Unique investment in food pilot plant
Wenche Aale Hægermark
31. May 2011
A new pilot plant for food research is on the cards at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) at Ås, just south of Oslo. “This is an important investment that helps to bolster UMB’s already solid position within food science and technology,” says Ragnhild Solheim, director of research at UMB.
In 2011 the Research Council of Norway granted financing to seven applications for advanced scientific equipment. The new pilot plant at Ås is a collaboration between UMB and Nofima, under UMB’s leadership and with support from the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science and the Norwegian Veterinary Institute. Of the Research Council’s total allocation of NOK 100 million, the pilot plant at Ås received NOK 27 million.
The project includes an upgrade of existing process halls at UMB and Nofima. These will now be ultra-modern, ideally suited for teaching and research, and targeted at the entire chain of production from raw ingredients to final food product and packaging. The plant will also include a new and unique “pathogen pilot plant”, where it will be possible to study the survival and growth of pathogenic bacteria (pathogens) in food and in process environments under real-life conditions. The new annex at Nofima will house the pathogen research hall.
A shared, cross-disciplinary meeting place
The infrastructure will be unique for both Norway and Europe – a cross-disciplinary meeting place between technical expertise and research findings for experimenting with ingredients, recipes, processes, and packaging for safe and efficient production. Everything is in place for an effective dissemination of knowledge.
“A joint investment of this type provides numerous opportunities in regard to education, research, and commercial development,” says Nofima CEO Øyvind Fylling-Jensen. “Collaborating on infrastructure opens up for productive synergies that all parties will benefit greatly from.”
Camilla Røsjø, CEO of Nofima Mat, agrees. She adds that this investment will open up for a much closer collaboration between the research communities at UMB, and that the pilot plant will be an important step in the further development of research on the entire value chain.
The news of the allocation was also well received by employees at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science and the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, both of which will relocate to Ås when the new university is completed.
Important for the food industry
One of the major global challenges in the years ahead is to ensure enough healthy and safe food for everyone, and food science and food safety make important contributions in this context.
According to Helga Næs, director of safe and durable food at Nofima Mat, “The investment at UMB means taking an important step in really ensuring the food safety in this country.” She is particularly looking forward to the opening of the new pathogen pilot hall, which she believes will be an important prerequisite for the industry to solve crucial food safety challenges in the years ahead.
“The pilot plant provides the food industry with the opportunity to come here and test their new projects,” adds Elling-Olav Rukke, associate professor at the Department of Chemistry, Biotechnology, and Food Safety at UMB. “And students are given an opportunity to come into contact with the industry. This is a great benefit, because the vast majority of students do not have practical work experience before coming here.”