Posts Fish, Food

Pirjo Mattila is one of the world’s most cited food scientists. Due to the opportunities it presents for collaboration and learning something new, she is enticed by the blue bioeconomy.

Pirjo Mattila was the most cited Finnish researcher in her field in 2016. Photo: Eetu Ahanen

You are a food scientist, but since 2016 you have been deeply involved in research within blue bioeconomy. How did you end up changing your research topic?

“Fish and sea creatures have always interested me. The blue bioeconomy is a fascinating and inspiring new thing for me. I get to learn plenty of new in my work. In my research career, I have mainly studied the compounds and flavonoids of berries and vegetables.”

“I have studied vitamin D in fish, but fish is an animal, and very different as a matrix compared to berries. I am interested in everything that we have not yet discovered about fish. Making use of fish that we often consider low-value, such as the Baltic herring, is particularly interesting to me.”

What kind of research have you done on the blue bioeconomy?

“I have been working as a principal scientist since 2016 in a research module that seeks value-added products from the aquatic biomasses. We conducted a report on the markets of value-added products based on the blue bioeconomy and the focal points of research. In the future, I will be working on low-value fish, particularly the Baltic herring and cyprinids, as well as their side streams in an innovation programme funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.”

“The goal of the programme is to get the Baltic herring into the kind of form that is more appealing to people. At the moment, it is not very popular due to its smell, for example. Baltic herring produces a lot of waste that could be put for better use. Currently, it ends up in the trash or as feed, but if useful substances such as proteins and minerals were extracted from it, it could be refined into products. For example, protein powder or a food supplement made from the fish oil could be produced.”

What kind of added value does your background as a food scientist bring to research within the blue bioeconomy?

“The most added value is gained by combining traditional fish know-how, technological know-how and the chemical know-how related to food science. Then, one plus one equals more than two. In blue bioeconomy research, this combination in particular has worked well, because I have been able to combine my own expertise with that of other experts. All the know-how of Luke is combined in this research.”

What kind of collaboration has been done in your research module? Who should be collaborating?

“Collaboration has been the guiding star of our research. The experts on the primary production of fish, hydroponics and the fishing industry have put their wise heads together in the research. We have also got food experts and biologists on board, so we are diverse team. Furthermore, we are building a network outside of Luke, and currently we do research collaboration with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the University of Turku. In addition to our Finnish network, we would like to expand our collaborative efforts abroad and into the business world.”

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