Dr Parag Acharya
Dr. Parag Acharya has joined Natural Resources Institute (NRI), Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Greenwich, UK, after 14 years of industrial R&D career in food and biotechnology sectors across North America and Europe. His interest lies in demystifying science enablers to develop future-fit product and process technologies for transformative and climate-smart food innovations. He did PhD in Bio-organic Chemistry from Uppsala University, Sweden, and his doctoral thesis was awarded coveted IUPAC Prize for Young Chemists for the best PhD in 2003. After finishing post-doctoral work on protein biochemistry from University of California, Berkeley, USA, Dr. Acharya shifted to the industrial R&D career in Canada, working for biotechnology SMEs and start-ups. He returned to Europe in 2011 to join Unilever food R&D based in Netherlands and had been working there for more than nine and half years. In Unilever, Dr. Acharya delivered patented clean label products and sustainable process technologies as well as led their market implementations for brands like Knorr, Hellmann’s etc.
His specialist knowledge in food chemistry, flavour technology, food processing, post-harvest technologies and agri-food waste valorisation has enabled sustainable product development research in Unilever at the intersection of food technology, supply chain and sustainability. Dr. Acharya has successfully championed four external grant funded industry-academia collaborations and authored 23 peer reviewed publications so far in the area of chemistry, biochemistry and food science (h-index 11 and 459 total citations) as well as lead innovator of 3 patents (published/granted) in food technology. One of his pioneering researches as Unilever science lead for ITN EU-FP7 Marie Curie project (in collaboration with KU Leuven) addressed the unique complexity of how the interactions between components of two or more vegetables change due to pH and thermo-mechanical process variations thereby impacting the aroma profile of plant based products. His research also provided scientific insights on the causative chemistry of culinary flavour generation by unravelling how aroma generation can be controlled via optimal processing of plant-based food including utilization of processing by-products. In Unilever, he successfully developed patented platform technology for industrial chefmanship and delivered novel post-harvest technology via modulating plant biochemical pathway.
In Unilever, Dr. Acharya had been leading various open innovation projects and managed strategic R&D partnerships. He has demonstrated knowledge of agri-food ingredient, food supply chain, consumer insights and food manufacturing processes. Apart from core science and technology expertise, Dr. Acharya is highly experienced in multi-disciplinary collaborative research and building co-creative food innovation. Working with global quality team in Unilever, he has developed innovation quality risk management guidelines delivering fit for purpose innovation management. Dr. Acharya has profound experience in open innovation and extensive network within food companies as well as Dutch food valley in Wageningen.
Being a firm believer of food ecosystem thinking and winning by sharing mind-set, Dr. Acharya is highly skilled in shaping collaborative, cross-functional food research. He has decided to return to academia and join reputed NRI, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Greenwich to develop sustainable food research and cross-functional innovation program on plant (and algae) based protein, food waste valorisation (for high value food and non-food applications) and clean label food product technologies. Understanding industry challenges would help Dr. Acharya developing not only transformative food research via science guided design principle but also industry relevant teaching program linking newly built Food Innovation Laboratory in NRI as well as related enterprise support activities (e.g. engaging to recently awarded Strength in Places’ scheme https://www.nri.org/latest/news/2020/major-investment-in-horticulture-food-and-drink-industries-in-kent-and-medway). Consumer habits are changing with rising vegan and flexitarians choices, growing demands for clean label (free from additives) and authentic food products. Such scenarios entail a total re-invention on how raw materials being sourced, food products are designed and processed to feed ~10 billion people by 2050 nutritiously with minimal environmental footprint. This necessitates key scientific unlock, developing fundamentals of disruptive technologies and creating circular food value chain via cross-functional system thinking.
Dr. Acharya is a member of NRI's Food and Market Department, working under Food Loss, Waste Reduction and Value Addition program (FLoW) within the NRI’s Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (FaNSI).
