutions at the new strategic centre for food research.

Since the year 1800 the number of humans inhabiting the Earth has grown from 1 to 7.6 billion. And every single year, 83 million new faces are added to the pool. Though the population growth has stagnated, 11.2 billion people are still expected to inhabit Earth in the year 2100.

11.2 billion people living off the same resources as we are today. And while the demand for food products is rising even now, consumer confidence is on the decline. Clearly humanity faces an overwhelming challenge if we are to survive and thrive as a species on this planet, and engineers are going to play a vital part in securing sustainable solutions that will ensure food for everyone in the future.

On 25 September 2017 Aarhus University opened its doors to the strategic centre for innovative food research called iFOOD – a research initiative focused on solving important societal challenges and becoming a catalyst for growth and development in the food industry while encompassing the entire production chain from field to table.

No fishy smell
“We are fostering many new different technologies that could have a major impact on the food industry. For instance, we are trying to reduce waste by advanced integrated processing technology for agro-wastestreams. We are also working on increasing food shelf-life by developing new packaging solutions that could prevent the growth of bacteria, and we are trying to enrich food products to maximize nutritional potential and make food healthier,” says Associate Professor Zheng Guo.

He continues:

“Take Omega 3 oil for instance, which is especially important for the elderly and new-born. Instead of extracting the oil from fish, we can get it directly from microalgae, where it actually originates from. By engineering the microalgae we are able to produce Omega 3 in a better quality and in greater quantities and even without the smell of fish.”

The Department of Engineering will contribute to the iFOOD centre throughout the entire food value chain, from cultivation of raw materials, identification of new food ingredients and allergy assessment, sensor technology and production monitoring, to customer solution and packaging of end foods.

From lab to pilot
With the new centre, the engineers are – in close cooperation with other researchers and specialists - able to develop, implement and test new technologies from laboratory level to pilot scale and under upscaling conditions for both plant and animal-based foods, new packaging solutions and new production systems of raw materials. Furthermore, the centre will explore and validate the impact of new food technologies at consumer level.

Research and innovation in food products are key areas here, where unique expertise, excellent facilities, and good collaboration relations form a strong basis for highlighting Denmark even more clearly on the world map in an area with enormous commercial potential.

The centre is an interdisciplinary hub, where Aarhus University is bringing a number of skills and disciplines from several faculties together. Several departments at Science and Technology, the Faculty of Health and the MAPP Centre at the School of Business and Social Sciences will work together to address the complex issues of global food demand, creating a holistic picture of a situation with diverse challenges.

FACTS

The Aarhus University Centre for Innovative Food, iFOOD, is led by Professor Lotte Bach Larsen, Department of Food Science.

The multidisciplinary work at the centre involves the participation of the following departments and centres at Aarhus University:

  • Department of Engineering
  • Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Agroecology
  • Department of Animal Science
  • Department of Clinical Medicine
  • Department of Public Health
  • Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Centre (iNANO)
  • MAPP Centre – Research on Value Creation in the Food Sector for Consumers, Industry and Society

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