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  • Cornell AgriTech
  • Food Science

Three student teams took home top honors and a total of $10,000 for creating meat alternatives that deliver on nutrition, creativity and sustainability at the finals of Cornell’s inaugural New Food Product Competition, held April 22 at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York.

Team Big Wave made a splash in first place with Salm’n, a soy-based, crustless whole-fillet substitute for Atlantic salmon that flakes like real salmon, uses 25 times less water to produce than farmed salmon, costs less, and can be prepared in a variety of ways.

“We started in fall 2021 to develop a vegan whole fillet that’s matched to the nutritional profile of Atlantic salmon, without the mercury and heavy metals,” said team captain and food science Ph.D. candidate Viral Shukla.

Team Li took second place with Veggieroni, a plant-based pepperoni, and Team Wang placed third with Pâtésty, a vegetarian alternative to liver pâté powered by mung beans and cranberry seed flour.

The competition was sponsored by The Joh Foundation, created by Yongkeun Joh, M.S. ’78, and his wife, Sunny Joh, M.S. ’77, CEO and vice president, respectively, of Advanced Food Systems in New Jersey. Teams of three to five Cornell students were invited to develop a ready-to-cook or -eat meat alternative that contained at least 50% plant-based ingredients, was high in protein, was a good source of fiber and was sustainably made. Each team also had to include at least one food science undergraduate student. Six finalists gave oral presentations and provided samples for judging.

Originally conceived two years ago as part of a food science course, the competition was derailed by COVID-19, said Olga Padilla-Zakour, director of the Cornell Food Venture Center. When the public health situation improved, Yongkeun Joh and food science department leaders opened the competition to all Cornell students.

“Product improvements are based on research from all different disciplines,” Joh said. “I hope this competition will flourish and become an important mechanism for students to apply what they learn to business and the marketplace. I’m willing to support it continually.”

Padilla-Zakour and Joh hope this year’s success will help expand the competition to a wider student body. Plans are already underway for next year, and both believe interdisciplinary teams will do very well.

“The experience reflects what they will encounter in the workplace, requiring them to collaborate, be creative, solve challenges and deliver results in a short time frame,” said Padilla-Zakour, who also is professor of food processing and AgriTech’s food science program leader.

Since Padilla-Zakour and her colleagues at the Cornell Food Venture Center work on plant-based foods, AgriTech was a natural place for this year’s final judging. On the Geneva campus, students also saw opportunities for working with industry-related projects while at Cornell and after graduation, as AgriTech is a nexus for extension programs, USDA laboratories, the Food Venture Center’s new food product incubator and the Center of Excellence.

In addition to Joh and Padilla-Zakour, the judges were Gavin Sacks, professor of food science; Christine Smart, director of the School of Integrative Plant Science and professor of plant science-plant pathology and plant-microbe biology; Cathy Young, executive director of the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture; and Alireza Abbaspourrad, the Yongkeun Joh Assistant Professor of Food Chemistry and Ingredient Technology.

Sarah Thompson is a writer for Cornell AgriTech.

 

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Originally conceived two years ago as part of a food science course, the competition was derailed by COVID-19, said Olga Padilla-Zakour, director of the Cornell Food Venture Center. When the public health situation improved, Yongkeun Joh and food science department leaders opened the competition to all Cornell students.

“Product improvements are based on research from all different disciplines,” Joh said. “I hope this competition will flourish and become an important mechanism for students to apply what they learn to business and the marketplace. I’m willing to support it continually.”

Padilla-Zakour and Joh hope this year’s success will help expand the competition to a wider student body. Plans are already underway for next year, and both believe interdisciplinary teams will do very well.

“The experience reflects what they will encounter in the workplace, requiring them to collaborate, be creative, solve challenges and deliver results in a short time frame,” said Padilla-Zakour, who also is professor of food processing and AgriTech’s food science program leader.

Since Padilla-Zakour and her colleagues at the Cornell Food Venture Center work on plant-based foods, AgriTech was a natural place for this year’s final judging. On the Geneva campus, students also saw opportunities for working with industry-related projects while at Cornell and after graduation, as AgriTech is a nexus for extension programs, USDA laboratories, the Food Venture Center’s new food product incubator and the Center of Excellence.

In addition to Joh and Padilla-Zakour, the judges were Gavin Sacks, professor of food science; Christine Smart, director of the School of Integrative Plant Science and professor of plant science-plant pathology and plant-microbe biology; Cathy Young, executive director of the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture; and Alireza Abbaspourrad, the Yongkeun Joh Assistant Professor of Food Chemistry and Ingredient Technology.

Sarah Thompson is a writer for Cornell AgriTech.