South Australia’s multi-billion-dollar food industries will benefit from new scientific leadership in the state.
Dr Maria Saarela has been named Research Director, Food Sciences at the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), in a role jointly funded by Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) and the University of Adelaide, and based at the University’s Waite campus.
Dr Saarela has extensive scientific expertise in the areas of food technology, safety and innovation. She will be responsible for leading innovation in research, and for development and training in the food sector.
Recently, the University of Adelaide and the State Government signed an agreement to deliver benefits in research and development of primary industries in the state. The agreement means PIRSA, SARDI and the University will work to utilise each other’s strengths to generate high-value outcomes for the primary industries, food and wine sectors.
“Our joint appointment of a new Research Director of Food Sciences highlights the productive partnership between the University and PIRSA that will provide ongoing benefits for South Australian farmers, industry and consumers,” said the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Mike Brooks.
“The University’s new strategic plan, Future Making, has identified agrifood and wine as a key industry engagement priority, and food security as one of the grand challenges we will be addressing over the next decade, building on a global reputation for high-quality research in agriculture, food and wine.
“This joint appointment will help us to grow our capability in these fields for the benefit of South Australia,” Professor Brooks said.
Dr Saarela graduated from the University of Helsinki with a doctorate in food sciences and has 20 years’ experience in microbiological food safety and technology with VTT, the Technical Research Centre of Finland, where she led research in specific areas of human microbiota.
Dr Saarela has also worked with the European Food Safety Authority, has published more than 130 papers and contributed to numerous books related to her field.
SARDI Executive Director Dr Peter Appleford said Dr Saarela will work with the University to deliver superior food research and world-class teaching programs.
“This is important for our whole state. SARDI Food Sciences programs undertake research that provides scientifically based solutions in support of public health and economic development in our food sector,” Dr Appleford said.
Dr Saarela said she was excited at the prospect of collaborating on food technology.
“Our plan is to develop suitable facilities at the Waite campus that could be used by SARDI, the University of Adelaide, and also by industry to develop new food ingredients and food products.
“I’m greatly looking forward to working with my new colleagues, postgraduate students and the food industry here in Adelaide to explore what’s possible in the food technology space.”