Student of the Year award – Cargill R&D Centre visit


The six students who won the EFFoST Student of the Year Awards 2018 had the opportunity to visit the Cargill Research and Development Centre in Vilvoorde, Belgium. During their visit, they had a tour of the facility and the chance to discuss their research with Cargill food scientists.

The day started with a brief overview of Cargill’s history. Starting as a small family business with a single storage silo, Cargill has grown into the largest privately-owned company in the world. Today, Cargill’s 155,000 employees in 70 countries draw together the worlds of food, agriculture, nutrition and risk management. Ralf Jakobi, Cargill’s Novel Ingredients Leader gave the students a warm welcome. He recently replaced Didier Bonnet who was involved with the Student of the Year awards since 2012.

The students were given the opportunity to present their work to Cargill employees working on all facets of developing food and beverage products.  Tom Bernaerts kicked off by explaining how microalgae could be used as texturizers in processed foods with the additional benefit of being rich in essential amino acids and long chain omega fatty acids. Advising to use thermal rather than pressure processes to increase viscosity. This presentation was then followed by how pulsed powered microwave assisted freezing resulted in more refined ice crystals (low LIC) and a more homogenous microstructure by Piyush Kumar Jha. He found that this technique provided better firmness and less drip loss than the constant microwave powered freezing. Unfortunately, Silvia Brandner, who won 1st prize in the PhD student category, was unable to attend to present her work on optimizing dough resting time through mechanical/ electrical stimulation.

Ozan Karatas, the 1st prize winner of the MSc student category, spoke about the findings of his computational model to improve the homogeneity of product temperature by experimenting with geometry (the round corner effect) and varying the rotation. The latter, however, proved to have no effect on product temperature uniformity. Feng Xu’s presentation on a bio-inspired saliva substitute that could benefit the growing elderly population and people with reduced saliva due to health issues, received much interest from the audience. The biomimetic saliva that was developed during her research has the ability to form a multi-layered film structure that provides wettability even after 72 hours. Last, but not least, Qinhui Xing, winner of the Popular vote, presented her research on alternatives for wet fractionation to produce protein-enriched soy flour. Good results were found using electrostatic separation with spiral charging tube and organic solvents.

In the afternoon, the students had a tour of the Cargill R&D facility stopping at a number of departments to speak to Cargill food scientists about their work. Every day, the R&D centre aims to help meet the ever-changing needs of Cargill’s customers, across different applications covering the spectrum of food and feed ingredients science as well as non-food applications. A current challenge is to reduce sugar and fat in food products, while still giving consumers the same experience and mouthfeel. When reducing sugar, alternative sweeteners and ways to compensate for volume loss need to be found. In the confectionary department, they explained that it is important to find alternatives that are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans. An example of how fats are reduced by replacing it with water and texturizers to maintain viscosity was shown, reducing fat in mayonnaise by 80%. Another highlight of the tour included seeing see state-of-the-art equipment, such as the robot in the microbiology lab. Cargill is developing sustainable and natural processes, not only to improve the functionality of food but also to use less water and less energy at production plants.

Check out the Student of the Year Award 2019 if you or someone you know would like to attend the EFFoST International Conference 2019 and visit Cargill R&D centre. The application deadline is 15 July 2019.