Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Plant Proteins and Sustainability: A spotlight on session chair Dr. Baljit Ghotra

Dr. Baljit Ghotra is the chair of the Plant Protein Science and Technology Forum's final session, "Plant Proteins and Sustainability." The following is a description of tomorrow's session.

Our growing global population requires affordable proteins that promote the wellbeing of both people and the planet. This requires building a sustainable value chain from farms to consumers. Join us to participate and learn how science and technological advances can help solve the challenges as we look at the future of plant proteins. The session on plant proteins and sustainability will highlight the importance of collaborative efforts between research, industry and government agencies to apply effective technological solutions, that include sustainable agricultural practices, crop biotechnology, processing solutions, food quality, and traceability.

You can still register for the Forum to view this session's live stream. 

Meet Dr. Ghotra

A brief biography:

Baljit Ghotra is Vice President of Food Research at ADM. In this role, he oversees research planning and its execution to support ADM’s strategy to accelerate innovation and growth. Based in Decatur, Illinois, he leads and works closely with teams of researchers and scientists exploring new ways to make food delicious and nutritious. In this effort, he supports the company’s goals of becoming a leading solutions provider for customers and consumers who are seeking new products based on proteins, carbohydrates, oils and lipids, and other specialty ingredients that are applied in food, beverage, personal care, pet foods, animal nutrition and pharmaceutical industries. Prior to ADM, he spent 20+ years in industry at various positions in research and manufacturing, including positions at Cargill, Ingredion and Mondelez International. He holds a Ph.D. degree focused on grain science and technology from the University of Alberta, Canada. 

1) Why did you decide to get involved with the Plant Protein Science and Technology Forum?

We have seen the agri-food space changing at a pace we have not seen before. This is all accelerated by technology to meet evolving consumer needs, producer expectations and customer demands. Given all the disruptions that have been happening in the alternative protein industry and the needs of both the consumer and the climate, this forum feels particularly important.

To meet these needs, we needed a way to bring like-minded people together to talk about the challenges and solutions and how to turns these conversations into reality. So, it is this global cause and the increasing presence of plant proteins in the market that drew me to suggest a session on plant proteins and sustainability. I am interested in this forum as it is a unique opportunity to discuss the opportunities and confront some of the challenges of making nutritious and delicious food from plant-based proteins.

2) How does your work intersect with the session, you are chairing?

This session on plant proteins and sustainability intersects with everyone as we all have a role to play in building sustainable food systems. At ADM, we are unlocking the power of nature to provide food and nutrition to the world, not only humans but animals. It is a huge responsibility. We have been doing this for the last 118 years, transforming agricultural feedstocks like corn, wheat, soybeans, pulses/beans and other specialty crops into food, feed and specialty industrial solutions. We are keeping sustainability at the forefront as we look at the next 50 years and beyond. We are asking ourselves, what structural changes in our choices and actions are needed as we prepare to feed 9.8 billion in 2050. There will be a need for significantly more food with significantly less land. Sustainable agriculture and disruptive technologies, and our commitment to mindful actions to support the environment are imperative to make a positive impact on the planet so that the natural resources on which we depend are available in the years to come. 

While thinking about the plant proteins and sustainability session one thing that comes to my mind is the opportunity for agriculture-food processing companies, like ADM, who really connect the entire supply chain from farm to consumers.  This is a great opportunity in front of us and every one of us along the value chain has a role to play to build a sustainable food system.  

So, the speakers in the session I am chairing are going to talk about sustainability from a variety of standpoints including sustainable agriculture practices, biotechnology, alternative crops, digital transformation of food value chains, and studying the impacts of plant-based products on health and the environment. 

3) Have you attended a Plant Protein Science and Technology Forum before? If so, what have you enjoyed about previous forums? If this is your first forum, what are you most looking forward to?

The global food industry is currently undergoing an enormous transformation fueled by technological disruptions based on plant proteins and other alternative proteins.  I’ve had the opportunity to attend several of the protein and alternative protein summits in the recent past, but this is my first time attending the protein forum organized by the AOCS.  I’ve heard from colleagues that the first protein forum was very comprehensive addressing technology, quality and food safety with respect to all different types of pulses.  This year’s protein forum runs over the course of the month so attendees will have more time to digest each topic from process technologies, human nutrition, plant protein quality to pet foods and sustainable practices in plant protein production. I really look forward to the range of topics this year’s forum is able to cover.

4) If you had one piece of advice for speakers submitting their abstract for review, what would it be?

The program committee of the protein forum has attracted top experts and thought leaders from their respective fields to join us as speakers.   The abstracts and the presentations intend to showcase the latest innovations and technology in the space of plant proteins and sustainability. From these abstracts and talks, we are looking forward to hearing more about the opportunities and challenges affecting the future of plant proteins.   

5) What is one unexpected fact most people who know you would never guess?

We are first-time dog owners.  We recently adopted an adopting an Aussie-doodle puppy who we named Millie, which is one of the best decisions my family has made. It was spurred by the closure of schools and the COVID-19 pandemic in general – we found ourselves at home and unable to go anywhere. So we did what many have done during the pandemic, and we got a puppy. She was 10 weeks old when we got her, and we are in love! Millie is the best way to spend our free time. She is adorable and so full of such energy. She is a part of our family now.


 The Plant Proteins and Sustainability session is scheduled for October 23. Find out more about the full technical program.

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