Parag Acharya (Unilever), 15 Feb. 2017:

War on Waste - Challenges & Opportunities of Food Waste

Today's world is facing a daunting task of managing natural resources with increased demand fueled by population growth as well as acute disparity in resource access due to economic disparity.  Waste is one of the most alarming problems our planet is currently confronting.  The cornerstone of zero waste economy lies with the fact that improved resource utilization can not only influence industry's profits but also produce positive environmental impact, sustainable growth and new innovation opportunities.  Unilever is one of the pioneers in preaching as well as adopting such a sustainable business model. FAO studies (2011) clearly showed that approximately one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to ~ 1.3 billion tons per year, costing up to $940 billion and generating about 8% of global GHG emissions. McKinsey Global Institute indicated that food waste is ranked third of fifteen identified resources productivity opportunities.  Considering the global food security perspectives, waste produced across the food value chain is getting ever growing attention for alternative high value utilization rather then current landfilling option.  As the food sector insoles varies actors at different parts of the value chain, such inherent complexity gentians new challenges to the food waste problem. Nevertheless, connecting key stakeholders with transferred mind-sets and access the right opportunity of multi-disciplinary science and technologies for valorizing food waste/loss can provide necessary impetus towards solving food security issues.

Short Bio:

Parag has 10+ years of cross-functional and multi-disciplinary R&D experience within FMCG and biotechnology industries in various roles of senior scientist as well as R&D manager to cater innovation driven product development.  Based in the Netherlands at Unilever R&D, he is currently leading projects in broad areas of food and chemistry and flavour technology. Parag is passionate about food sustainability with particular interest in the use of emerging technologies for food waste valorisation.  Before joining industrial R&D, he also gathered several years of academic research experience in chemistry, biochemistry and bio-analytics.  After finishing PhD from Uppsala University and post-doctoral studies at the Univeristy of California, Berkeley, Parag started working for biotechnology SMEs in Canada providing scientific leadership in the area of metabolomics an chemical profiling based biomarker development.  Parag's current R&D role includes leading and managing open innovation with external partners enabling multi-disciplinary science & technology based cross-talk between knowledge partners, SMEs, complimentary big corporates and Unilever.  As scientific supervisor, Parag has participated in various grant-funded pre-competitive research program/applications such as EU-FP-7, Horizon 2020, and BBSRC-CTPs.  In addition to being a scientific member of EFFoST, FoodWasteNet and nominated in scientific committee of Total Food 2017, he has co-authored 22 peer-reviewed publications and 3 patent filings.