Scientist behind plant fingerprint receives the Nils Foss Excellence Prize of €100,000

19. Nov, 2018
By Anne Sofie Kirkegaard
HILLERØD, November 19, 2018 - Today, FOSS awarded Professor Robert David Hall the Nils Foss Excellence Prize for his pioneering research in plant metabolomics – the chemical fingerprint of plant cells. The award consists of 100,000 euro and this year in particular, it carries special meaning.

FOSS, the world’s leading supplier of analytical solutions for the food and agricultural industry, introduced the Nils Foss Excellence Prize back in 2016. The purpose is to honour world-class innovative research leading to remarkable improvements in sustainability, quality and safety in the food supply chain. FOSS sponsors the prize, while the nominees are selected by an independent jury of experts from both academia and industry, including chairman of the Technical University of Denmark, rector at the University of Copenhagen, and leaders from the private food sector.

This is the third year in a row the Nils Foss Excellence Prize is awarded, and this year in particular it carries special meaning, as Nils Foss passed away at the age of 90 in May of 2018.


“The prize was established in recognition of Nils Foss’ life-long entrepreneurship and remarkable achievements within analytical instruments measuring food quality, and we are proud that the prize will continue to carry on his legacy for many years to come,” says Kim Vejlby Hansen, FOSS CEO.


FOSS awards both an Excellence Prize and a Talent Prize, and this year food quality is a common denominator for the winners in the two categories. Food quality is a hot topic on the global agenda; by 2030, the UN estimates there will be close to 9 billion people living on the planet and the middle class will have doubled in size. Thus, the need for food, and food of a high quality, will only increase.



Plant fingerprints to secure global food quality
This year’s winner of the main prize, Professor Robert David Hall, residing at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands, is a pioneer within the field of plant metabolomics, which draws on disciplines ranging from analytical chemistry to computer science. Plant metabolomics is a method of analysis studying the metabolic profiles of plant cells – the fingerprint of the plant – with the aim of understanding the biochemical composition of plant and food materials. Ultimately, the goal is to map how genes and the environment influence plants, and thereby understand how the environment affects food quality. Professor Hall stresses the importance of the research in metabolomics:


“I feel very honoured and humbled to receive the Nils Foss Excellence Prize for the advances my team has made in the field of plant and food metabolomics. What is so special about metabolomics is that you can use this method of analysis to test a sample without needing to decide in advance, what you are looking for. This makes it a powerful discovery tool and facilitates broad and exciting analytical perspectives, which will benefit many scientific disciplines and industries in the future. Our particular goal is to support breeders and food producers to deliver plants, and food, of a much higher quality,” says Professor Robert David Hall.


Upcoming talent recognised for meat quality research
The Nils Foss Talent Prize of 15,000 euro has been awarded to an upcoming scientist, showing great promise within the food sciences. This year, the prize goes to Associate Professor Klavs Martin Sørensen at University of Copenhagen, for his work improving analysis automation and spectroscopic methods to better determine meat quality. Klavs is a somewhat atypical academic talent, who started his career in the meat industry, thus bridging the world of science with the world of business:


“I’m a strong believer in the application of research. Seeing the research lead to new methods and actual improvements in the industry is very rewarding. This prize is a very nice tip of the hat and a strong symbol that the industry also values and needs the collaboration with scientists,” says Klavs Martin Sørensen. 


About the winners
Robert David Hall, Professor of Plant Metabolomics, and Deputy Business Unit Manager Bioscience at Wageningen University & Research, is a pioneer in developing and establishing metabolomics technologies as a viable approach to study the metabolic profiles of plants, with a particular emphasis on crop species. The aim of his research is to provide us with a better understanding of the biochemical composition of plant and food materials; how this is influenced by genetic and environmental perturbation and especially, how these changes are related to aspects of food quality. For more than 20 years, Robert David Hall and his team has worked on developing and applying analytical technologies, which can help design new strategies for the development of improved food products.


Klavs Martin Sørensen, Associate professor at the department of food science, chemometrics and analytical technology at University of Copenhagen, specialises in on-line analysis and analysis automation, and holds a PhD in process analytical technology and on-line spectroscopic measurements of chemical meat quality. Starting his career in the private sector, Klavs possesses extensive knowledge of applied solutions, and brings with him a talent for innovative thinking, which has already lead to significant advances in the industry, within technologies such as ultrasonic imaging, multi-wavelength spectroscopic imaging systems, and applications of Raman and near-infrared spectroscopy.


About the Prizes
Nils Foss Excellence Prize: The award winner is an active and internationally recognized scientist who has shown at least 10 years of world-class innovative research leading to remarkable improvements in sustainability, quality and safety in the food supply chain. The research areas are food, feed and agricultural science, applied science and/or analytical technologies within this sector. The research has led to remarkable results through innovative application of analytical technologies. It is seen as an advantage if the scientist has shown entrepreneurship in the application of the research. The prize consists of EUR 100.000 of which 75% is earmarked for further research.


Nils Foss Talent Prize: The award winner is a talented and promising scientist who has made a significant contribution to the application of technology to improve the sustainable use of agricultural resources and/or ensuring food quality and safety. The scientist has a maximum of seven years of research after completion of a Master/PhD, has shown an innovative approach and has the potential to make ground-breaking research. The prize consists of EUR 15.000 and the use is without any limitations.


Read more about the Prizes here.


About the prize committee
The Nils Foss Prize Committee consists of a Chairman and six members from the Danish scientific community and international food industry, plus one representative from FOSS. The Committee is responsible for nominating the qualified candidates for each of the two Nils Foss Prizes. The prize winners are confirmed by the Chairman and the CEO of FOSS based on the recommendations from the Prize Committee. Read more about the Committee here.


About FOSS
FOSS contributes to the sustainable use of our planet’s agricultural resources and thus to the nutrition and health of the people of the world. Through analytics, FOSS adds value to customers by improving food quality and optimising production, from raw material to finished product. By turning measurement into information, businesses can run intelligent, data-driven productions with less waste and bigger yields. FOSS helps food and agricultural producers limit the number of human errors, and scale their business faster and smarter. Nils Foss founded the family-owned company in Hillerød in 1956. Today, FOSS employs 1,500 highly qualified people worldwide, with consolidated sales of DKK 2.2bn in 2017.


Anne Sofie Kirkegaard
Communications consultant, FOSS
+45 60 67 79 98

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