Co-I / industrial science lead of the following external grant funded projects:
Project name:Identification of umami taste markers in microalgae-based novel food ingredient, 2020-2021
Description:Scoping project on how to develop natural umami taste ingredients from microalgae sourced materials
Project lead: Dr Yixing Sui, University of Greenwich
Funding agency:STFC Food Network+
Project name: Reprocessing Under-utilized Onion Waste (REUNION) 2018 - 2023
Description: Developing technology for valorisation of onion waste streams from post-harvest storage and processing.
Project lead: University of Reading
Funding agency: BBSRC-CTPs
Project name: Natural vegetable-based ingredients from vegetable waste (Waste2Taste) 2017 - 2021
Description: Designing an innovative processing strategy to convert vegetable waste (asparagus waste as a show case example) into high value, natural food ingredients, in the form of dried products with extended shelf life and preserving quality.
Project lead: Wageningen University
Funding agency: TKI-Agri Food (Netherlands)
Project name: Mild thin film drying 2015-2019
Description: Developing knowledge-based guidance for mild drying of selected foods via systematic comparison of various thin film drying technologies for tomato and milk.
Project lead: Wageningen University
Funding agency: NWO (Netherlands Science Foundation)
PhD co-supervision: 1
Project name: Science based precision processing for future healthy, structured, and tasteful fruit and vegetable-based foods: an integrated research and training program (HST Food Train) 2012-2016
Description: To train multi-disciplinary experts with multisectoral experience and insight in the impact of food processing on the composition and (micro)structure of fruit and vegetable based food products and the relation between the latter properties and product quality parameters, such as texture/rheology, flavor and nutrient bio-accessibility. This is the consortium made of nine academic and industry partners.
Project lead: KU Leuven, Belgium
Funding agency: EU-FP7 Marie Curie initial training network
PhD co-supervision: 1
Master student supervision: 1
- Pegiou, I., Mumm, R., Acharya, P., de Vos, C. H., & Hall, R. D. (2020). Green and White Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis): A Source of Developmental, Chemical and Urinary Intrigue. Metabolites, 10(1), . https://doi.org/10.3390/metabo10010017
- Qiu, J., Acharya, P., Jacobs, D. M., Boom, R. M., & Schutyser, M. A. I. (2019). A systematic analysis on tomato powder quality prepared by four conductive drying technologies. Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, 54, p. 103-112. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ifset.2019.03.013
- Koutidou, M., Grauwet, T., Van Loey, A., Acharya, P. (2017). Impact of processing on odour-active compounds of a mixed tomato-onion puree. Food Chemistry, 228, 14-25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.01.135
- Koutidou, M., Grauwet, T., Van Loey, A., Acharya, P. (2017). Potential of different mechanical and thermal treatments to control off-flavour generation in broccoli puree. Food Chemistry, 217, 531-541. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.09.003
- Koutidou, M., Grauwet, T., Acharya, P. (2016). Effect of different combined mechanical and thermal treatments on the volatile fingerprint of a mixed tomato–carrot system. Journal of Food Engineering, 168,137-147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2015.07.028
- Lead inventor of the following 3 filed/granted patents:
- WO 2017140439 A1: A process for preparing a dehydrated food composition
- WO 2017001154 A1: Composition containing vegetable oil, caramel and phenolic compounds
- WO 2013189709 A1: EDTA - free mayonnaise and method for the production thereof
- Member, Royal Society of Chemistry (MRSC)
- Member, American Chemical Society
- Member, European Federation of Food Science & Technology
- Member, Algae-UK
- Industry Advisory Panel member of Biochemical Society (UK)
- Reviewer: J. Food Engineering, Food Chemistry, J. Food Quality
- (Former) Scientific committee member of “Total Food 2017”
- 2019: Unilever Global Product Network award
- 2019: Unilever Food Science and Technology Recognition award
- 2007: Alberta Ingenuity R&D Associateship, Canada
- 2004: IUPAC Prize for Young Chemists for best PhD thesis in chemical sciences
- 2003: IUPAC Travel award for Young Scientists