BFH expertise helps shape the future of nutrition

24.08.2023 The motto chosen for “The Spirit of Bern” 2023 conference was “Nutrition: problems, trends and innovations”. The event was attended by nutrition expert and BFH lecturer Prof. Dr David Fäh and various start-ups from the food industry founded with the help of BFH-HAFL’s research expertise. BFH supported the event, acting as a science partner.

Our diet not only has an enormous impact on our health and well-being, but also on the environment and society. The global food system is facing major challenges: climate change, the world population growth and the increasing demand for healthy food. At “The Spirit of Bern” conference on 24 August 2023, experts from industry, science and politics engaged [j1] in an exciting exchange on these global issues.

The Spirit of Bern 2023: nutrition, health and prevention

In his presentation, nutrition expert and BFH lecturer Prof. Dr David Fäh addressed how we can manage challenges relating to chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCD). The focus was on nutrition and the prevention of obesity and diabetes. According to the FOPH, at least one third of the Swiss population suffers from a chronic non-communicable disease such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases or diabetes.

In his presentation, David Fäh highlighted the pressures placed on individuals by politics, society and the built environment, preventing them from maintaining a healthy body weight. According to him, we will only get out of this pandemic if the conditions in which we live change. For example, by adapting the laws that regulate the formulation, presentation and advertising of food or the selection in the catering industry.

Food Future Switzerland – co-designed by BFH start-ups

What will tomorrow’s nutrition look like? Possibilities for transformation were discussed at The Spirit of Bern 2023. Numerous start-ups that have a connection with BFH-HAFL were present, like “Luya”, a BFH-HAFL spin-off that converts okara, a soy “waste product”, into a meat alternative with chickpeas by means of mushroom fermentation. The innovative process was developed under the leadership of Prof. Dr Christoph Denkel in collaboration with Prof. Daniel Heine at BFH-HAFL.

With the start-up “Eggfield”, Christoph Denkel’s team researches a vegan egg substitute consisting in a mixture of legume extracts, vegetable proteins and starches. It is not an easy task: “Egg is a highly functional food and it is a challenge to develop a comparable plant-based product,” stresses Christoph Denkel.

A plant-based alternative to premium ice cream is the focus of the research project with Cuckoo AG. Amongst other things, they aim to obtain a mouthfeel comparable to its animal counterpart.

A model of success: BFH’s FoodHub

Meltable, vegan semi-hard cheese is at the heart of the research project developed with New Roots AG  and Agroscope. The focus here is also on nutritional physiology: “Such products often contain only few proteins, and we want to change that," says Christoph Denkel.

Also present at “The Spirit of Bern” were GAIA Tech AG and Kidemis AG, start-ups that are currently establishing themselves at BFH-HAFL.

These examples cast no doubt of the attractiveness of BFH-HAFL’s research expertise for start-ups. Christoph Denkel: “We use our competencies in a targeted way to provide high-impact start-ups with a suitable development platform.” The university’s own FoodHub, which supports start-ups in the early phase and thus reduces the risks of failure, is a central element in this. It is obviously a successful model with a double impact: “Our Food Science students can thus also experience the food system transformation and entrepreneurship at first hand."

The Spirit of Bern Foundation

The aim of “The Spirit of Bern” is to facilitate and promote dialogue between representatives from business, science and politics. To this end, a conference is held once a year, at which all participants address socially relevant topics. The focus is on discussing solutions to these challenges. BFH acts as science partner of the event.

You can view a recording of the events online as of 25.08.2023 (in German).