From science to practical application: A day at Cargill’s European R&D center

March 30, 2017

In the northern periphery of Brussels lies a suburb called Vilvoorde, also known as the media hotspot in Belgium. The small town earned its title because most of the important tv- and radio stations have their headquarters there. However, that’s not the reason why EFFoST visited Vilvoorde.

The American, family-owned food developer invited EFFoST together with the winners of the ‘EFFoST Student Of The Year Award 2016’ to have a look in their kitchen. The center in Vilvoorde houses approximately 150 scientists and technologists. The state-of-the-art laboratories and well-equipped pilot facilities have been designed with the versatility needed to accommodate customer needs. Nowadays the R&D center has become Cargill’s innovation hub in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Cargill is a partner and supporter of the ‘EFFoST Student Of The Year Award’, a competition which aims to support and encourage the next generation of professionals in food science and technology. One of the reasons for Cargill to support this competition is because of EFFoST’s excellent relationship with both the academia and the corporate world.
When you look at the position of Cargill in the food chain, we play a critical role in processing the raw materials from agriculture to creating products for consumers. That means we make big steps to process raw agricultural input to final products. One of the reasons why we support the award is that to be successful – given our position in the value chain – there is a need for innovation and enabling technologies, as well as education. When you look at the vision and purpose of EFFoST, you combine these both worlds (academia and the corporate world)”, according to Dr. Didier Bonnet, Director Global Food Research at Cargill.



The six winners of last year’s competition got the opportunity to convince Dr. Didier Bonnet and his R&D colleagues by giving a presentation about their MSc or PhD research. To participate in the ‘EFFoST Student Of The Year Award’ students have to submit an abstract of their research which will be reviewed on excellence, innovative value and originality. The topics ranged from increasing food quality by combining electric pulsing and freezing techniques to the effects van of Matcha tea on cognitive performance. The presentations resulted in great discussion between the students and the Cargill staff, who were genuinely impressed by what the students had to offer.
Christina Dietz (Nottingham University) – one of the presenting students – was excited to present her research to Cargill: “The aim of my presentation was to outline the main effects that have been expected to be induced by the psychoactive compounds present in the Matcha tea powder as well as the experimental setup and results of the human intervention study that I have conducted as one of the major parts of my research project. I am also convinced that I was able to give the main challenging points that have to be taken into account when considering an intervention study on psychoactive effects of food”.



After the presentation of the students it was up to the Cargill staff provide more insight on what it’s like to work for Cargill. Researchers from various parts of the development and production stage explained what they do and why they love it. It got the students excited and provided them with great insight on how Cargill operates.  With scientists from a range of disciplines working closely together, the center leverages diverse experience and perspectives to create innovative solutions. The Cargill researchers know how to transform raw materials into functional specialties. They have a good understanding of how various ingredients interact with other recipe components, how to achieve desired taste and texture and how to develop tasty, yet healthy, recipes. The students were impressed by what they heard and saw.
The one thing that I liked the most is well equipped laboratories and total autonomy in the research field. Moreover, I liked their closed cycle. By that I mean that Cargill’s factories provide the direction for their own R&D center”, according to Oleksii Parniakov, student at the ‘Universite de Technologie de Compiegne’. Alejandra Acevedo from the University of Lleida was impressed by how Cargill was able to “Obtain outcomes combining the most elemental science aspects to the practical application, which is a smart way to complete the milestones”.



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