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Pakistani Scientist Places Third In International Innovation Award 2023

Pakistan was been selected one of three winners of the International Innovation Award ‘Composite Flour,’ which recognizes innovative methods to the sustainable use of wheat and regional agricultural products. The 23 finalist research projects from four continents were judged by an international team of scientist and business executives, and the results were used to choose the winner.

Dr. Saqib Arif, the third laureate, is an expert Pakistani scientist who works as a Principal Scientific Officer for the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council in Karachi. He also received €2,000 for his efforts.

His research focused on the prospect of composite flour, which blends underutilized grains, to solve the global spike in wheat prices and mounting sustainability issues. Because of their better nutritional profile, high fiber content, and bioactive components, blended flours are a possible option to reduce reliance on wheat, according to the research. However, there are still concerns with processability and sensory characteristics.

Wheat, a vital staple grain, is critical to meeting the world’s dietary demands. Wheat, rice, and corn provide food for around two-thirds of the world’s population. However, rising wheat prices pose a significant challenge for countries such as Pakistan. Despite being an agricultural country, Pakistan fails to meet its domestic wheat consumption and is growing increasingly reliant on imports.

Climate change, population growth, rising input and production costs, faulty supply chains, market dynamics, and other factors all play a role in this dilemma. Wheat flour is widely used in a variety of products, including bread, cookies, pasta, pastries, crackers, breakfast cereals, noodles, cupcakes, and others. This heavy reliance on wheat flour raises concerns about long-term sustainability.

The study team includes Dr. Qurrat ul Ain Akbar, Senior Scientific Officer at PARC, Salman Khurshid, Mehwish Iqbal, Scientific Officer at PARC, and Saba Iqbal, PhD Scholar. In addition to researching more natural sources, they are actively working on remedial approaches such as enzymes and pretreatments to mitigate the effects of blending flours.

According to the research team, one practical answer is to reduce reliance on wheat by investigating potential substitutes. In this context, composite flour stands out as a novel and helpful option, offering the opportunity to reduce dependency on wheat flour while reaping health benefits.

By blending a range of flours generated from grains, legumes, tubers, and other sources, composite flour offers a promising way to diversify our food sources and support a healthier diet.

On the occasion of its 100th anniversary, MC Muhlenchemie, a world-renowned flour treatment expert, hosted this competition. The award was established to recognize research studies and initiatives with a practical focus that were completed between 2019 and 2022 and provided innovative solutions for the manufacturing and processing of non-wheat flours and their mixtures with wheat flour, particularly those that used regional raw materials.

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